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All Rights Reserved. However, his fortunes were again reversed that year when he attempted but failed to corner the Norwich and Worcester Railroad and was obligated to pay out for thousands of inflated shares that he had himself bid up in price, losing about a million dollars in the process—a staggering sum at the time. Reversals of fortune were common in the stock market, and Little was no exception, going bankrupt three or nine times over the course of his career.
Yes, and half the people in it. Nonetheless at length Little's predictive faculties finally failed him. The Panic of completely blindsided the investor, who at the time was "long", possessing huge amounts of stock, much bought on the "margin" on loan.
Thus when the stock prices fell Little was forced into bankruptcy by margin calls , lenders demanding recompense for the fall in the value of the stocks. This time there was no bouncing back. Little had lost all but everything he held, and did not have the confidence of others on Wall Street needed to obtain their backing. Little's reign as Wall Street giant and one of the richest men in the country was over. A speculator to his very core, Little never put away any of his fortune to prepare for a rainy day; any money he made on the stock market, he immediately invested back into it.
Little was only ever able to make small trading returns to the market in his later years, and the magnitude of his fall was often the target of mockery from his former peers. He died a broken man. In his account on the early world of finance, Fifty Years in Wall Street , Henry Clews who knew Little personally penned that Little was "generous and liberal to a fault with his brother speculators who had experienced misfortune However, the opinion of him held by most investors of the day was not quite so rosy.
A reflection on the Erie Railroad Company coup published by The New York Times in all but accused him of being a robber baron : .
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No method was too severe for Jacob Little. If a man stood in the way, that man got hurt.
Naturally, the whole Street was dead set against him. Innumerable schemes were laid for his discomfiture, simply to end in miscarriage. Combinations were formed, to be speedily dissolved under the crack of the Little whip.
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Little was not the first to gain and lose his fortune in the stock market, but he was a pioneering speculator, the first to rely on his ability to predict market fluctuations to inform his speculations instead of bidding with what would today be considered insider information. This did much to give credence to convertible bonds , then still a novelty.
The difference in degree does not make it more memorable. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Jacob Little.
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