James Fisk was one of America's greatest robber barons, and unashamedly proud of it. "I was born to be bad," he said. The Erie Wars and Black Friday, two of the greatest plunders in American history, affairs in which Fisk played a prominent role, place him in the pantheon of the great corporate scoundrels. Born in Vermont in 1834 to an itinerant peddler, redheaded James left school early and joined the Van Amburgh Circus. Eight years later he returned with the panache of a veteran trouper, a flamboyance that would mark his life. He joined his father and suggested painting their wagon a bright red and yellow, and putting on a show to sell his wares. When his father rejected his ideas James went on his own, and was soon successful.