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The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America’s First Banking Collapse
By Jane Kamensky. ISBN 978-0-670-01841-3. Copyright 2008. Hardcover with 442 pages including 43 maps and illustrations, notes, and index.
Finalist for the 2009 George Washington Book Prize.
This is the startling story of the wily schemes of Andrew Dexter, Jr., an early American dreamer. In the 1790’s, printed money and banks themselves were still regarded with suspicion as longstanding strictures against money lending slowly yielded to modern freewheeling capitalism. A pioneer in the new age of paper, Dexter challenged the traditions of his compatriots and Puritan ancestors by embarking on a wild career in real estate speculation, all financed by a string of banks he commandeered and the millions of dollars they freely printed. Upon this paper pyramid he built the tallest building in the United States; the Exchange Coffee House, a 153 room, seven story colossus in downtown Boston. In early 1809, just as the Exchange was ready for unveiling, the financial pyramid collapsed and the exchange became an opulent but largely vacant building, and Dexter, reviled in the American press, absconded to Canada.