Lehigh University
The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
Previous Issue Next Issue
Previous Page Next Page
0 matches

Text for Page 253 [01-02-1878]

              [Gunn�s handwriting]
N. Y. Graphic.  Jan 2, 1878.

[loose newspaper clipping]
     PERSONAL POINTS ON JOHN BONNER.
		     ����������
THE ANTECEDENTS OF THE ABSCONDED WALL
  STREET OPERATOR�HOW FINANCIAL EDITORS
  GROW RICH.
  There are some facts in the career of John Bon-
ner, the absconding broker, which are worthy of notice.
A Canadian by birth, he was, for quite a long period,
an editorial writer on the New York Herald.  This
was as far back as 1855.  He was a writer of consid
erable force, and at one time, aspired to take the
managing editorship of the paper away from the
late Frederick Hudson.  He tried to make the elder
Bennett believe that Hudson had no literary taste,
and there was actually, at one time, a dispute in the
office as to which of the two was the supervising
editor.  Bennett finally decided in favor of Hudson.
Subsequently Bonner became editor of Harper�s
Weekly when it was a violent pro-slavery sheet.
  Among the persons who entertain a profound dis-
like for John Bonner is the celebrated cartoonist,
Thomas Nast.  Bonner failed to appreciate Nast�s
power as an artist, and deliberately �sat upon� him, 
modifying the sketches he proposed, and refusing to 
publish any of Nast�s most powerful efforts.
Bonner was pro-slavery, and hence would not
tolerate the artist�s anti-slavery cartoons.  While
in the employ of the Harpers, Bonner wrote a
�Boys� History of the United States,� in imitation of
Dickens�s �Boys� History of England.�  While still
with the Harpers Bonner was emplyed as financial
editor on the Herald.  Edward Hudson had just re-
tired from that position with a fortune of nearly
$100,000.  During the few years that Bonner occu-
pied that position, he is reported to have amassed
the snug sum of $200,000.  It is a cu-
rious circumstance that nearly all editors made
large sums of money.  They are �let in� to the good
things on the �street.�  Snow, who was financial edi-
tor of the Tribune, on a salary of thirty dollars a week,
died worth a quarter of a million dollars. Clark, who
was a financial editor of the Express, and afterwards of
the Tribune, died leaving quite a large fortune.  David
Mellis made large sums of money while in the same
capacity on the World.  There are quite a number of
instances of this kind.
  Bonner set up for a broker after being dismissed
from the Herald, achieving considerable notoriety in
the �street� for his address and boldness as an oper-
ator.  It is not understood that he was �cleaned out�
by the panic of 1873, and he has been trying to live
on his reputation as an operator ever since that time.
 
	�If John Bonner pledge his �honor�
	     Borrowing on the street,
	  If John Bonner prove a �goner,�
	     Isn�t the swindle neat?
  �Many summers ago people familiar with John
Bonner�s closely shingled head remarked that it was
a Sing Sing crop.
  John Bonner was President of the Bankers and
Brokers Association which suspended with his
house.  The capital of the Association was $500-
000; its business, to clear stocks for the old open
Board.  On that institution winding up, the as-
sociation did a regular stockbroker�s trade, and
John Bonner became a financial agent on a large
scale.  The Panic of 1873 swept away all he
had, and then he began �kiting� with the As-
sociation.  He had about $1,500,000 good col-
laterals for loans, which he rehypothecated for
nearly $2,000,000 lending $70,000, for in-
stance on Panama Stock, upon which he borrowed
$100,000.  He lent $50,000 on 2,000 Shares of 
North West, and borrowed 70,000 from a Broad-
way Bank.  A curious fact is, that his partner,
Mr. Sewell, was one of the persons most surprised
when the facts transpired.  Something similar is
true of the trustees of the National Trust of New
York.  The published statements of that Com-
pany for years past were fictitious, yet so cun-
ningly devised as to deceive creditors, stockowners,
and even trustees.  The Receiver, Mr. Best,
blames the trustees for permitting the President
to manipulate the figures at his pleasure, or in
other words for placing unbounded confidence in
one, over whom they ought to have exercised a
strict supervision.  The pressure came; the un-
checked officer could not resist the temptation;
he is now in Sing-Sing, and $700,000 of the
funds lost.
  The other day we read in Chambers� Magazine
a series of anecdotes showing how cool certain
persons could be under trying circumstances.  But
not one of the instances approached this which
we extract from the N. Y. Herald of Jan. 1,
where it will be found leading off the financial
column:��Messrs. John Bonner & Co. tender
the compliments of the season to their creditors
in and out of the Board, and regret their inability
to fulfil their engagements.�
  Re-hypothecation is the term for a practice be-
coming familiar on both sides of the Atlantic.
Netter and Co., the New York firm which lately
failed, indulged in re-hypothecation as a question
of interest, according to Albert Netter, interviewed
the other day in Cincinnati, who went on to remark,
that a firm in New York has to-day $12,000,000
borrowed on such Securities.  The plan is to lend
on Securities and to pledge those Securities at an
advanced rate, which may be again pledged and
pledged still farther, till like the passage from
hand to hand of a �5 note, it becomes difficult to
trace the Security.  Albert has a nice conscience,
however, for he told the reporter that the money
his firm owe �is not to widows or orphans, but
to Wall street �sharks,� who have gotten every
dollar we had, and have cornered us until we
have been compelled to lay down and quit.
There is no truth in the report that I had ab-
sconded with $100,000.  Gabriel Netter is with
our lawyer in New York.�
  Bonner may with more justice be regarded
in that way�at least as a sign of the times
�in the street.�  There seems to have been
nothing eccentric or remarkable about Bon-
ner.  His was a conventional character.  He
conformed to social and business customs
and circumstances.  Long associated with
the market, he was looked upon as a type of the
market�an alert and active broker, exposed
indeed to the alternation of successes and re-
verses which attend the broker throughout
his career, but one who would naturally and
inevitably adopt the methods which the judg-
ment of mankind, or of that part of mankind
which is directly concerned in the broker�s
business, approves, and who would never
dream of adopting any other methods.  This
was the general estimate of Bonner; and if
an expert in such matters had been asked to
name a number of men who represented the
financial age as it lives and thieves and has no
being in and about the money and stock mar-
kets, he would have put Bonner�s name into
the list.  If we inquire further and specifically
whether we must accept Bonner as a sign of
the times, we shall have to ask how far his
practice of repledging securities prevails.
�They all do it,� Bonner himself is reported
to have said not long ago, referring to bro-
kers generally and the Netters� performances
particularly.  We should be sorry to believe
that they all do it, but it would be well to
know just how many of them do it.  Honest
brokers, those who are scrupulous in respect
to trusts, owe it to themselves as well as to
their customers and the public to investigate 
this matter and to contrive some way to put a 
stop to a practice which is essentially immoral
and is apt to end in ruinous fraud.               
  •  
Loading content ...