The Rise and Fall of a Frontier Entrepreneur: Benjamin Rathbun, "Master Builder and Architect"
This story of intrigue and scandal in the life of an early American businessman set during the raucous Jacksonian era brings to light a nearly forgotten tale of high-stakes intrigue, scandal, and financial ruin during a pivotal moment in the economic history of canaltown Buffalo and its western hinterland. Originally called Queen's Epic by the author, Roger Whitman's work probes beneath the surface of Benjamin Rathbun's startling career to reveal the unsettling social and economic forces that the American commercial revolution unleashed. When Rathbun's vast transportation, construction, and real estate empire finally collapsed under the weight of accumulated debt, shock waves rocked markets in the east. Amidst accusations of fraud, investors and currency speculators ran for cover in what soon became the nationwide Panic of 1837. After several decades of neglect, the manuscript was rediscovered and given a new title by editors Scott Eberle and David A. Gerber, who revived the book and shaped its historiographical context. The biography and history that emerges details a personal struggle to build stability, wealth, and rectitude in the shifting moral and economic sands of the Jacksonian era.
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