Honest Henry Meiggs

At the time Henry Meiggs began his fraudulent use of San Francisco city warrants there was no money in the street fund, but the warrants were considered satisfactory as security for a loan. And this was how Meiggs used them. Always a large borrower it was his way of doing business. Almost never out of debt he spent most of his time “shinning around”, as he called it, after money and considered it a rare day when he didn’t leave home without the need to find a loan of at least forty thousand dollars. As long as he could provide the warrants for collateral he could get loans, and as long as he could borrow more money he could pay the interest on these loans.

Certificate from the Meiggs Wharf Company 1889

The genuineness of his warrants was never questioned, and though they were forgeries no one ever took any of them to the controller’s office for verification. Even though Meiggs was willing to pay more in interest than the prevailing rates, in some cases as much as ten percent a month, instead of arousing suspicion this only made lenders ask for still higher rates and more security. It was reported that the interest alone on Meiggs’ loans could in some months reach thirty thousand dollars. But he always paid it promptly and was so amiable and frank with his promises and assurances, and such a great favorite with everyone, that throughout San Francisco he was called “Honest” Henry Meiggs.

Henry Meiggs


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