Harry Marks was one of the foremost financial journalists of the late nineteenth century. He was also a man of few scruples, and his salacious love affair with Annie Koppel would be the center of a much talked about trial after he attempted to sue a rival for accusing him of fraud. This three-part series (read part 1) tells the story of the affair between Harry Marks and Annie Koppel and how it would lead to his losing the case at the center of which sat a simple question: was Harry trustworthy?
If Harry Marks and Annie Koppel met before that night in 1878 at her residence, they never let on, at least not to their lawyers, the police, the Magistrate’s Court of New York City, or Joseph Savory, Lord Mayor of the City of London, and judge in the Central Criminal Court.
On the east side of Manhattan, a pair of strangers, just recently introduced, found themselves alone. Had he been invited? She gave him nothing to eat, nothing to drink. She did not offer him anything to smoke. What happened that evening? “We talked about business, strictly business; there was no love-making, no approach to anything of the kind,” Annie recalled.
What was, in Annie’s words, an audacious call, became the first of frequent and longer visits. Harry began spending the night on East 58th. He may have dazzled with stories of a childhood in London and an education in Brussels, or of the remarkable changes he saw in New Orleans after the Civil War. He may have promised marriage. He definitely stayed nights.
Soon they moved out of Annie’s residence into Harry’s digs on West 29th street. Her furniture went with them. Annie grew very attached to Harry. They drank wine—a lot of it. She began using his surname. He may have introduced her as his wife, first in the apartment in Chelsea then in the East Village. Harry took over the Jewish Times, further refining the journalistic skills that would ultimately make his name as a rich, trustworthy and controversial editorial source. Annie became pregnant.
And then it all fell apart. Did it turn sour because Harry acted the vicious cad or because Annie became a jealous lover? Depends upon whom you asked. Annie supposedly began tracking his pursuits, following at a distance. “I was constantly watched,” he testified, “I had my footsteps dogged.” He returned one day, his rooms wrecked. She stormed the paper, supposedly wielding a hammer, smashing furniture, throwing ink bottles through windows.
The account against Harry was far graver. He may have begun strutting the streets rakishly bragging of other women, or even worse, visiting them. Much worse, however, he testified to her insanity and had her briefly committed for insanity. “A Sane Woman Locked Up,” read The New York Times lede. He separated her from her children. So it went on, one way or the other or both, for weeks, months. Harry’s Annie went from fun to obsessive; Annie’s Harry went from honorable suitor to cruel deceiver.
Harry plotted his return to London, avoiding Annie. “I had no doubt that she was enceinte,” he said, “I had a doubt as to being the father of her child.” He used a different name to book his ticket. So ended 1879.
Harry returned to New York, claiming to be there until 1883. Annie, meanwhile, would testify to knowing nothing about his presence in the city during those years. They had gone back to being strangers.
And then, on December 15, 1890, roughly a decade after they had last seen each other, Annie showed up in Central Criminal Court of the City of London. It was her turn to testify against Harry.
Part 3 (12/10/2014)
Ian Klaus (@vctorianswagger) is a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. State Department and was previously Ernest May Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His latest book is Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds, and the Rise of Modern Finance.