Throwback Thursday: Land of the Free, Home of a Few “Scoundrels”


Historically, America has been a remarkable nation, filled with bright, innovative and incredibly noble people.

But we’ve had our share of bad apples. No place is perfect, after all. The Huffington Post recently posted “10 of the Biggest Scoundrels in American History.” Here are a few folks from the past you wouldn’t want anywhere near you or your business.

Daniel Drew – Wall Street Pirate
From the 1840s to the 1870s, Daniel Drew was one of America’s most ruthless financiers—a man who believed that speculating on Wall Street without insider knowledge was like “buying cows by candlelight.” During the Civil War, he scalped the public in collusion with New York’s infamous Boss Tweed. Drew made a chunk of his fortune by manipulating New York & Erie Railroad stock, but his association with swindlers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk cost him dearly. Once worth $13 million ($194 million today), old “Uncle Daniel” died with an estate of $148.22.

Hetty Green – Tax-dodging Miser
In the late nineteenth century, investor Hetty Green lived like a wretched pauper, despite having become the first woman to earn a fortune on Wall Street. The multimillionaire was so miserly that she once dressed her son in rags in an attempt to obtain free medical treatment. To avoid establishing a permanent residence and having to pay state taxes, she moved from one flophouse to another in New York and New Jersey. Her brazen tax dodging helped spur the passage of a federal income tax in 1894 and a federal estate tax passed two months after her death in 1916.

Samuel Dickstein – Congressman/Spy
In the years prior to and during World War II, New York congressman Samuel Dickstein kept watch on the subversive efforts of Nazi supporters in the U.S. He also bolstered his income from 1937 to 1940 as a bumbling Soviet spy. Code-named “Crook” because of his persistent demands for money, Dickstein fed his handlers newspaper articles and public government reports—“rubbish,” the Russians called it. Dickstein’s congressional endeavors led to the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee, an investigative body that would trample individual rights.

Don Lapre – Infomercial Huckster
Starting in the early 1990s, shrieking pitchman Don Lapre made and lost fortunes peddling questionable self-help products on late-night TV. His biggest profits came from selling add-on services to those who set up 1-900 numbers or websites through his company. His empire came tumbling down in 2011 when he was indicted for fraud over his Greatest Vitamin in the World business, charges that led to his suicide. Selling online distributorships for $35, along with endless marketing products, Lapre had raked in $52 million in three years but paid out a pittance in commissions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *