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A Disposition to Be Rich by Geoffrey C. Ward

A Disposition to Be Rich (2012)

by Geoffrey C. Ward

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The title is a great summary of this book. The swindler was Ferdinand Ward. The president swindled was Ulysses S. Grant. The crash came in 1884. Son of poor missionaries, Ward cared for nothing but money and lying was his method to obtain it. His plan was to marry a rich woman and use her money to further his schemes. Time and again he was found out before it was too late for the lady. Finally, it worked on one family; they married, to her family’s eternal regret. Shortly thereafter, her father died, and Ward got his hands on his wife’s portion of the inheritance and then his mother-in-law’s portion. With the help of a willing (at first) and then ignorant bank president, his little investment company made large profits for their investors. However, there were no investments. It was a Ponzi scheme to rake in more gullible investors. Finally, his bad checks brought down the bank, the banker, his own firm, and all the people who hadn’t gotten out in time, including Grant. As he admitted in his trial, he was robbing Peter to pay Paul. He got his wife to give him her family jewels in order to live a cushy life while in prison. When she died she left the dregs of her estate which hadn’t already been plundered to their son in trust. When he got out, he kidnapped his own son for the trust money. Ward was a despicable narcissist, ruining every life he touched.

The author is Ward’s great-grandson. He worked from letters and court transcripts and did a remarkable job of painting his forbear’s character with his own words. ( )
  countrylife | Jan 18, 2016 |
Geoffrey Ward wrote this book about his ancestor Ferdinand Ward, a thorough scoundrel, one of whose mayor claims to "fame" is that he caused U. S. Grant to lose all his fortune. It is a marvelously researched work, full of information about the times as well as the life of the subject. ( )
1 vote gbelik | Jul 16, 2013 |
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Family is what counts.
Everything else is a side-show.

-- F. Champion Ward
If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.

-- George Bernard Shaw
For my grandfather, Clarence Ward,
my father, F. Champion Ward -- and
for my brother, Andrew, who might have
made a better story out of this material
but was kind enough not to try
First words
On the afternoon of August 8, 1885, the streets of Manhattan were given over to grief. (Prologue)
Shortly after dawn on March 20, 1837, at the end of a four-month voyage from Boston, the captain of the American merchant ship Saracen sighted the green Coromandel coast of South India and set his course northward along it, headed for the British port city of Madras.
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Prologue p.3
Part One: The Puritan
The Higher Calling p.9
Labouring in Hope p.34
Chastened and Sanctified p.56
Part Two: One of the Worst Boys
A Contest for Principle & Truth p.75
The Triumph of the Monster, "War" p.90
Suspected of Evil p.110
Part Three: The Young Napoleon of Finance
The Avaricious Spirit p.127
The Bonanza Man p.146
The Imaginary Business p.165
Tears of Grateful Joy p.187
The End Has Come p.203
Part Four: The Best Hated Man in the United States
A Magnificent and Audacious Swindle p.227
A Verdict at Last p.251
The Model Prisoner p.272
All That Loved Me Are in Heaven p.293
Part Five: The Loving Father
Driven to Desperation p.317
The Kidnapping p.333
Epilogue p.351

Acknowledgements p.363
Notes p.369
Bibliography p.389
Index p.401
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679445307, Hardcover)

Ferdinand Ward was the greatest swindler of the Gilded Age. Through his unapologetic villainy, he bankrupted Ulysses S. Grant and ran roughshod over the entire world of finance. Now, his compelling, behind-the-scenes story is told—told by his great-grandson, award-winning historian Geoffrey C. Ward.
Ward was the Bernie Madoff of his day, a supposed genius at making big money fast on Wall Street who turned out to have been running a giant pyramid scheme—one that ultimately collapsed in one of the greatest financial scandals in American history. The son of a Protestant missionary and small-town pastor with secrets of his own to keep, Ward came to New York at twenty-one and in less than a decade, armed with charm, energy, and a total lack of conscience, made himself the business partner of the former president of the United States and was widely hailed as the “Young Napoleon of Finance.” In truth, he turned out to be a complete fraud, his entire life marked by dishonesty, cowardice, and contempt for anything but his own interests.
Drawing from thousands of family documents never before examined, Geoffrey C. Ward traces his great-grandfather’s rapid rise to riches and fame and his even more dizzying fall from grace. There are mistresses and mansions along the way; fast horses and crooked bankers and corrupt New York officials; courtroom confrontations and six years in Sing Sing; and Ferdinand’s desperate scheme to kidnap his own son to get his hands on the estate his late wife had left the boy. Here is a great story about a classic American con artist, told with boundless charm and dry wit by one of our finest historians.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:08 -0400)

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Documents the story of Gilded Age con artist Ferdinand Ward, recounting how his large-scale pyramid operation and other sensational schemes triggered one of the greatest financial scandals in American history.

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