November 8, 2012

Stock & Money Market Speculation Today and in the 1790s



Question: What do Bernie Madoff and William Duer have in common?

Answer: Both were once respected investors forced into insolvency resulting in stock market (money) deterioration and the collapse of dozens of their investors.

Question: What does Timothy Geithner have in common with Alexander Hamilton?

Answer: Geithner is the current Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Hamilton was the first Treasury secretary.


Before continuing I must make a disclaimer: I’m not an economist nor do understand the fine points—or even the non-fine points—of the issue under discussion. I’m writing this post to increase my understanding of William Duer’s role in the first Wall Street crash. This issue is core to the writing of my historic romance novel, in which I must present the issues in a basic manor that can be understood by my future readers. If any of you can add clarification to these issues, feel free to comment in the comment box at the end of this post


History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it is often said to rhyme.

Or does it echo?


Duer and Madoff reflect the root problems of two sudden and dramatic declines in the value of bank stocks: excessive greed.

While Madoff’s name has been sufficiently newsworthy that most Americans recognize his name, Duer is relatively unknown to many of today’s citizens.

I came in contact with him because of his land speculation in Ohio and Maine. The Ohio speculation was done under the guise of the Scioto Associates, a group of military and political personages hoping to make money off the post-Revolution land in Ohio. Duer managed to help a “secret” group purchase a huge tract of land along the Ohio River. Ultimately, Duer, along with Gen. Henry Knox, were responsible for the original French settlement at Gallipolis by a group of French émigrés.

When the Scioto land speculation went foul (another story) Duer and Knox managed to purchase two million acres of land in Downeast Maine. In the midst of all this Duer was involved in manufacturing and banking speculations. All the speculations went far beyond his means and resources.

The multiple speculations he was involved with brought his downfall and, had it not been for Alexander Hamilton’s intervention, it could have destroyed the new country that had yet to reach its toddler age.


William Duer was a prominent patriot who served as a member of the Continental Congress, a New York judge, and a signer to the Articles of Confederation. After the Revolution, Alexander Hamilton appointed Duer as assistant secretary of the treasury.

In December 1790 Hamilton proposed the establishment of the Bank of the United States, a federally chartered but essentially private corporation. The charter was passed by Congress in February 1791, and on February 25th was signed into law by President George Washington.

In July of 1791 the bank’s stock subscriptions (scrips) went on sale. They sold out within hours, so quickly that many would-be investors could only try to bid them away from those persons who were fortunate enough to have obtained them. The demand was so high for scrips that a frenzied borrowing and buying  occurred. Soon the scrips’ selling price doubled, then went even higher, and people borrowed money to purchase them.

In October 1791, the stock holders of the Bank of the United States held an organizational meeting, which Duer attended. He was elected to a committee to prepare the bank’s by-laws.


When Duer learned that federal law prohibited Treasury officials from speculating in federal securities he quit the position as assistant secretary  of the treasury—he did this because he sensed an opportunity to

(to continue reading click on )

March 25, 2010

Amish Grace, Thomas Cornell, & Intertwined Love: Risks of Writing Historical Fiction



The Risks of Writing Historical Fiction

     “…the most disturbing aspect of the upcoming television move “Amish Grace” is the fictional liberties it takes in depicting the aftermath of the 2006 killings of five Amish girls in a Nickel Mines schoolhouse,” according to Herman Bontrager, an Akron man who acted as a spokesman for the Nickel Mines Amish community after the shootings. “Amish tell the truth and are accustomed to telling the truth. When you take an account like this, and make it appear like it happened, and fictionalize it, that’s troubling.”*

     Authors of the book on which the movie is based, “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy,” agree on this point.**

     Fiction based on an actual historical framework is always up for criticism. It’s an issue I’ve been aware of since I began delving in writing my novel, “Intertwined Love.” The historical framework includes 1790s people, both the well known— Henry Knox, William Duer, William Bingham, Alexander Baring, Thomas Jefferson among them—and the less well known: Franco van Berckle, Madame Rosalie de Leval, Louis des Isles, Mary Googins, and Joseph Swett.

     I encountered the criticism issue in two situations. First, my in-depth research disproved some oral traditions about East Lamoine, Maine. I shared the documentation with a community native. The late Gladys Vigent (a Samuel Des Isles descendent) was (to continue reading this post click on: )


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Two Photographers Named Cornell




November 4, 2009

Climb Mt. Everest? Not Me!



     High at the top of my list of the things I won’t accomplish in this lifetime is joining the minority part of humanity, an estimated 2,000 persons, who successfully scaled Mount Everest. Climbers, including a 71-year-old Japanese man, a climber with an artificial leg, and a teenaged boy, have reached the summit since 1953.

     In 2007 more than “239 people had already climbed the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) summit from the Nepali side and the rest from Tibet,” according to Sherpa. The previous record was 470 people who made their journey in the 2006 spring climbing season.
     Historians say that many people have conquered the summit more than once, meaning that the number of ascents is likely much higher than 2,000. At least 202 people have died trying to reach the top. (To read this article click on

     Living in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains I do climb Laurel Mountain on a regular basis (click on That is, I drive or ride up the twisty paved road to the top of the mountain, which is close to (more…)

March 31, 2009

Madame Rosalie de la Val: A Character Sketch



A Character Sketch

Since March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 was International (Working) Women’s Day, I developed a character sketch on Madame Rosalie Bacler, a French émigré who came to the United States during the French Revolution, and who was a “working” woman, a “noble” who planned a French refugee colony in the Massachusetts Territory of Maine. Whenever I “introduce” this historical female to people, they become fascinated. Madame is the main character in the historical romance novel that I am attempting to write.

     Madame Rosalie Bacler de la Val, a French émigré who came to the United States to escape the atrocities of the French revolution, was an independent land speculator/settler in what is known today as Hancock County, Maine. In the 1790s, this region it was the Maine Territory of the State of Massachusetts, part of the Penobscot Land Tract purchased from the State of Massachusetts by land speculators Henry Knox and William Duer.
     Only about ten percent of the post-American Revolution land speculators worked independently, outside a company. None, as far as I have encountered, were women—much less (more…)

February 19, 2009






     The blog category, NOVEL SEGMENTS, will present information and scenes being developed for a historic romance novel to be written in three sections. Numerous actual romances intertwine throughout the segments. One romance replicates Tennyson’s poem, Enoch Arden.
     The writing is historical in that it follows real people in real situations. It’s a novel because conversations must be created and scene material filled in. Characters cannot be interviewed, since the dateline of the story is about 1786 to 1845. However, numerous lines are factual, since they come from actual documents.
The complete tale travels from Boston, Massachusetts to Revolutionary France to the Virginia-Boston Atlantic corridor to Lamoine, Maine, British Guiana, and finally ends in Alencon, France.
     The first few segments being posted recreate a political backdrop of the novel. The romance parts will follow. The first segment was:
A 1786 MEETING IN VERMONT (Novel #1) Visit the category “1790s BACKGROUND at for interesting background information.

     On March 8, 1787, the Ohio Company met at Bracket’s Tavern, Boston, where accounts showed that 250 Ohio Company shares, at $1,000 a share, were sold. This provided them with $250,000 to purchase land in the Ohio section of the Northwest Territory. Three directors—Rufus Putnam, Samuel Parsons and Manasseh Cutler—were appointed to apply to Congress for a private land purchase in the Northwest Territory, and to bargain on its price.  Dr. Cutler was ill, and did not attend.
     “Since the Doctor sold the most shares, over one hundred, and his skills are such that could lead us to success, I think we should appoint him to go to New York and purchase as much land as our money will buy,” Rufus suggested. “Samuel, you could go with him.”
     “It won’t be easy, negotiating for a private purchase of land,” Samuel noted.
 “No, it won’t,” Rufus acknowledged. “But surely Dr. Cutler will agree. (more…)

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