IN the twilight of his long and laudable career, Bernard Baruch was invariably characterized as an adviser to Presidents or a park-bench philosopher who doled out wisdom from a seat in Central Park or Lafayette Square. Admirers tended to forget—Baruch never did—that in the forenoon of that career, he had also been one of Wall Street's craftiest speculators. Baruch could be bearish or bullish. He once sold Amalgamated Copper short and realized $700,000 when Amalgamated reduced a dividend, causing its overpriced stock to tumble. Another time, alerted by a newspaperman that Commodore Schley...

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