Bessie Tyler and Edward Young Clarke preyed on fears, prejudice, and weakness to quickly build a powerful and outsized organization that they leveraged at every turn for personal gain, that they swindled every chance they could, and that they ultimately bankrupted.
Then they disappeard into oblivion.
Cinematic, no? Consider these other main characters:
- Bessie Tyler – The poor, uneducated single mom with a heart of bold, and the cunning to become a household name and an extraordinarily wealthy and influential woman.
- E.Y. Clarke – The well-bred Southern preacher whose true calling was the con–the longer, the better.
- William Joseph Simmons – The spectacular orator, weak organizer, alcoholic, and true believer in the cause of 100% real Americanism and white supremacy.
- J.Q. Jett – The son-in-law and ardent fraternalist who lives and dies mysteriously–and strategically connects some very important dots.
- Henry Peck Fry – The white supremacist lawyer turned whistleblower, or the embedded reporter in the earliest days of gimmick journalism?
- Rowland Thomas – The Hemingway-esque novelist and adventurer who leads a national investigation into the propagation of hate.
- Herbert Bayard Swope – The gregarious and wealthy newspaper editor, host to legendary Long Island parties, and ruthless player of poker and croquet.
- Congress – As themselves.
- Charles Ponzi – Cameo appearance by the originator of the financial scheme that bears his name.