Jeremiah G. Hamilton, the so-called “Prince of Darkness,” was a powerful Wall Street broker and considered its first Black millionaire. Hamilton used questionable tactics to amass his considerable wealth and was reportedly despised by both Black and White businessmen.
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Hamilton was born either in the Caribbean Islands or Richmond, Va. in 1807, eventually establishing himself in New York City. In 1828, a 20-year-old Hamilton was tasked by powerful New York merchants to ship counterfeit Haitian currency to Port-Au-Prince, but the scam was discovered. The Black elite shunned Hamilton for disgracing Haiti and for not giving up the names of those who hired him.
But rather than hurt him, the scam established Hamilton’s career. Soon after he launched an insurance scheme where he insured fleets for more than they were worth and purposefully wrecked the vessels to collect the funds. He made so much money that the marine industry banded against him in 1835 vowing not to use his insurance company.
For the next two decades, Hamilton was involved in real estate and stocks. In the 1860’s, Hamilton began to dominate Wall Street. He ran a makeshift hedge fund and made aggressive, high-risk moves that paid off more often than not. Because of Hamilton’s success on the market, he was able to command the money from white investors and even had them doing his bidding.
According to some accounts, Hamilton didn’t associate himself with the powerful Black elite in New York as he didn’t want anything to do with them. He had a white wife which angered both sides and for that reason he received constant threats of lynching and other racist acts. Hamilton survived multiple attempts on his life and even used his wife to persuade his would-be killers to leave him be.
At the time of Hamilton’s death in 1875, he was worth $2 million, which compared to today’s value would be worth around $250 million.
Although there are pics of another Jeremiah Hamilton, Jeremiah J. Hamilton, who was a Texas legislator on the web, none known exist of the Wall Street millionaire.
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