The Rise and Fall of a Frontier Entrepreneur: Benjamin Rathbun, "Master Builder and Architect"

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Syracuse University Press, Jun 1, 1996 - History - 280 pages
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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About the author (1996)

Roger Whitman (1905-1954) was a reporter for the Niagara Falls Gazette in the 1940s. His manuscript was discovered in the archives of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. Scott Eberle is vice president for research and interpretation and chief historian at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York. David A. Gerber is professor of history at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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