cover image Greed in the Gilded Age: The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick

Greed in the Gilded Age: The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick

William Elliott Hazelgrove. Rowman & Littlefield, $26 (210p) ISBN 978-1-5381-4290-5

Against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, Hazelgrove (Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson) 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. (Feb.)