Greed in the Gilded Age is a Gatsby-esque tale of mystery, money, sex, and scandal.
‘Millionaire’ had just entered the American lexicon and Cassie Chadwick was front page news, becoming a media sensation before mass media, even eclipsing President Roosevelt’s inauguration. Using these newspaper articles, Hazelgrove tells the story of one of the greatest cons in American history.
Combining the sexuality and helplessness her gender implied, Chadwick conned at least 2 million dollars, equivalent to about 60 million today, simply by claiming to be the illegitimate daughter and heir of steel titan, Andrew Carnegie. Playing to their greed, she was able to convince highly educated financiers to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars, on nothing more than a rumor and her word.
She was a product of her time and painting her as a criminal is only one way to look at it. Those times rewarded someone who was smart, inventive, bold, and aggressive. She was able to break through boundaries of class, education, and gender, to beat the men of the one percent at their own game.
William Elliott Hazelgrove has a masters in history and is the best-selling author of ten novels and five narrative nonfiction books. His most recent publications include, Sally Rand: American Sex Symbol (Lyons Press), Knox's Noble Train: The Story of a Boston Bookseller's Heroic Expedition That Saved the American Revolution (Prometheus), Al Capone and the 1933 World's Fair: The End of the Gangster Era in Chicago (Rowman & Littlefield). He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
A Note to the Reader
Chapter 1: The Trial of the Century
Chapter 2: The Chase
Chapter 3: The Immigrants
Chapter 4: A Genteel Victorian Twist
Chapter 5: The Cauldron of Greed
Chapter 6: The Tombs
Chapter 7: Mrs. Bastado
Chapter 8: The High Priestess of Fraudulent Finance
Chapter 9: Lady Liberty
Chapter 10: The Good Doctor
Chapter 11: Madame DeVere
Chapter 12: The Bank Failure
Chapter 13: The Homestead
Chapter 14: The Gold Standard
Chapter 15: The Carnegie Subpoena
Chapter 16: The Doctor and His Wife
Chapter 17: The Queen of Cleveland
Chapter 18: The Broken Man
Chapter 19: Setting the Hook
Chapter 20: The Trial of the Century Begins
Chapter 21: The Bait
Chapter 22: Survival of the Fittest
Chapter 23: The Switch
Chapter 24: The Work of a School Boy
Chapter 25: The Good Pastor
Chapter 26: Geronimo
Chapter 27: Cashing In
Chapter 28: A Jury of Farmers
Chapter 29: Amazing Times
Chapter 30: A Conspiracy to Defraud
Chapter 31: The Newton Loan
Chapter 32: Closing Arguments
Chapter 33: The Verdict
Chapter 34: The Sentence
Chapter 35: The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick
Against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, Hazelgrove briskly charts the career of scammer Cassie Chadwick. Born Elizabeth Bigley in 1857 in Canada, she forged checks as a young teen, was arrested, and later released on account of her age and on grounds of insanity. She later joined an older sister in America, where she changed her name multiple times, married three men for their money, and engaged in various scams. Her greatest con came under the name of Cassie Chadwick. As a wealthy doctor’s wife, Chadwick spent a fortune on European trips, diamonds, and designer clothes. Claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie, she persuaded banks to loan her money based on forged promissory notes from Carnegie and vague promises. But it all came crashing down in 1904 when she was arrested by federal agents and tried and convicted of conspiracy to defraud the Citizens Bank of Oberlin. In 1905, her trial made bigger headlines than the inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt. She died in prison in 1907. Excerpts from newspaper stories of the day dramatize the sensational proceedings. True crime fans will devour this sad, cautionary tale of a brilliant woman brought down by greed.
The con of the century is told through countless quotes and firsthand reports, bringing to life the socialites, robber barons, unsuspecting bankers, and law enforcement officers. The Gilded Age is explored as well, placing the con in context and painting a lifelike portrait of the times amid the plethora of scandals hitting newspapers. Bestselling author Hazelgrove brings a sensational tale little-told in the modern day to new readers in stunning detail. While brilliantly written and appealing to fans of true crime, seasoned readers of history and nonfiction will feel the most at home with the text.
Hazelgrove chronicles the life and crimes of Cassie Chadwick, who, during the Gilded Age, scammed bankers out of millions of dollars, causing one bank failure and leading to the death of the head of a bank. Chadwick convinced prominent bankers, attorneys, and a reverend that she was the illegitimate daughter of industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie; she even dropped by Carnegie’s home to pretend to retrieve promissory notes. When her scam came to light, she was prosecuted; the ensuing trial generated so much press that Carnegie himself sat in to observe. Hazelgrove vividly sets the scene, drawing intriguing parallels and contrasts between Carnegie and Chadwick—Carnegie ruthlessly punished striking workers who were protesting unsafe working conditions, while Chadwick broke the law in the pursuit of wealth, yet only Chadwick was held accountable. The delightfully sensationalist writing (“questions that rained down like nails into his soul”) evokes the yellow journalism of the era. Readers curious about the Gilded Age or who enjoy stories of con artists will appreciate Hazelgrove’s lively tale of a most ambitious grifter.
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 24 Jan 2022
"I’m extremely interested in history in the gilded age is my favorite. This is an extremely fast paced book on a provocative true story. Highly recommend!"—Lynn Beck, Washington Post Mag
Very rarely do I use the word “perfect” to describe a book, but Greed in the Gilded Age by William Elliott Hazelgrove certainly comes close! Overall, the story of Cassie Chadwick’s life is interesting on its own, but William Hazelgrove has given it new depth through his thoroughness and talent with situating a story in history.
10/11/21. Publishers Weekly features this book and author William Hazelgrove in the forthcoming Mystery, Thriller, & True Crime feature.
12/3/21, Publishers Weekly: The title was included in this "Adult Books for Spring 2022" feature.
2/18/22, The Curious Mans Podcast: William Hazelgrove was interviewed about the book in this podcast episode.
2/21/22, KZIM KSIM Radio: William spoke about the book in this radio segment.
3/7/22, WGN Radio (Chicago): William Hazelgrove joined John Landecker to discuss the book.
3/21/22, WOCM-FM: William Hazelgrove was interviewed about the book.
3/23/22, History Unplugged Podcast: William talks about the book and the excesses of this age.
3/28/22, Talk Radio Europe: William Hazelgrove spoke with Hannah Murray about the book.
5/7/22, WYPL Book Talk: William Hazelgrove talked about his latest book.