“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.
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.
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.