This February flash crash will be a moment we shall all remember but let’s not forget it is Black History Month. And as an African American man it’s only right that I honor and pay tribute to my ancestors with a Wall St. twist!
Today, in the spirit of Black History Month, I wanted to share about the black wolf of wall street, Jeremiah Hamilton. In 1852 it was published in a popular African American paper that Jerry Hamilton was the only black millionaire in New York.
There is much to be said about the spirit of a man who dared to live life on his own terms. In a time of open hatred toward black people, this man had the audacity to use capital and the law to beat his white oppressors at their own game on Wall Street.
Jeremiah G Hamilton was believed to have been born in Haiti in the year 1807. He began building his wealth by running counterfeit coins in Haiti. After some time, he was caught and severely sentenced to death but he managed to escape and move to America with 5k dollars in his pocket.
For Jeremiah, aka Jerry, America was a place rich with opportunity despite the apparent climate of disdain toward those of his skin color.
He began building his net worth by over-insuring ships and then arranging to have them sink just to collect the insurance money. He profited immensely from the 1835 Great Fire of New York. More than 700 buildings were destroyed, including the business district with the Stock Exchange. Losses were between $20-$40 million at that time and he feasted on the misfortune.
In the mid 1830’s Hamilton began trading with members of the NYS&EB when it was only 2 decades old. To rub elbows with the powers that be, Jerry was necessarily ruthless in his business dealings.
Jerry kept the best lawyers and knew the law more than most due to his frequent encounters with the judicial system. His edge in the market was litigation. He would beef with the Wall Street brokers and sue them until they bled dry.
August 1835 Jerry had a legal dispute about a transaction with John Wood. John sold 100 shares of the Jackson Marine Insurance Company but he did not have the shares in possession when they came due. Hamilton owned 200 shares at the time.
Johns broker arranged a deal to borrow shares from Hamilton at a rate of $150 above the shares value. The share price dropped immediately and when John tried to return the shares in September Jerry refused to take them. John had to take the L and sale the shares at a loss. John sued Jerry in an attempt to recover loses however Jerry outsmarted his counter parts once again. He filed for bankruptcy hiding behind the protection of the law. A tactic still used today by wealthy individuals to protect their assets.
The legal battle Jerry is most known for is his settlement against the “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderberbilt. The National Republican newspaper quoted “there was only one man that fought the Commodore to the end, that was Jerry Hamilton.” It was reported that the Commodore respected him, although he did not fear him because he never feared anyone.
Jerry went against the grain of the time and lived by his own rules. He boldly confronted whites in public and considered himself equal. Black leaders did not approve of his dealings with whites and Wall St hated his guts because he knew how to beat them at their own game. Jerry had a white wife when racial mixing was illegal, he bought the extravagant Glover House Mansion with two Irish servants at a time when slavery was simultaneously oppressing and killing blacks. He fought tooth and nail for all he earned and was never the type to turn the other cheek. Jerry only wanted the best in life and would not dare settle for less.
On May 19 1875 Jeremiah Hamilton passed away of pneumonia at the age of 67.
I learned Jerry had his equal share of wins and losses but this one point is key; he never gave up. After each loss he would dust himself off, recalibrate, and fight back with intelligence to win back his fortune time and time again.
Let his fearless spirit remind you that all is not lost unless you decide to give up!
Happy trading Wallstreet Jackboyz and girls!