Rare Autograph Letter From A Losing Proposition
Grant’s son Buck had opened a Wall Street brokerage house with Ferdinand Ward. Ward was a confidence man who swindled numerous wealthy men. Ward was at the time regarded as a rising star on Wall Street. The firm, Grant & Ward, was initially successful. In 1883, Grant joined the firm and invested $100,000 of his own money. Grant, however, warned Ward that if his firm engaged in government business, he would dissolve their partnership. To encourage investment, Ward paid investors abnormally high interest, by pledging the company's securities on multiple loans in a process called rehypothecation. Ward, in collusion with banker James D. Fish kept secret from bank examiners, retrieved the firm's securities from the company's bank vault. When the trades went bad, multiple loans came due, all backed up by the same collateral.
Historians agree that Grant was likely unaware of Ward's intentions, but it is unclear how much Buck Grant knew. In May 1884, enough investments went bad to convince Ward that the firm would soon be bankrupt. Ward, who assumed Grant was "a child in business matters, told him of the impending failure, but assured Grant that this was a temporary shortfall. Grant approached businessman William Henry Vanderbilt who gave him a personal loan of $150,000. Grant invested the money in the firm, but it was not enough to save it from failure. Essentially penniless, but compelled by a sense of personal honor, he repaid what he could with his Civil War mementos and the sale or transfer of all other assets. Vanderbilt took title to Grant's home, although he allowed the Grants to continue to reside there and pledged to donate the souvenirs to the federal government and insisted the debt had been paid in full. Grant was distraught over Ward's deception and asked privately how he could ever "trust any human being again."
In March 1885, as his health was failing, he testified against both Ward and Fish. Ward was convicted of fraud in October 1885, months after Grant's death, and served six and a half years in prison. After the collapse of Grant & Ward, there was an outpouring of sympathy for Grant. Two mailing folds otherwise in V/G/condition..........................$1950.00