Brattleboro Historical Society: ‘Jubilee’ Jim Fisk and Brattleboro

By The Brattleboro Historic Society

On April Idiot’s Day in 1835 Jim Fisk was born in Pownal, Vermont. His father labored in Pownal and Bennington woolen mills for a number of years after which grew to become a peddler. When Jim was eight, his household moved to Brattleboro. His father offered family items on the street, specializing in silk clothes and different merchandise for farmers and their wives. Mr. Fisk was very profitable and had as much as eight wagons on the street promoting items in southern Vermont and New Hampshire, japanese New York, and western Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 1849, Mr. Fisk constructed the Revere Home on the southern nook of Elliot and Primary streets.

This profitable financial setting gave younger Jim an early publicity to the enterprise world. Nonetheless, Jim grew up stressed. On the age of 12 he dropped out of college. He labored for his father, serving as a waiter within the Revere Home, and he additionally tried his hand within the peddler commerce.

On the age of 15 he joined Van Ambergh’s Circus and traveled from city to city promoting tickets, feeding animals and studying to be impartial. At 18 he returned to Brattleboro and entered into partnership together with his father within the peddling enterprise. Jim introduced a circus-style flamboyance to the peddling occupation, portray the wagons vivid colours, sporting fancy fits and promoting like a circus ringmaster.

When Jim was 19 he married 15-year-old Lucy Moore of Brattleboro. This was authorized on the time however at the moment could be unlawful. After 5 years within the peddling enterprise Jim Fisk grew to become very profitable and caught the attention of the Jordan and Marsh Firm of Boston. Jim and Lucy moved to Boston and he started working for the retailer Jordan Marsh when he was 25. A 12 months later, when the Civil Warfare started, Fisk noticed a possibility to make some huge cash.

Because the struggle began he offered blankets to the Union Military for large earnings. He wined and dined authorities officers and gained giant authorities contracts to offer clothes for the troopers. He then made thousands and thousands by illegally smuggling southern cotton to New England mills in the course of the struggle. He bribed railroad operators, ship house owners and authorities officers with a view to break federal legal guidelines and transport the cotton to mills managed by the retailer Jordan Marsh and himself. Fisk had many individuals working for him within the south as they looked for obtainable cotton, together with his father. The Civil Warfare made it very arduous to search out cotton items within the north and Fisk grew to become a millionaire earlier than the struggle resulted in 1865.

After the struggle, on the age of 30, Fisk moved to New York Metropolis and have become a inventory dealer. He invested within the inventory market, railroads and steamboats. By bribery and manipulation he was in a position to achieve management of the Erie Railroad and made tens of thousands and thousands of .

The Black Friday scheme of 1869 brought about many individuals to lose a substantial amount of cash. Fisk and enterprise associate Jay Gould tried to nook the gold market by bribing authorities officers, artificially elevating gold costs by 30%, after which promoting the gold earlier than the market dropped. Over 500 million ‘ value of gold was traded on that Friday and far of it was misplaced by way of hypothesis. It was reported that Fisk and his associate had been in a position to make 11 million earlier than the federal government stepped in and stopped Fisk’s try to regulate the entire obtainable U.S. gold. Economists say this occasion brought about a mini-depression in our nation.


The time period “Black Friday” is now used to explain the day after Thanksgiving when there are large gross sales in lots of shops. These two occasions are related as a result of now on Black Fridays, individuals are in a panic to purchase issues earlier than the offers finish. The identical strategy was taken by many again in 1869 when folks purchased gold in a panic pondering the worth would proceed to go up. When the worth went down shortly, many individuals misplaced a substantial amount of cash.

Whereas most of Fisk’s cash was gained by deceit and bribery, he was additionally identified to donate giant sums of cash to needy causes. When the Nice Chicago Fireplace occurred in 1871 Jim Fisk led the New York Metropolis aid effort and despatched trains of provides to Chicago to assist town get again on its toes. Though he spent most of his time in New York Metropolis, he had married a woman from Brattleboro and sometimes donated to worthy causes within the space like fireplace division tools and cemetery upkeep.

Fisk continued to dwell an thrilling life in New York Metropolis however, in 1872, he was shot and killed by an ex-business associate. Fisk had been concerned in an affair with a New York Metropolis actress for 2 years. A enterprise associate of his additionally started an affair with the identical lady and a scandal ensued. Throughout their affair Fisk had written love letters to the actress and now she and her new boyfriend threatened to launch them to the press. The brand new couple tried to blackmail Fisk however he was in a position to cease the discharge of the letters by getting a pleasant decide to challenge a court docket order banning the publication of the letters. Fisk ultimately agreed to pay the couple $10,000 however the former enterprise associate thought the letters had been value at the very least $40,000. The 2 males met, a disagreement occurred and Fisk was shot by the previous enterprise associate.

Fisk’s physique was introduced again to Brattleboro and he was buried within the Prospect Hill Cemetery. The frilly marble monument erected on the cemetery for Jim Fisk value $30,000 and was created by Brattleboro’s Larkin Mead. The monument options statues of 4 younger girls every holding a illustration of Fisk’s monetary empire: a sack of cash, railroad shares, steamship shares and a theatre emblem. A Fisk biographer wrote he “by no means noticed a extra acceptable monument. Fisk had bother with girls all his life, in order that they put 4 of them over his grave to hang-out him by way of eternity.”

Jim Fisk had many nicknames. He was generally known as Massive Jim, Diamond Jim, and Jubilee Jim. Many historians place him within the group of rich males generally known as the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age. After researching his story we have a tendency to think about him extra as a wheeling, dealing, boisterous circus employee and peddler who discovered his methods touring the quiet nation roads of New England. We might prefer to thank BAMS seventh graders Gabe, Evelyn, and Eben for researching a lot of this story.

The Brattleboro Historic Society may be reached at 802-258-4957. Go to us:, Fb: @brattleboro.historical past, Twitter: @BrattHistSoc

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