Jeremiah Hamilton: The Black King of Wall Street or The Prince of Darkness?

    Black history month is well underway and for the rest of the month we will highlight various key black figures in the world of business and finance from the past and present. It is very important to pay homage to those who paved the way for other blacks in business while also using their stories as a teaching tool in addition to motivation.

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    The first profile we will highlight is that of Mr. Jeremiah Hamilton. Hamilton who was of haitian descent was born in 1807. Where he was born has not been confirmed although the belief is he was born in either Port Au Prince Haiti or Richmond Virginia. He first came to relevance in 1828 after he tried to escape Haitian law enforcement who was after him for possessing fake coins. It was uncovered that Hamilton was transporting the fake coins for businessmen from New York. Hamilton was supposed to be shot dead, however he got away with $5,000 in coins (approx $147,000 in 2017).

His next big windfall came after the Great Fire of New York in 1835. The results of the fire caused southeastern Manhattan to be destroyed. He got the idea of “helping” the victims of the fire, although he really went on to take advantage of those who were victimized. In the end he accrued $5 million from the unfortunate events of the fire in 1835. As a result of his business practices he earned the nickname “Prince of Darkness”.

What may have been the boldest move of his career was his attempt to go up against titan Cornelius Vanderbilt who is believed to be the second wealthiest person in the history of the United States. Hamilton attempted to force Cornelius Vanderbilt to break up the Accessory Transit Company which played a major role in transporting people to California during the California gold rush and deliver stake to all owners of company stock. Vanderbilt would go so far as to pumping the price of ATC up to potential buyers to make big profits than causing prices to drop so he can buy his personal shares at a lower price point.

He was ultimately unsuccesful in forcing Vanderbilt to relinquish his company but his legacy will live on forever as Corneluis Vanderbilt’s Obituary read “There was only one man that fought the commodore to the end, and that was Jeremiah Hamilton”.