In 1868, two American financiers, Jay Gould and James Fisk came up with a plan to corner the gold market in the United States. Their goal was to use the access they had to new president, Ulysses S. Grant, to make a lot of money. Gould and Fisk looked upon the war-hero president as a political novice and planned to use that to their advantage. The two conspirators brought Grant’s brother-in-law, Abel Rathbone Corbin, into their plans to gain even more access to the president to influence policy decisions.
Gould and Fisk wanted to prevent Grant from buying back wartime greenbacks with American gold as an attempt to help the struggling post-Civil War economy. Grant, however, eventually decided to sell government gold. However, the two robber barons had hints that this was going to happen before it became public knowledge and bought up as much gold as they could – raising the price as supply went down. On September 24, 1868, the United States government started selling their gold supply causing panic and a plummet it the price of gold. Many investors were ruined by this sudden fall in gold prices – Abel Corbin among them, as he did not start selling off his gold soon enough. The two masterminds of the plot escaped the panic without so much as a scratch. In fact, Jay Gould would go on to control mammoths such as the Union Pacific Railroad and Western Union within five years. Fisk, however, didn’t make it five years – he was shot dead by another financier over a dispute over Josie Mansfield, a Broadway showgirl. Fisk, at least, got some level of comeuppance.