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Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  133 ratings  ·  34 reviews
In the middle decades of the nineteenth century Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a well-known figure on Wall Street. Cornelius Vanderbilt, America's first tycoon, came to respect, grudgingly, his one-time opponent. The day after Vanderbilt's death on January 4, 1877, an almost full-page obituary on the front of the National Republican acknowledged that, in the context of his Wall ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by St. Martin's Press
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Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a beast! They didn't like him because he came from out of nowhere and beat them at their own game! I have so much respect for Shane White for basically making something out of nothing. He searched through newspaper articles and was able to give us a picture of this forgotten (intentional?) historical figure. Although I learned a lot, Hamilton is still somewhat enigmatic.
Nancy Oakes
good book. Like a 3.7 rounded up to a 4.

(thanks, St. Martin's Press!!)

It's very interesting that Shane White would choose Jeremiah Hamilton as the subject of his study, since there is very little information on this man to be had. Even though he was "Wall Street's First Black Millionaire," "sui generis, typical of nothing," almost nothing is known about him, which seems quite odd -- after all, in the 1850s, an African-American man with the kind of wealth Hamilton had amassed was unusual; given t
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
There are several possible reasons that no American historian has written about Jeremiah Hamilton, the first black American millionaire. There isn't much information about him -- he didn't leave diaries or letters and didn't write any memoirs. His history is scattered among intermittent court documents and newspaper articles. And while he suffered a lot of racist abuse during his life, he did not have black friends, or make a point of helping black neighbors. His own family was large -- he marri ...more
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jeremiah G. Hamilton was man of mystery. No one is sure where he was born – was it Virginia or Haiti – even he himself changed the story as it suited. His questionable start in business – passing counterfeit money in Haiti put a price on his head on that island. Defrauding insurance companies over boat accidents, buying and selling property with bad notes and airing his grievances in court and the newspapers made him notorious in America. It also made him a millionaire in New York City in the ea ...more
Theophilus (Theo)
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fantastic story of a man who has been hidden from American history. The idea of a black man making money on Wall Street is something that school children should be taught. Although many of his business dealings seem shady, they were not uncommon for many of the major players in the investment market then, and even now. A great book. It is easy to see the author was determined to research and gather as much material as possible, from a myriad of legitimate sources: court records, newspaper articl ...more
This is an interesting yet weird biography of Jeremiah G. Hamilton. Weird in that there is no real fact about him, just bits and pieces from 3rd party perspectives and a few court cases. There are no surviving pictures of this man, nor any history about his birth or childhood, because of this it felt more like a history of the financial district of New York and a overall racial history of antebellum New York than a bio of someone.
But with as little is known about Mr. Hamilton, I do believe that
Katie/Doing Dewey
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Summary: My best nonfiction read so far this year, this author won me over with his enthusiasm and ability to share uncertainty in an honest and engaging way.

Jeremiah G. Hamilton was, as the subtitle says, the first black millionaire in America. He was also one of the first millionaires in America without qualification, despite incredible racial prejudice at the time. Living in NYC during the abolition of slavery, followed by a period with Jim Crow-style codified discrimination, he still managed
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’d never heard of Jeremiah Hamilton, before coming across Prince of Darkness on the shelves at my library. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that none of the vast number of resources in the library of the HBCU (Historically Black College/University) where I worked, had no mention of a man who had amassed the kind of wealth and notoriety Hamilton had in a time when it was unheard of for a black man to claim such success. Moreover, I found little mention of Hamilton's existence referenced a ...more
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
With ‘Prince of Darkness’ Shane White, the Australian Professor of History specialized in African-American history, managed to write a powerful biography of man that is not known these days, yet as a black man he reached up to the very top, in times when such things were almost impossible to achieve.

His main protagonist, Jeremiah G. Hamilton, was a well-known figure on Wall Street though what was not known, then and now, is that Jeremiah was African American. Yet for a colored man it seems surr
I don't think anyone could possibly have written a better biography of Mr. Hamilton, and "the black man" (as Mr. White calls him countless times) himself is to be commended for making his way so well in a society that was completely set up against him. But...this is some REALLY dry reading.

The research is meticulous, but even the most thorough historian can't find records that don't exist--and, as White reminds us over and over, Jeremiah G. Hamilton's past is pretty spotty. We don't get any of t
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a piece of work! I think in his heart he actually thought he was white and although society tried to prove him otherwise he yet and still refused to believe the contrary.
Ava M.
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was eye opening for me personally!
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This is not exactly a fun read read although a very admirable one, and I am grateful to the author for attempting it at all – it must have been daunting writing a biography of someone about whom virtually no records or documentation are available, and none at all in the subject’s own voice. Well done to Shane White for unearthing what information there is. Jeremiah G Hamilton was the first African American to become prominent on Wall Street and was reportedly the richest coloured man in the US a ...more
Wayne Bass
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
The book grew on me as did Mr Jeremiah Hamilton. I learned a lot about the life and tribulations of blacks who lived in NYC during the 1800's as well as info about historical events at that time. I reccommend it!
Christine Sears
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
African American millionaire in the Civil War period. Definitely charted his own course through early capitalism and racism.
Jim OBrien
I wanted to like it but...
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent nonfiction book about Jeremiah Hamilton, a historical figure who is sadly barely known these days but was a New York City celebrity in the 1830s to 50s. White is very upfront about the fact that he had little material to work with; no one preserved Hamilton's letters, diaries, business books, etc, and so White is restricted to mentions of Hamilton from newspapers and court cases. Luckily Hamilton made frequent appearances in both. And yet despite this limitation, the story White man ...more
James Molet
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
In Prince of Darkness, The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire, Shane White, the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history, provides a vivid account and reveals the larger than life story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, a black man – or perhaps more accurately, a mulatto – who defied every convention of his time. White presents a stunning portra ...more
The story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton is certainly fascinating, as are White's insightful comments into the history of New York City and race in the Antebellum North.
I greatly enjoyed White's matter of fact telling of his research process at various points in the narrative and inclusion of some of his conclusions even if there is not enough evidence to fully prove the conclusion.
However, White does not always keep his entertaining writing going at all times. Throughout, the book becomes a tedious re
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shane White's "The Prince of Darkness," uses court records, newspaper articles, and even library records to bring light to the extraordinary life of the mysterious Jeremiah G. Hamilton.

Jeremiah G. Hamilton was almost lost to history. It appears his only descendants are in Europe and traceable to his sole grandson.

White states that not a single photograph of Jeremiah remains, he was either of African ancestry or mixed African ancestry, and known to shave his hair (racial fodder for the newspape
Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it
At the heart of Shane White's quest to uncover the untold story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton is the question of how to turn snippets of a mostly unknown man's life into a book. The answer seems to be by reconstructing the time in which the man lived. White's quest is admirable if a little misguided. As interesting as Hamilton's life is, the book about him is sadly lacking in most cases because the source material does not appear to exist in a substantial way. What's left is a book that falters as muc ...more
Lori Shafer
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am always on the search for a history topic that is new and basically unknown. Prince of Darkness is such a find. White tells the story of a man ahead of his time, but completely forgotten. Jeremiah G. Hamilton was an African American who became a millionaire of Wall Street. Unlike many wealthy African Americans of the post-civil war period who made their fortune selling to other former slaves, he made his money dealing with other men of Wall Street regardless of race.

I found Hamilton's story
I really wanted to love this fascinating story of a black man who managed to break the racial barriers to become one of the wealthiest men of his generation. Unfortunately, while the facts are interesting, they were put together in such a way that I found myself unable to read more than a page at a time without falling asleep. Hamilton lived quite the life for a free black man, but the actual specifics are frustratingly few. This leads to more speculation that one might like about a subject who ...more
Cannot recall exactly where I read a review/recommendation for this book--maybe in the Economist. Jeremiah Hamilton was the first African-American millionaire and was equally reviled by most segments of society. This book gave considerable insight to the businesses and drivers for colonial society but was slow going for me.
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked that the author revealed the process that got him to his conclusions. It was interesting to get an idea of how someone would research a person's life if there weren't personal documents available. I found the subject matter interesting enough when I was reading it, but it's not something I still think about.
Daniel Farabaugh
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
The basic problem with this book is that there just is not enough known about Hamilton in order to write a book about him. This instead is a general history of the era that occasionally comes back to his life. It is interesting in places but it is not great.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
What to say about the Prince of Darkness? It is a pity that so little is known about the life of Jeremiah G. Hamilton but Shane White did an excellent job of piecing together to create a very well written and interesting story of a man who was almost invisible.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book. I tried to like it. Unfortunately I could not get in to it. This probably had to do with the fact that the book is not about Hamilton, but more about cultural aspects of New York City in the 1800's.

Did not finish
Jamaal Jones
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A truly illuminating book that details the life of an African American man in 1800's New York, that truly lived life his way.
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SHANE WHITE is the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history. He has authored or co-authored five books, including "Playing the Numbers", and collaborated in the construction of the website Digital Harlem. Each project has won at least one important prize for excellence from inst ...more
“Far too often, historians treat African Americans as if white segregationists had succeeded, as if blacks lived in their own separate world, physically and culturally removed from everyone else. In effect, African Americans become segregated for a second time in the telling of their history, easily marginalized from the main American story, relegated to the footnotes.” 0 likes
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