Lot 46: Rare and Desirable Signature of "Diamond Jim" Fisk, Notorious Gilded-Age Financier
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
October 26, 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: FISK, JAMES, JR. (1835-1872). Colorful Gilded Age financier known as “Diamond Jim” and “Jubilee Jim,” who was murdered by his former mistress’ lover. CS. (“James Fisk Jr. Pres.”). 1p. 12mo. N.p., N.d. A clipped signature taken from a letter’s closing, identified in an unknown hand. ********** In his youth, Fisk ran away from his Vermont home to join the circus. He eventually became a peddler and parlayed his experiences into a career as a salesman, becoming wealthy by selling - and possibly smuggling - textiles during the Civil War. In 1864, along with Jay Gould, he became a stockbroker and held a controlling interest in the Erie Railroad. His audacity, which included bribing elected officials and judges, reached extreme heights when he and Gould attempted to corner the gold market, a stunt that led to the September 1869 market crash known as Black Friday, and which damaged President Grant’s political reputation. ********** Fisk also scandalized New York society with his extramarital affair with Josie Mansfield upon whom he lavished clothing and jewels and for whom he bought an elegant brownstone on 24th Street which was linked by a secret passageway to the Erie Railroad headquarters on 23rd Street. His wife, who remained in Boston with her lover, Fanny Harrod, tolerated the affair, even after an 1868 published exposé. In 1870, Mansfield ended her relationship with Fisk, after falling in love with one of his business partners, Edward Stokes. Together they attempted to blackmail Fisk by threatening to reveal his illegal activities, allegedly detailed in letters to Mansfield. Fisk had Stokes arrested for embezzlement. The affair culminated in Stokes’ sensational murder of Fisk outside the Grand Central Hotel. ********** Folded with some nominal wear. Mounting traces on the verso. In very good condition and rare.