lucky lord dexter

“Lord” Timothy Dexter (1748-1806)  was an eccentric colonial merchant who had little in the way of formal schooling.

Not this eccentric Tim

“Because he was basically uneducated, his business sense was peculiar but extremely lucky. Somebody inspired him to send warming pans for sale to West Indies, a tropical area. His captain sold them as ladles for local molasses industry and made a good profit. Next Dexter sent wool mittens to the same place. Asian merchants bought them for export to Siberia.


His next venture was selling coal to Newcastle, which should have been a sure failure. His ships happened to arrive in the time of a coalminer’s strike and potential customers were actually desperate.

He exported bibles to East Indies and stray cats to Caribbean islands and again made a profit. He also hoarded whalebone by mistake, but ended up selling them profitably as a support material for corsets.

Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

Members of the New England high society could hardly contain their dislike for this ignorant but newly-rich upstart, and refused to socialize with him. His relationships with his “nagging” wife, daughter, and son were not particularly good, either. This became evident when he started telling visitors that his wife had died (despite the fact that she was still very much alive) and that the “drunken nagging woman” who frequented the building was simply her ghost.

Punishment for nagging wives

He bought a new house in Newburyport and decorated it with minarets, a golden eagle on the top of the cupola, a mausoleum for himself and a garden of 40 wooden statues of famous men, including George Washington, William Pitt, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson and of course, himself. People flocked to gawk at this collection.


Dexter also had his own way with household staff. He had a protective black housekeeper named Lucy, whom he claimed to be a daughter of an African prince. Other servants included a large idiot, a fortune teller and his  own poet laureate.


At the age of 50 he decided to write a book – A Pickle for the Knowing Ones or Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress. He wrote about himself and complained about politicians, clergy and his wife. The book contained 8,847 words and 33,864 letters, but absolutely no punctuation, and capital letters were sprinkled about at random.

One day he began to wonder what people would say about him after he died. He proceeded to announce his death and to prepare for a burial. About 3,000 people appeared for the wake. However, Dexter’s wife refused to cry for his passing, for which he later caned her, and so he decided not to appear to his guests at all. Timothy Dexter actually died in 1806.


Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 7:37 am  Comments (32)  
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32 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I say if you’re going to hire an idiot, hire a large one.

    • I’ll remember that next time I’m stymied at the Hire Factory

  2. Maybe I’m missing the point, but that dude must have shat four leaf clovers.

    I simply have to read that book though.

    • It’s available freely online but I found it pretty unreadable…. here’s a taste….

      “To mankind at Large the time is Com at Last the grat day of
      Regoising what is that why I will tell you thous three kings”

  3. If he had a large idiot on staff, i wonder why he didn’t put him on “nagging wife” detail? nothing should keep a nagging wife happier than her own large idiot!

    • Unless he retaliated like the Ghost-Who-Walks did

  4. Do they still sell those wonderful anti-nagging devices? Walmart??

  5. I will never be able to read The Phantom in the newspaper again, without laughing. Actually, I think they canceled it in my local paper, because I haven’t seen it in awhile. It’s one of those comic strips that soldiers on in spite of everything, like Rex Morgan MD or Apartment 3-G. You wonder why they even exist anymore.

    • I like The Phantom… he’s a sexy dude

  6. Stray cats to the Caribbean? LOL.

  7. Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter sounds like a movie I need to get, ’cause 70’s Japanese sexploitation movies have that awesome combination of groovy 70’s kitsch and Japanese movie violence. Also the page that link sends me to talks about two other movies: “Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41” which I already own, and “Lady Snowblood” which has been on my list of movies I’ve been meaning to get for a while but just haven’t gotten around to getting.

    • Renal are you using my name in vane??

  8. His writing reads like the spam I get everyday.

    • He was ahead of his time

  9. Tiny Tim was very underrated and often considered nothing more than a novelty act when there was a lot more to him than that. I’m sure you’d do him justice nursemyra, if you were inclined to do a piece on him.

    • Thanks NickQ. I might just do that.

  10. Tiny Tim – now there’s a blast …

  11. He sounds like he had the savvy business mind and luck of Forrest Gump.

    I’d trade all of my street smarts for a pinch of fortune any day!

    • But without the street smarts you might not be able to hold on to the pinch.

  12. so that is where the expression ‘selling coals to Newcastle ‘ came from …

    • how come my name changed??

      • I don’t know. It’s weird and neither of your names links back to your blog 😦

  13. Random capitalization, large idiots and the exportation of stray cats. How much awesome can be packed into one post? 🙂

  14. Caning his wife for not crying at his fake death, surely casts doubt on her being a nag and him being an innocent victim.

  15. I wonder if a small idiot costs less?

    • Yes. you pay for them by the inch.

  16. The Phantom always seems to nail it right on the head.

  17. And do any of the good nurses corsets contain whalebone?

    • I think they all use plastic for the boning these days

  18. First, I once had a crazy (and not in the good way) girlfriend that would not take the hint when I told her we were done. After weeks of trying to get her to go away, I decided to simply ignore her entirely. This worked pretty well, except when she wanted to have sex but it really was the happiest part of our relationship.

    Second, that book sounds oddly like “House of Leaves” which I highly suggest reading to anyone who’s up for it.

  19. I’ve imported but never exported cats.

  20. Where do you find this stuff, my lovely? The world is an odd, odd place.

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