Summary of The Exchange Artist

A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America's First Banking Collapse

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The Exchange Artist book summary
Some con men are big dreamers who get in over their heads and cut corners so they won’t drown. And some are just rats.


8 Overall

6 Applicability

9 Innovation

8 Style


Andrew Dexter Jr. is the villain of historian Jane Kamensky’s book on America’s first bank failure, which occurred in the early 1800s. He used worthless banknotes to finance construction of Boston’s Exchange Coffee House, at seven stories the U.S.’s tallest building at the time. In the process, he financially ruined hundreds of laborers who worked on the project. By the time they learned that his banknotes were bogus, Dexter was long gone. Kamensky deftly tells his tale with fascinating detail and little-known facts. In brilliant writing, she traces the rise of “speculative capitalism.” She offers the bittersweet saga of a man with little conscience and big dreams he never fulfilled. getAbstract finds that her book compellingly depicts America’s early financial history – and, perhaps, one facet of its emerging fiscal personality – through the tale of this colorful charlatan.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Who con man Andrew Dexter Jr. was;
  • How he amassed the funds to build Boston’s magnificent Exchange Coffee House;
  • How his skullduggery led to the first bank collapse in the U.S.; and
  • What happened to him and to his unfortunate building.


The Speculator’s Dream
In Boston, in the early 19th century, the Exchange Coffee House was a perfect metaphor for the nascent American Republic and its “gospel of ascent” and open opportunity. Andrew Dexter Jr., who conceptualized, created and , some might say, conjured the building, ...
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About the Author

Jane Kamensky chairs Brandeis University’s history department. She has won numerous, prestigious academic awards and fellowships. The author of Governing the Tongue, she is an expert on North American history before 1830.

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