“Lord” Timothy Dexter, an early American Forrest Gump
Timothy Dexter was an uneducated laborer in colonial Massachusetts. From age 8 he was a mere laborer, but at the age of 16 he scored an apprenticeship with a leather dresser. He did well enough to attract the attention of a rich widow. Unfortunately, as a commoner, he was hated by the upper class. They decided to play off his ignorance, lack of sophistication and predisposition to whacky investments. They convinced the dolt to ship coal to Newcastle, England (the major center of coal mining in England), to send warming pans and mittens to the tropical West Indies and got him to hoard useless whalebone.
Those idiotic investments made him a richer man. His coal arrived in Newscastle during a major labor strike, causing desperate coal merchants to buy his stock at a greatly inflated price. The warming pans made a great ladling device for the molasses industry and Asian merchants bought the mittens for export to Siberia. Even the whalebone was immensely profitable when found useful for making women’s corsets.
To celebrate his fortune, he did what all fashionable rich men did: self publish a vanity book. His misspelled and unpunctuated “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones or Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress” was published in 1802 and much panned by critics. Despite being nearly impossible to comprehend, the originals are now collectors’ items, naturally.
If you enjoyed this story then go here for four more.