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Sex Worker Brides & the Rise of “Millionaires” in the Twisted Tale of a Forgotten Economic Crash

At the beginning of the 1700s, European colonists were scattering about the New World while others were busy trying to figure out how to cash in on the new lands. Communication across the Atlantic was slow and not all that reliable, so it was easy to convince investors that the riches of the Americas could someday be theirs. In France, that led to the founding of the Mississippi Company, where investors could claim their share of the coming riches. There was a problem, though, in that France had very few colonists, and they were not extracting those riches. And even with the investments, few signed up for the journey.

The pressure is on to deliver. In order to recruit more people to the colonies to extract what John Law needs from the isolated territory, he begins falsely advertising the “Eldorado” allure of Louisiana. Despite his best efforts, few volunteer to leave the comforts of home and so he turns to society’s “black sheep”. He recruits in hospitals for paupers, prostitutes, drunks and disorderly soldiers. Then he goes to prisons and makes its occupants an offer they can’t refuse: marry a prostitute and set sail into the sunset … to Louisiana.

A honeymoon voyage, it isn’t. Those who accept the bargain for their freedom are shackled together until they board ships on a less-than-first-class voyage to America.

You might guess that this led to disaster, and you'd be right. Read the story of the "Mississippi bubble" that led to the coinage of the term "millionaire," at Messy Nessy Chic.

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