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The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America's First Banking Collapse Hardcover – January 24, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0670018413 ISBN-10: 0670018414 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1 edition (January 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018413
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,593,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Though all but unheard of today, the banker and real-estate speculator Andrew Dexter, Jr., was widely known—and reviled—in 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 city’s 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. Kamensky’s 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael Emmett Brady on July 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Kamensky has done an excellent job in this book.The book is a detailed study of the events leading up to the first bank failure in American history.In March,1809,the Farmers Exchange Bank of Gloucester,Rhode Island,collapsed.The story starts in late 1807 as a real estate speculator named Andrew Dexter,Jr.,is able to convincingly persuade many investors to financially back his Exchange Coffee House,a gigantic seven story building which will supposedly allow financial and commercial interests to conduct their business affairs in comfort and style, with easy access to other members of the Boston financial community ,instead of haphazard meetings spread out over a number of different street corners.At this point in time the failure of Dexter's speculative " house of cards " would have had a relatively small impact.It is here that Dexter is able to use the completed but practically empty building as collateral to buy a controlling interest in a number of banks.He then used the banks currency creation power to further leverage his own speculations.Dexter's banks did not have anywhere near the necessary required reserves in gold and silver.Suspicious merchants finally started taking the notes in to redeem them for the claimed metallic backing.It was soon realized that there was no such backing.The collapse of Dexter's speculative endeavor now led to a panic and crash that severely impacted businesses that had accepted the now worthless bank notes as payment.

The most important part of the book is an implicit generalization that can be universally observed in all speculative bubbles.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By W. Berry on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Very interesting story and a nice piece of Boston and US history. The author has covered this event well. In some cases she uses an affected present tense when referring to historical events - can make reading a bit confusing until you get used to it. But the insights on the history of banking and the rise of paper money are fascinating.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Bridgeland on May 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book describes the making and unmaking of the largest building in Boston---at the time---all built on bank notes of questionable value. It is a superb tale. The building construction is fascinating, the shaky finance more so, and the man behind it even more.
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