Black Friday, September 24 1869, also known as the Fisk/Gould Scandal, was a financial panic in the United States caused by two speculators’ efforts to corner the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange.
It was one of several scandals that rocked the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. During the American Civil War, the United States government issued a large amount of money that was backed by nothing but credit. After the war ended, people commonly believed that the U.S. Government would buy back the “greenbacks” with gold. In 1869, a group of speculators, headed by James Fisk and Jay Gould, sought to profit off this by cornering the gold market. Gould and Fisk first recruited Grant’s brother-in-law, a financier named Abel Corbin. They used Corbin to get close to Grant in social situations, where they would argue against government sale of gold, and Corbin would support their arguments. Corbin convinced Grant to appoint General Daniel Butterfield as assistant Treasurer of the United States. Butterfield agreed to tip the men off when the government intended to sell gold.
The first scandal to taint the Grant administration was Black Friday, a gold-speculation financial crisis in September 1869, set up by Wall Street manipulators Jay Gould and James Fisk. They tried to corner the gold market and tricked Grant into preventing his Treasury Secretary from stopping the fraud. However, Grant eventually released large amounts of gold back onto the market, causing a large-scale financial crisis for many gold investors. Gould had already prepared and quietly sold out while Fisk denied many agreements and hired thugs to intimidate his creditors.