The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company

A Story of George Washington's Times

Publisher: Vintage
From historian Charles Royster--winner of the Francis Parkman, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes--comes the history of one of eighteenth-century America's most fantastic land speculation deals: William Byrd's scheme to develop 900 square miles of swamp on the Virginia-North Carolina border and create fabulous wealth for himself and other shareholders, including George Washington.

Royster scrupulously follows the paper trail through the byways of transatlantic deal-cutting, providing a rare view of early American economic culture.  Elegantly written and impressively researched, The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company is an eye-opening account of greed, folly, and venture capitalism in the revolutionary era.


Elizabeth Wirt was pregnant in the summer of 1803. Her husband feared for her life. Too many women died in childbirth; he had lost his first wife. To distract his mind, he began a series of lighthearted, faintly satirical sketches describing Virginia and Virginians. Though he came from Maryland, William Wirt tried to make...
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"Here is a narrative history of scope and of abundance, a fascinating story." --The Washington Times

"Vivid. . . . plunges readers into the rough world of colonial capitalism--a world swarming with adventurers, aristocrats, fools, rogues and visionaries all wearing masks of gentility." --The News & Observer (Raleigh)

"A veritable encyclopedia of early American get-rich-quick schemes." --Men's Journal

"[Royster] is a seasoned stylist, and tells this colorful story in rich detail." --The Washington Post

"Imagine Barbarians at the Gate with lace cuffs." --Wilton Barnhardt