Media Center: 'A Disposition to Be Rich' by Geoffrey C. Ward
Geoffrey C. Ward
A DISPOSITION TO BE RICH:
How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States
Published by Knopf May 7, 2012
“An American saga of rags-to-riches-to-criminality.
“Among the ranks of past American financial swindlers is the scoundrel Ferdinand Ward, here vividly profiled by his great-grandson.
“Ward mines personal archives, letters, and diaries to reveal the origins of the dishonesty of this son of Presbyterian missionaries who had interest neither in his parents’ vocation nor in an academic life. Only when he arrived in New York City in 1873 did he find his calling, earning the nickname ‘the young Napoleon of Wall Street.’ Charming and personable, he gained a reputation as a shrewd investor, attracting powerful backers and launching his own brokerage firm in 1880. The secret of his success was the classic pyramid scheme, which entailed paying off earlier investors with proceeds from new ones. Sound familiar? In 1884, it all came crashing down and led to the firm’s failure, ruining countless individuals (including President Ulysses S. Grant), and arguably contributing to the Panic of 1884. Ward went to prison but never acknowledged responsibililty…
“This bravely candid biography of a notorious ancestor successfully balances the truth about Ferdinand Ward’s personal life with his scandalous role in this all-too-familiar American rags-to-riches-to-criminality saga. Essential for anyone interested in American financial history.”
—Richard Drezen in a starred review for LIBRARY JOURNAL
“A rollicking financial picaresque.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY in a starred review
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