Fair was a contemporary of Levi Strauss, living and working in San Francisco around the same time as the denim magnate, but though Fair often appears on lists of the richest men in U.S. history, he doesn’t have the same name recognition.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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you missed, and history class. The production of I hurt radios how stuff works upon cast. I'm Hollingford and I'm Tracy wealth in good shape back in the fall. When I was visiting San Francisco as your call ended our tour there and then I stayed for we have all of that city without help we were staying in had a photo of Senator James Dean, you're framed and sitting on a little piece of furniture in the parlour, and my This was immediately sparked because there was no context for this there's living there. There's is there and so I asked around, and it turned out that fair had actually paid for that building to be established as a boarding school in eighteen. Ninety and that school was run by a teacher named Mary Lake, and there were rumours at the time she and fair, were romantically involved. They both denied these but,
incidentally, Merriwig allegedly haunts that hotel. She never visited me to the best of my knowledge. We didn't see her, but I then kind of left with the desire to know a lot more about James T fear and it turned out, as I did some digging. Oh, he was a piece of work he was a contemporary of Levi Strauss. He was living and working in San Francisco around the same time as the danish magnet butts. Fear often appears on lists of the richest man. In U S history, he just doesn't have the same level of name recognition and I thought it might be fun to do an episode on him, but specula alert. It's unlikely that come away from this episode, feeling warm and fuzzy about James G. Fair, though you might have after the Levi Strauss episode he's not quite as magnanimous and lovely a man If your primary affection is more money and the making thereof, you might be super into it
maybe at all right where you are looking at ways of Europe, your search for money. Their story starts in clover, county Torone in Ireland, where he was born on December. Third, eighteen thirty one in his father's name was also James. Fair, his mother's maiden name was grand. and that's where he got his middle name. Here we don't know her first name any longer. The records don't seem to clearly indicate what her first name was, but when dreams was twelve, his family emigrated to the United States. And they lived briefly in Geneva Illinois after finishing his early schooling in Geneva there went on to study both business and science in Chicago, but the California gold rush captured his attention and ambition when that whole thing blew up, and so at the age of eighteen, fair left Illinois to seek his fortune in my name at first
worked in place there mining and that is using water to excavate and recover the deposit that you're trying to get at the most basic form place or mining is planning. But there are much larger scale and more industrial forms a place where mining as well. He did ok. These efforts. He made a little bit of money, but it was never quite the major income that he was hoping for, and fair floundered around the little bit once he decided that gold might not be the road too well for him. He tried mining for courts because a lot of courts was part of this, the source for where all of you gold mines were coming from. Somebody only met with a little bit a success, and then he actually gave farming a world for a little while on a plot near Petaluma, California, but that was so clearly unfulfilling and not really very profitable, and he gave up after six months and their eighteen. Sixty this shit
It is the gears again away from golden courts and Agriculture and California. This time you set its sights on Nevada and the late eighteen fifties. Silver loads had been discovered and Nevada and Fair was eager to be one of the first people to capitalize on the silver trade. Yet hidden run out there right, as these silver loads were being discovered. He kind. I wanted to get a sense of the the whole situation and if it was really a viable thing, since gold had not worked out, but once he realized Oh, this is a very real opportunity. He was on top of it. It was a really smart move, as he was much more successful in silver mining than he had been in gold mining, although I should point out that, Many of these mines were also producing both silver angled, but silver was just what was making the most money he went over in your city, Nevada, which is south of Reno. It's to the EAST of Lake Tahoe. Northern tip and fair worked prospecting in Virginia City for five years on his own, but in eighteen, sixty five, a corporate enterprise hired him as
superintendent and that mine was the over mine named after King Solomons, o fear, mine from which so much wealth had sprung seem fair, was showing just how good he, as at managing the over minds business interests and data they functions and that skill attracted the attention of other mining operations, he was hired as director of the hail and nor cross mine. He also became friends with John W Mackay, his work at hail and nor cross turned it from some in it. Just wasn't. Turning a profit into a valuable venture that resulted in two billion dollars over the course of two years that money didn't go back to fair, though it went to the company in eighteen, sixty seven, fair and Helen nor cross severed their relationship for reasons that are been totally clear. There are a lot of theories about, maybe him being frustrated that he wasn't really getting much of the prophet and then he kind of just told them to go too far
egg, or that he may have been making noise is like that, and they told him to go, take a hike. We don't really know what happen exactly, but fair and his friend Mackay who had also been working in mining towns, joined forces with San Francisco stockbrokers, James C, flood and U S o Brien to buy a controlling interest in the hail and nor cross mine in eighteen, sixty eight and that, for my part, eventually came to be known by the nickname, the silver kings all of them were irish. James Flood was not born in Ireland, but he was born in New York shortly after his parents, immigrated because by into hail and nor Cross, was a really significant move prior to the fourth them joining forces to coming to control of them and its previous controlling owners were the dominant powers and Nevada mining. These were William, see Ralston and William Sharon, and they were backed by the Bank of California, which Ralston had bounded. They had gone too
you to capitalize on their wealth by making loans to hopeful speculators for the purchase of minds are stocks in minds. They weren't really hoping these people would turn a problem. When the mine they were hoping that they would lose their money and before closed on. If the notes mark paid in time then Ralston and share and would take control of the mine after it had been for closed on, they would expand their own footprint that was actually how they had come to own hail and nor cross. In the first place, they had not actually been the owners when fair worked there. yeah. They definitely get characterized and not without reason, as kind of the mustache totalling villains, Virginia City and the surrounding area. At the time fairer. Who at this had a great deal more agency, as a controlling owner of the healing nor Cross was well, to run things exactly as he wished, and that way turned out to be very, very prosperous, because Fair had begun as a prospect.
and worked in the mining industry for years at that point, and he knew a lot about machinery, he understood every facet of mining more deeply, perhaps than any one else at the time. He was also quick to take action, but he was not impulsive. He thought, through all of his ideas and plans completely before ever, committing manpower and resources to them and he was also completely hands on, even as a high level executive, he would go into the minds just about every day to inspect the progress and equipment and to update the workers with new directives based on those inspections. Some of this was because the obviously did not trust anybody else's judgment as much as he trusted his own, but this really cost him having his hand and every level of the business meant that he's did not sleep very much and he had very
time for his personal life. You he didn't get married during this time. We'll talk about his wife a little bit more later, but he pretty clearly was focused on the mine and making money. I mean he did everything from these inspections. He wrote all of the checks instead of hiring a clerk or an accountant to do it, he would do like their reports and of every fiscal session and like literally go line by line through everything they had spent money on. He was completely devoted to this job and the mindless fruitful that it became really apparent. The James fear in his business associates should think about expanding their holdings and maybe by up some additional property in the area in some of that property already had smaller mining interests on it in one of them means that they bought a controlling interest in was the consolidated Virginia which they purchased from Ralston in eighteen. Seventy two ralstons partner Sharon thought that the purchase is going to be dead weight for this collection of irish businessmen. There had been so much effort already poured into the Consolidated Virginia mine and there was believed to be dry.
But it turned out that belief was incorrect and coming up we're going to talk about what happened when fair and his company work the Consolidated Virginia mine, the first we will pause for a little sponsor break, miles in Jack from work, we recorded a pike has together in the master, Ex thirty ass. You might remember how I've deadly remember. I want to take this opportunity just straight for in a straightforward way, talk to people about what the Mazda CS. Thirty looks like. Ok looks like it's constantly emotion. It has beautiful design like water built that really mean like it's got its making in a way, I need away like the interplay of light and shadow in the body. It does create a bit of a wave. The thing that I like look is being some of whose japanese I like the attention to detail and that's what's going on, especially in the interior of the car. It's got like half till it I'm on the go anywhere any time any who, anyhow and anyhow with Maza,
with Maza, connecting Ukraine have wifi. You could do remote engine start stop seeing Dont on your ring is wonderful and plus I've been in the thing, and I was better corners and shut out Maza for letting that happened. So if you are information on Malta and the first ever six thirty head over to Maza, USA dot com such Iheart or better, yet go check it out in person at a local area. Masilo today,. So once fair in his partners to control of Consolidated Virginia, they opted to tunnel into the mine and While it did indeed seem like a waste of time and money, they would occasionally find small veins, but then they would follow them only to find an end. But then, in March, eighteen, seventy three they found a vain that widened more and more the deeper they tumbled into it, and before the news could break the deed
Legibly dry mine actually contained a very significant vain fifty feet in width. At that point, fair siren, Mackay contacted their partners who are in San Francisco and told them to buy any outstanding stock in the Consolidated Virginia mine that big as an aside, fair, always claimed that he had been the one define this vein and that he used his years of knowledge and skills are really carefully follow this bane of silver that was so thin and delicate that it would have been impossible for somebody with less savvy to do it, but his version leaves out there. But there was another man named SAM Courtesy was the superintendent on the project and he was the one that actually made that discovery. Additionally other account say that it was really easy to follow those bain once they had stumbled across it, yet here it comes up a lie in various biographies of him that he always describes it as a knife. an edge of vein that he, you know intuited might go somewhere further and then other people
like you could literally have driven a team of horses through there. It was so easy to find some despair. The immediate counts of what this vein was actually like, but also if, if you work for a publicly traded company today, this business of buying up stock before you make a big announcement, that's the kind of thing you have ethics training about right. I think that James G, Fair, probably, would have spent at the idea of ethics streaming. That's just My theory- I don't know I don't mean to in any way disparage the van who clearly had a lot of business acumen, but I don't think he would have been down with with ethics training but back to the story. So once fair and Mackay told their partners to buy up interest in the mine and remember they already had the controlling interest they just wanted as much of it is they could get, but they did exact
that and they also bought as much additional property in the surrounding area as they could and soon the partners had amassed a huge tract of land, which they called the Consolidated Virginia in California. In that vein, that they had struck was massive. It came to be known as the big bonanza, and just a few years after the new company was established. Their combined mine had earned a hundred and fifty million dollars that is not adjusted to today's dollars. That was in the currency, at that and, along the way, fair, had astutely invited press, rivals and brokers to all come and look at the mine, which was all part of driving up interest in value to ensure the best possible position should he and his partners wish to sell. So after this period of incredible growth, Nevadas mining industry started to take on a darker images. Stock speculation led to an economic downturn. Fair and his associates came to be viewed as greedy manipulators of this market fair
a variety of statements to the press defending himself in defending as partners, but their images were already pretty well tainted. Furthermore, they had made a law of money in part because of this overvalued mining stock and over the years fair and his friend Mackay continued the hands on management of the mines together, while their partners handled finances out of their offices in California and fear in Macao managed for a long time to stay cordial. Despite James Fares, tendency to show boat and sometimes have temperamental outbursts and that work largely due to my case, willingness to just sort of navigate around such things. and they were in many ways, polar opposites even down to their spending habits. Mackay gave away money constantly, but he has been very little on self fear, on the other hand, would spend lavishly and what we would probably call promoting his personal brand today. He liked to do things that made him look being an important, but he was otherwise really tight with money. Fair had diversified his fortune and invested in a number of,
their business ventures over the years. He amassed more and more wealth, the whole time, women an earlier that fair with a contemporary of Levi Strauss and one space where their stories are pre similar, is in the world of San Francisco real estate. So Justice Strauss bought up interesting properties around the city to build up. His holding spare did the same thing starting in eighteen, sixty nine in fares case. He focused first on businesses in residential properties, but then he started at expanding his interest in his business acumen to get involved and railroads and transit systems as well in eighteen. Seventy eight he built South pacific coast. Railroad menace also included a fairy system, and it was really a key moment in the growth of the Bay area because it connected San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Jose in Oakland and less than a decade after it was completed, fair sold the whole thing to the southern Pacific company in eighteen. Eighty six- Eggs and he made himself a million dollars in the process even before he sold off the South Pacific,
railroad. He had already moved into yet another entirely new career. As a politician and team. Eighty one he was elected to the United States Senate and a race against his mining rival, William Sharon and Fair, had run on a platform focused on the interests of the state of Nevada even interests were not necessarily in line with his political party. The obituary, three that ran got picked up by the New York Times, which is what I read it in, but it rain and other papers when fair die, described him. As quote nominally a Democrat, the silver minds of the state were a huge coming driver and, as a consequence, fear who of course knew all about them, was able to prioritize those interests to keep the state economy prosperous and in his pain. He told people that he didn't know anything about politics, but he knew what the state and its minors needed once he had his senatorial seed hidden actually do much with it. It was estimated that
spent about three hundred and fifty thousand dollars getting elected. But after attending some sessions dutifully for the first few months of its term, it is sort of seem to check out eventually he was actually spending more time back in San Francisco than he was in Washington and on the issue of advocating for the silver mining industry, which he had run on as his platform, He let another Nevada, Senator Jumpy Jones, take the lead when it came to speak on this issue on the Senate floor, fear vote, in favour of the chinese Exclusion ACT of eighteen, eighty one, but he was especially active on any other issues. He really preferred to go back to California and gossip to olive, his friends about washing politicians, then, when he was in Washington, he attended to skip sessions and drink in his office. With his friends, it turned out that he just bound the Senate to be boring, point. He said something about how to him like listening to a bunch of people. Talk about things like you know what a person should be paid as a fair wages board in detail.
And he would rather be either in the mines are running something he was not so much with the legislation, but in the midst of his term he also became the focus of a massive scandal when his wife of twenty two years filed for divorce in the sky, We'll came about because she cited habitual adultery as the reason that she sought to end the marriage in eighteen. Eighty three: this was the first time such a charge was made against a sitting. U S senator in it was nationwide front page news, Ferris Fellow senators were horrified and denounced him, the divorce hearings, tick in early May eighteen. Eighty three in the testimony was big news. That testimony was also extremely damaging to James G, Fair one of his paramour testified during the hearing and another one provided a deposition to the court. Fair clay,
whole thing was a political plan that had been orchestrated by his enemies, but he also didn't can destiny of the charges that were made against him. He agreed to the divorce and then, when the dust settled, the judgment against him was really harsh. The conditions of the divorce stated the James would get custody of the couples, two sons, James and Charles nails: who had two daughters, Teresa and Virginia, who were to stay with their mother per the court's decision. But the Big NEWS was that MRS Fair was also grant. nearly five million dollars in cash and securities, which is believed to be the largest divorce settlement in history. At that time, this was a huge loss for fair, not just because of the public scale all and the dissolution of his family, but also because it led to the dissolution of his very successful long term. Business partnership, William
O Brien had died in eighteen. Seventy eight, but Mackay and Flood had sided with Teresa in the divorce things that already become strained when fair had started working as a senator while he was in Washington Teresa would look to Mackay for support in California and by helping her Mackay had made fair, feel insulted. Since these three men couldn't untangle their business dealings fair instead, contented himself by giving his business associates some backhanded compliments and the press yeah, he would say no things along lines like all they ve done so well for themselves. Considering you know they started out poor stupid humans, like they did this solely unkind to them and we're going to time next year. some of the family drama that swirled around the fares after the divorce. But first we are going to take a quick break in here from one of our sponsors, the here is about us, which resolutions do you, plan to conquer and twenty twenty become more mindful or creator
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so fares, daughters, after the divorce were raised by their mother Teresa, and she raised them to be educated and well. Mannered. Fair could not really be bothered to do the same for his sons and that had disastrous consequences. His and Jimmy developed a serious drinking problem, which was often reported in the press, including what sounds to me like a terrifying night when he drank twenty cocktails in one sitting in a doktor, had to be called because he passed out Jimmy actually died very young in his cause of death. Was it reported entirely differently from paper to paper? Some claims that he died of acute alcoholism. Other stated that he had died of suicide fares. Relationships with his surviving children were strained. When is Otis Otter Teresa, who went by Tessie, got married and a high profile society. Wedding affair was not invited, although he claimed that he sent the newlyweds a million dollars as a wedding present, even though he had not been invited you in
dug its unknown. If that actually happened, or if it was something he just said to the press to Lake stir up their interests. He kind of like to be in the press, but he finally, didn't go to the wedding, fear retired from politics after his first term, ended in eighteen. Eighty, seven and then he settled into the work of managing his real estate interests in San Francisco and the surrounding area. He bought more properties, particularly money making properties like office buildings and retail spaces. That would generate rental income. And all of his rental agreements put the onus of maintenance and upkeep on the renter. So he was able to keep most or all all of that rent money rather than following it back into property improvements in this game something of a slum Lord reputation, his properties Bernard for being run down, but here was claimed. The real estate taxes were just far too high to allow him any budget for refurbishment, his wife, Teresa, Fair, died and he ninety wine, the fairest son Charlie,
get an advance on the trust fund that was set up in her will in order to pay off debts, but he had a crude purchasing resources. Curly had also developed a dependency on alcohol and in a hasty move. He married a young woman who was rumored to be running a brothel out of our home. All of this caused a rift between Charlie and his sisters, as well as between Charlie, father and dreams. Fear had always been a drinker. His sons inherited their problems with alcohol from him, but in these later you his life, his reliance on alcohol increase significantly. He also eight graciously and not in a healthy way. He started each day with four boiled eggs: a dozen slices of toast, a steak and costs and the heavy meals and the heavy drinking really took a toll on his health and as he big to reckon with the reality of his mortality. He also decided to reconcile with his son, Charlie by eighteen. Ninety four affairs health started to decline rapidly, but even
Oh, you remain the contrary in when his pastor visited to discuss the sermon that you might give it bears funeral service. It made the silver magnets so furious that he got out of bed. He put on his work players any Watches office to work, and he did that for two more days, But those were his last trip side of the house, even though he knew that he was probably going to die soon. Having someone else tell him that just made him irate. I hope so he kind of wanted to prove them wrong, but time eventually caught up with him. He caught what seemed initially to just be a cold in December, but he couldn't seem to recover from in. He was also diagnosed with. diabetes and kidney disease, and soon after that illness around Christmas of December, one thousand eight hundred and ninety four. He fell into an unconscious state from which he never awoke on December 29th, one thousand eight hundred and ninety four James Fair died at Lake House. That was one of his homes in San Francisco at the time of his death
His estate was valued at an estimated forty million dollars in as well. He arranged for each of his children to be supported by the estate, with a reg income for the rest of their lives in the event of his daughters, death there inheritance would pass to their children and, in the case of his son, Charles dying, his share would be split between his sisters. It would not go to Charlie's wife Maude or any children of that marriage, the other had been hoped, since he had reconciled with Charlie that he may also finally accept Charlie's wife, but apparently not so much Charlie had sent word his sisters, both of whom were living in New York at the time that their father was about to die, but they had refused to answer their estranged brother because they had not reconciled with him. They instead sent word to us
family, friends and San Francisco, though, about the situation. The telegraph fair, also left many do with siblings. He left his sisters, Mary Anderson and Margaret J Carruthers, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars each as well as fifty thousand dollars to his brother, William Bare and twenty thousand dollars to his brother. Edward orphan asylum were also beneficiaries. Fair made provisions for orphanages run by different religious denominations in the city of San Francisco to each have their own bequest lives are not massive bequests. They were large for the time, but when you consider how much money he was, going out. A kind of seems like I should give some to charity, so people dont think average egg here have to intervene thousand dollars. Oh you orphans, twenty five thousand, I'm not judging! Yes, I am a fear, also puts a really interesting stipulations into his will about potential efforts. break said will so according to how it was written if any of his children contested the will their share would automatically
to the other two siblings. And if anyone came forward claiming either to be James, fears, illegitimate child or claiming to be a common law wife, they would just be issued fifty dollars and get nothing more. What fair didn't anticipate with those stipulations, with all three of its children contesting the will in a sort of unified front? None of them wanted to deal with trustees that an income that was doled out from a trust all of them wanted to just have their inheritance and then to make matters even more contentious. The will vanished from the county clerks office just a month after James Bear died. It was replaced with a blank piece of paper in the awful up that the will had been filed in a lot of people quite were questioned as police tried to piece together who had access to this absolute who could have made the switch. Nothing came of the
instigation and the will was never recovered and the trustees claim that the fear children must have taken the will so that the estate would be split among them. The siblings believed that the trustees had stolen the will, because they knew that it would be revealed, is fraudulent and is all of these acts nations were made in the investigation stalled. Woman named Nettie Craven, who is the principle of the mission grammar School, came forward and claim She had a will that fair made after the one that had disappeared. This was a hand and will so the press, nicknamed the pencil will and it left the estate to the children Will had allegedly been written because MRS Craven had spoken to James, Fair, about a bill that was related to school teachers, pension funds and he had written this copy to include a request of fifty thousand dollars.
Pension funds, while the fair family initially supported MRS Craven in her document soon she produced more hand, written documents, blaming them to be the writing of James Spare. Two of them left her properties and one declared her his wife, and then set up. A whole series of events that ended up in a very expensive trial, eventually Craven caved under this financial pressure. She handed over the handwritten deeds and marriage declaration in return to for a small sum of cash, now, when she initially appeared without a handwritten, will that seem to convey actually went his kids. Always They were like yes, this woman is the real deal. A man when she was like he also. Every two very big red opera if they were like wait, wait a minute and then she was like am is common law wife there like hold the phone and they got a whole big, crazy thing. the craven issue receded. Numerous other claimants to fares, life and fortune emerged. Multiple women claiming to have been
Aged or common law married to James, Fair came forward as well as a number of people claiming to be his children. The nineteenth three passed into the twentieth century before this will was settled and the fair children finally got their inheritance, so really a lot of people liked him. He was capable of being friendly with pretty much everybody even making people he had never met before. If you like, they were his old friend. His career and mining had been so successful in part because he treated everybody the same regardless of whether they were a wealthy executive or a worker down in the mine, but was only one side of his personality, the other side as a fair, It was fairly conceited about his own skills and intellect so in some ways. It kind of seems lake. He treated most people equally because saw everyone as equally less impressive than himself. He was not above taking advantage of someone that he thought was foolish and business, and he would later crow about business deals that
far more favourable to him than the other involved party. He was shrewd and manipulative, even with his family members. At one point he gave a fake Tipp to his wife about us knowing that she would not only by with her own personal savings, but also tell other people about him and went on as people started buying and the stock was hot, fair, sold his shares and made a profit. His wife ended up losing her life savings and he was not especially sympathetic about another thing that would be an ethics class. Yes, that ability to ingratiated himself to other people and just charm them to pieces was very real though, and it was something that he really used to his advantage: a lot of this was very real though, and it was something that he really used to his advantage. A lot of his most successful business dealings were built around relationships that he had fostered with this very genial side to his personality, and he was definitely too many
the obituaries that appeared in various papers, effort, James T, Fair, died all noted what an accomplished ma am. He was how astute his business mind was and how incredibly skilled he was mechanically, but they didn't really paint a rosy picture of the man. A lot of them said a lot of bad things about him as well, and one of his means is described fair as a master mechanic, a shrewd financier and quote from early childhood, more interested in the affairs of James T, fair than any other soul on Earth O James, fair. You self involved bees
the other was a real. I do have meal in its short and sweet, but it's actually savory this river listener, whose name, I'm not sure how to pronounce. I went to guess therein who writes hello Ladys. Thank you for the hard work you do, even though I've only been a listener for about six months. I have loved everything I've heard and I am slowly making my way through every episode. The reason I'm writing is, I recently listen to your archived episode on cheese while working on a report on Wisconsin with the main is being its cheese. This was completely unintentional, an unplanned, but I slowly grew more and more hungry for cheese. As I worked on the report and listen to the episode after finishing Irene, the refrigerator and grabbed any cheese I could find this was at eleven thirty three p m any way. Thanks again for all you do it helps ain't, my schoolwork Hobbes and commute much less monotonous. I see no issue was eating cheese at eleven thirty and far later is a good thing. I am not among why, because I would turn into a monstrous kremlin if you would like
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