From Publishers Weekly
Brandeis history professor Kamensky (The Colonial Mosaic
) recounts the story of Andrew Dexter, a chronically overleveraged real estate developer who engineered profound shifts in the economy and skyline of turbulent early America. Dexter built the seven-story Boston Exchange Coffee House, an extraordinarily ambitious project, and helped create a regional exchange system that made banknotes from distant rural locations acceptable in Boston. Unfortunately for his reputation, he is more often remembered as the man responsible for the first bank failure in the United States in 1809. Although he spent the last 30 years of his life on the run from numerous creditors and died in debt, he never stopped juggling visionary projects. Kamensky devotes almost as much attention to the Exchange Coffee House and its impact on contemporary thought as she does to Dexter's biography. She also weaves in an account of Nathan Appleton, born, like Dexter, in 1779, but destined for a longer and much more prosperous and respectable life fighting against Dexter and his ilk. This is a charming popular account of an often-overlooked aspect of American history. B&w photos and illus. (Jan.)
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Though all but unheard of today, the banker and real-estate speculator Andrew Dexter, Jr., was widely knownand reviledin early-nineteenth-century America, especially in Boston, where he oversaw the construction of the Exchange Coffee House, a marketplace, hotel, and dining venue that was the citys tallest building. Unfortunately, Dexter financed the project using worthless currency printed by regional banks that he himself controlled, and enormous loans that he had no means of repaying. The Exchange proved the financial ruin of nearly everyone involved, and Dexter was forced to flee the city. Kamenskys lively account resists parallels with contemporary speculative debacles, as she recounts a life of "big gambles" and "fleeting gains." Dexter, never abandoning the "belief that the next hand would be a royal flush," went on to help found Montgomery, Alabama, and died in poverty
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