The Money Game in Old New York

The Money Game in Old New York: Daniel Drew and His Times

Clifford Browder
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Money Game in Old New York
    Book Description:

    "I got to be a millionaire afore I know'd it hardly," remarked the Wall Street financier Daniel Drew (1797-1879).

    An uneducated farm boy from Putnam County, New York, he became in turn a successful cattle drover, a circus clown, tavern keeper, a shrewd Hudson River steamboat operator, and an unscrupulous speculator. As the colorful "Uncle Daniel" of Wall Street-his whiskered face seamed with wrinkles and twinkling with steel-gray eyes -- time and again he disrupted the financial markets with manipulations whereby he either won or lost millions of dollars.

    Having "got religion" upon hearing a scary hell-fire sermon at the age of fourteen, Drew was also a fervent Methodist. Rumors of his financial operations--epic struggles that pitted him against Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and Jim Fisk, and that subjected him to threats of arrest and even kidnapping, and on one occasion to a most undignified flight from the state-baffled and disturbed the Methodists, who admittedly had little grasp of Wall Street but knew firsthand Brother Drew's tearful repentance at prayer meetings and his generosity in founding churches and seminaries.

    With its dual commitment to religion and rascality, Drew's career is a rich study in contradictions, an exciting chronicle of high drama and low comedy capped by bankruptcy. To understand Drew in his complexity, the author argues, is to get a grip on the heady and exploitative age that produced him -- the yesterday of "smartness" and "go ahead" that helped engender the America of today. Based on primary sources, this is the first full-fledged biography of Drew, who hitherto has been known chiefly through a fictionalized and fraudulent account of 1910.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6224-9
    Subjects: History, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-4)

    Wall Street, July 1865. On the pavement excited speculators were talking vociferously; having sold the stock of the Erie Railway short, they expected to make a killing. On the steps of a broker’s office nearby stood a plainly dressed old man, tall but slightly stooped, his face cross-hatched with wrinkles and fringed with whiskers, watching them with twinkling steel-gray eyes.

    “Happy creeturs,” he said with a nasal twang, “how merry they be! Wal, I guess I must pinch ’em.”¹

    Within a short while a heavy demand for Erie developed, the stock surged, the speculators rushed to cover losses, and Uncle...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Beginnings
    (pp. 5-12)

    Daniel Drew was born on July 29, 1797, on a rocky, thin soiled farm in a remote area of southern Dutchess County (now Putnam County), New York, about fifty miles north of New York City. His father, Gilbert Drew, then sixty-five, was a vigorous old man who, at an age when most men would have given up farming and gone to live with their grown children, had stuck to his farm, remarried to a Scottish woman named Catherine Muckelworth, and started a second family. Daniel was the first child of this late second marriage, and he had a brother, Thomas,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Circus and Drover Days
    (pp. 13-22)

    To be a successful drover, one had to be a keen judge of “critters,” a good talker, a shrewd haggler, a tough boss, at least a seasonal vagrant, and more than just a bit of a gambler. The profession had come into its own only recently, when the booming growth of certain Eastern cities, New York among them, had outstripped the supplies nearby. Someone had to ride out to distant areas to buy up cattle, pigs, sheep, or even turkeys, then drive them in herds to the city and sell them to butchers in the marketplace. Lying fifty miles north...

  7. CHAPTER 3 King of the Bull’s Head Tavern
    (pp. 23-31)

    The year 1830, when Daniel Drew took over at the Bull’s Head, was the second year of the administration of Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans. His election to the presidency had been ballyhooed by his supporters—promoters of one of the most successful political myths of all time—as the ultimate American success story. In him, they saw the triumphant progress of the common man, by dint of iron will and genius, from the log cabin to the White House, shattering in the process the combined forces of aristocracy, privilege, and corruption. Just how far the new egalitarianism...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Into Steamboating
    (pp. 32-44)

    In September 1814 when Daniel Drew, as a wide-eyed young Putnam County militiaman, first sailed down the Hudson to New York, he must have gaped in wonder at one or another of Robert Fulton’s early steamboats, which for seven years had been plying between New York and Albany. These were flush-decked little sidewheelers with masts and sails, awnings fore and aft to shelter passengers, the engine and boiler amidships, and a single funnel emitting clouds of smoke and sparks, of which the latter, cast off by dry pine wood fuel, created breathtaking patterns at night. But neither then nor later,...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Top Dog on the River
    (pp. 45-56)

    A native of Rensselaer County, Jew York, just across the Hudson from Albany, Isaac Newton had been named for the great English physicist but ever since the age of thirteen, when he had witnessed the first trip of Fulton’sClermontup the river, he had shown a marked interest not in physics but in steamboats. Newton began his career as a sloop captain, but in 1826, seeing the opportunities created by the completion of the Erie Canal, he joined with others to form the first company operating steam towboats on the Hudson, and within a year’s time he established himself...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER 6 Wall Street
    (pp. 57-68)

    “I had been wonderfully blessed in moneymaking,” said Daniel Drew later of his career. “I got to be a millionaire afore I know’d it, hardly.”¹ In boosting his fortune to the million dollar mark, steamboats and cattle helped, but it was Wall Street that accomplished it. By the 1840s, when “the Street” became his preferred habitat, it already had its reputation. ATribunejournalist of the time hailed it as “the great purse string of America—the key of the Union,” but spoke as well of “the million deceits and degradations and hypocrisies and miseries played off there as in...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Enter the Iron Horse
    (pp. 69-80)

    In late September 1849 the lower Hudson valley was vexed along its eastern shore by an unwonted commotion: a chugging, snorting, screeching monster of iron with a jutting cowcatcher and a bulbous funnel that belched smoke as the machine’s giant wheels sped northward over level track, with a tender and cars in tow. The unthinkable had happened: the railroad had come to the Hudson.

    Unthinkable, to be sure, only on the Hudson, that serene avenue of proud, swift steamboats, since elsewhere throughout mid-nineteenth century America railroads, as they said at the time, were spreading like measles in a boarding school....

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Best Friend a Railroad Ever Had
    (pp. 81-91)

    On October 11, 1853, Daniel Drew got married to the New York and Erie Railroad, whose board of directors he joined at that date and remained a member of for fifteen years, long enough to constitute, in speculative circles, a marriage. It was, however, a most cynical union, for the groom’s intentions were anything but pure, while for her part the lady had a past; in fact, she was notorious.

    Incorporated in New York State in 1832, the New York and Erie Railroad had embodied the sublimest of visions: a bond of iron linking the Atlantic to the Great Lakes,...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Wartime
    (pp. 92-107)

    In 186o Daniel Drew was a director of three railroads, the president of two steamboat companies, and a trustee of three Methodist institutions of higher learning. For a millionaire he dressed soberly, although he spruced up for church on Sundays or a Matthew Brady photograph and could be seen in the streets, sometimes in a coach and sometimes in a calash, driving a stylish pair of bays with a plated harness and making, as theHeraldput it, “a very fine show.”¹ His residence at 41 Union Square was likewise impressive: a high-stooped, three-parlor brownstone that, when such embellishments became...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Virtuoso of Erie
    (pp. 108-119)

    On the afternoon of March 14, 1864, to a city so little gripped by wartime austerity that it could indulge itself in lace, velvet, Brussels carpets, theater, balls, and receptions, Daniel Drew offered yet another sumptuous experience: the inspection, at the foot of Cortlandt Street, North River, of the newly completed steamboatSt. John.Named for Capt. Alanson P. St. John, whose service to the People’s Line as senior captain, superintendent, and treasurer left President Drew free for the more exhilarating distractions of Wall Street, the new vessel was a $400,000 marvel of marine construction that the newspapers described as...

  16. CHAPTER 11 A Seminary, an Injunction, and a Loan
    (pp. 120-132)

    “Generous,” “liberal,” “large-souled,” “noble,” “beneficent”—so the Methodists routinely described Brother Daniel Drew, who as the sect’s first millionaire was continually solicited on behalf of worthy Methodist causes, to which he rarely failed to contribute. By the mid-1860s, the tide of his bounty ran high. When the Methodists of Southeast decided to build a larger structure nearer the center of the village of Brewster, Brother Drew immediately made a substantial donation and promised to pay half the total cost. The result, built in 1863 for $16, 000, was a handsome frame building with a lofty spire, in which Drew and...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Uncle Daniel’s Little Railroads
    (pp. 133-142)

    Punctually at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 23, 1867, the last and most splendid of the new trio of People’s Line night boats put out for the first time from its North River dock amid a chorus of steamboat whistles and in the failing sunlight, with the air cool and lazy under a clear sky, headed up the river toward Albany. In honor of a gentleman whom theWorldtermed “one of the fathers of navigation enterprise on the Hudson,”¹ this new $800,000 marvel had been christened theDrew. Appropriately, the People’s Line president and his family were aboard, occupying...

  18. CHAPTER 13 The Great Erie War: Preliminaries
    (pp. 143-151)

    All of which makes of Cornelius Vanderbilt, that prodigious consolidator of railroads, a prodigious liar.

    Vanderbilt’s interest in the Erie resulted from an inexorable process of logic. Master now of the Central, the Hudson, and the Harlem, in only four short years he had acquired the biggest railroad empire in the country. In so doing, he probably acted only half consciously, motivated at each step by an obscure but sound instinct. To make the Harlem pay, he must have the Hudson; to make the Hudson pay, he must have the Central. Therefore, to make the Central pay, he must have...

  19. CHAPTER 14 The Battle of Wall Street
    (pp. 152-165)

    One day when Cornelius Vanderbilt was driving his team at a leisurely pace along a road beside the Harlem Railroad tracks in upper Manhattan, with a friend sitting beside him, he saw an express train fast approaching. “Giddap!” he shouted to his sleek pair of trotters, launching them in a wild dash for a crossing that lay just ahead. Team and carriage whisked over the crossing with only seconds to spare, whereupon Vanderbilt waved cheerily to the astounded fireman, then turned to his friend and said: “There is not another man in New York who could do that!” “And you...

  20. CHAPTER 15 The Battles of Fort Taylor
    (pp. 166-178)

    “A stupendous fraud,” cried theTimesfinancial editor of the new Erie stock issue. The instigators, he insisted, must not escape “the public odium which is now being visited upon them, and the condign punishment in purse and reputation, by the Courts and Legislature, which assuredly awaits them.”¹

    Yet it was not odium but curiosity that brought throngs of visitors swarming across the river to New Jersey, where the directors’ dramatic flight had made them instant celebrities. Flocking in and around Taylor’s Hotel in Jersey City were friends and acquaintances of the fugitives, journalists and would-be journalists, brokers, speculators, and...

  21. CHAPTER 16 The Battle of Albany
    (pp. 179-187)

    The exiles in Jersey City were dumbfounded. What had gone wrong?

    Arriving by boat Monday morning March 30, Could had promptly checked into Parlor 57 at the Delavan House, a well-appointed hotel frequented by lobbyists and politicians. Informed of his return to the Empire State, Vanderbilt’s emissaries immediately wired their colleagues in New York. They in turn, ignorant or contemptuous of Erie’s agreement with the sheriff, notified Judge Barnard, who at once ordered Gould’s arrest for contempt of court. At 3:00 P.M. on Tuesday Gould was taken into custody at the Delavan House, hut being amply funded, he had no...

  22. CHAPTER 17 Negotiations and Peace
    (pp. 188-196)

    The Speculative Director’s desertion had been long a building. Practically every Sunday in April, when he returned to New York to visit his family and church—and probably on other occasions as well, when he slipped off under cover of night and crossed by the Weehawken ferry to the north of Jersey City—Erie’s treasurer called on Vanderbilt at his Washington Square residence. There, as so many times before, he plied the Commodore with guileful appeals and assurances, feeding him secrets from the Erie councils, urging compromise, and promising tearfully to mend his ways. Vanderbilt knew what Drew was up...

  23. CHAPTER 18 The Greenback Lockup
    (pp. 197-209)

    During the summer of 1868 the Commodore and the Old Bear rested from the strain of battle. Following his habit of over twenty years, Vanderbilt, to escape the July and August heat in the city, went off to Saratoga to drink and play whist with his business friends, drive his fast trotters, and take in the races at the track. In August he was called back suddenly by the death of his wife Sophia, who had remained in the city. Married to him for nearly fifty-five years, Sophia had been worn out by childbearing and by the abrasive adventure of...

  24. CHAPTER 19 Respite and Return
    (pp. 210-224)

    On May 19, 1869, with son and grandson present, Daniel Drew presided over the annual board meeting of the seminary at Madison, heard the yearly reports, was reelected president, and became a member of the school’s finance committee. How pleasant it was, in this bucolic atmosphere, to be greeted with courtesy and esteem. Certainly the founder hoped that this recovered image of solid elderly citizen and philanthropist would efface the recent one of stockjobbing opportunist and gambler. “Stop speckerlatin’—don’t tech Ayrie with no margin!”¹ he advised some Methodist brethren who, inspired by his own late example, had taken “points”...

  25. CHAPTER 20 Uncle Daniel Buys the Dream
    (pp. 225-239)

    In 1872, even while gambling millions in Erie and “Nor-’west,” Daniel Drew sustained a remarkable interest in the quicksilver mines of California, the glorious future of the port of Baltimore, the fertile grainlands of Indiana and Illinois, and the vistas of the magnificent West. The names of these far-reaching ventures were Quicksilver, Canton, “Can’da Sethern,” and “Waybosh.” In nourishing them, his mind had embraced the continent.

    Drew’s interest in the Quicksilver Mining Company of New York became apparent on February 28, 1872, when he was elected to the board and promptly became the company’s president. The company owned the New...

  26. CHAPTER 21 The Last Great Caper
    (pp. 240-250)

    In December 1873 Wall Street heard that Daniel Drew was again seriously ill, and then, that he was dying. To confirm the rumor, theTimessent a reporter to interview Dr. Jared Linsly, Drew’s personal physician for nearly forty years. The report, said Dr. Linsly, was nonsense. His patient was improving steadily, could be up most of the day, and would soon be riding out in his carriage. Contrary to rumor, Linsly added, his patient’s indisposition in no way resulted from the recent financial troubles.

    So Uncle Daniel was seen again on Wall Street. Still, at seventy-six his health was...

  27. CHAPTER 22 Bankruptcy
    (pp. 251-262)

    “You must get out of this thing and not go into bankruptcy!” Drew’s son Bill told him.¹ The old man agreed, vowing never to declare himself a bankrupt. Keeping his father solvent was now the absorbing responsibility of William H. Drew. In the 1860s Drew’s son had lived contentedly as a gentleman farmer in Putnam County, routinely seconding the old man on the seminary board but otherwise showing little interest in his affairs. Now, however, the young man rallied to his father with a great show of loyalty and support, as well as a surprising capacity for business. It was...

  28. CHAPTER 23 The Oldest Man on the Street
    (pp. 263-273)

    Throughout the summer and fall of 1876, Daniel Drew remained a convalescent in the country, slowly regaining his strength and recovering his equilibrium. Once he was able to get downstairs, he could sit on the porticoed front veranda and enjoy a fine view of the grounds, with trees and shrubs and well-trimmed, sweeping lawns. On the farm were hothouses where Bill grew grapes highly prized by the fruit dealers of New York City; stables with fine horses; cows that produced milk for the Borden plant in Brewster; and what the old man understood best—steers from the West that his...

  29. Epilogue
    (pp. 274-278)

    Daniel Drew’s will, made on December 2, 1873—after the Kenyon Cox failure and the assignment of his property to Scott, but before his bankruptcy—left half his estate to his son and half to his daughter. His son as executor inventoried the estate, which included 500 shares capital stock, Baldy Sour Mining Company, at $50, amounting to $250; 1,250 shares capital stock, Sweetwater Mining Company, at $50, amounting to $625; $148.22 in cash; and one lot wearing apparel, valued at $50; amounting to a total of $1,073.22. Since there was no market for the stock or the apparel, Drew’s...

  30. APPENDIX Bouck White’s “Book of Daniel Drew”: An Enduring Fake
    (pp. 279-286)
  31. Notes
    (pp. 287-292)
  32. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-308)
  33. Index
    (pp. 309-319)