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James Fisk, 1 Apr 1835 - 7 Jan 1872
Albumen silver print
Image/Sheet: 8.8 × 5.7 cm (3 7/16 × 2 1/4")
Mount: 10.1 × 6.2 cm (4 × 2 7/16")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
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Born Pownal, Vermont
President Grant’s eight years in office were unusually plagued by vice and corruption. Two of the first individuals to shake the public’s confidence were James Fisk Jr., who is shown in this photograph, and Jay Gould. In September 1869, they schemed to inflate the price of gold and corner the market. At the height of the panic known as “Black Friday,” Grant ordered the sale of $4 million of gold coin to stabilize the market. Fisk and Gould, however, had managed to involve one of Grant’s in-laws, marring the administration with its first scandal. On January 20, 1872, Harper’s Weekly ran a front-page obituary for Fisk, who had been killed by a “former boon companion.” It published a scathing profile, deriding him as “an eminence of infamy… The crimes, the vices, which he paraded before the public, they conceal behind a mask of affected decorum and hypocrisy.”