Industrial Capitalist: James Fisk

James Fisk was an American Financier, stock broker, and entrepreneur who is known for being one of the most notorious “robber barons” of his era. Fisk started off his career managing army  contracts during the Civil War for Jordan Marsh , and Co., associates a mercantile firm in Boston.  During this time period, Fisk was able  accumulate much of his wealth through  smuggling southern cotton through the Union blockade and selling Confederate bonds.  He  was also able to generate  wealth through dealing with cotton  in years after the CivIl War  in the Reconstruction Era.  Fisk also  was a dry-goods salesman for a number of years, and used his experience in accounting and  business  to speculate and trade on Wall Street. In 1866,  Fisk  formed the Fisk and Belden  brokerage form with support and assistance from financier  Daniel Drew. In 1867, Fisk would ally himself with  Gould and Drew in protecting control of Erie railroad from tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.   He also would  collude with Gould and Drew in issuing fraudulent stock of the railroad in the “Erie War”.  Fisk was comptroller of Erie railroad, and  would be named to the board of directors.   Fisk and Gould would  carry out  a series of corrupt financial schemes to their benefit,  such as the September 1869 Black Friday  scheme in which they attempted to corner the gold market. “Jubilee Jim” which would later become the nickname of Fisk, spent  a lot of his wealth on New York nightlife. He would purchase a few opera houses and theaters in New York, including the  Grand Opera House.  Fisk would also follow in the footsteps of  peers such as Gould,  in forming relationships with Boss Tweed and  Tammany Hall.   On January 6, 1872 Fisk was assassinated by an former  associate, over his ex-lover Josie  Mansfield.  The legacy of James Fisk is one of a corrupt Gilded Age “robber baron” who was closely associated with other shady financiers like Jay Gould.  Fisk used bribery  to  manipulate U.S government officials and  unethical  business schemes and practices to influence powerful economic institutions, such as Wall Street.

Engraved Portrait of American Financier and Stock Broker Jim Fisk in Harper's Weekly

Engraved Portrait of American Financier and Stock Broker Jim Fisk in Harper’s Weekly

“Wall Street has ruined me,  and Wall Street shall pay for it.” (195).
– Jim  Fisk in Meade Minnigerode’s – Certain Rich Men (1927)