OCTOBER 13-16, 2022

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The King of Confidence - Miles Harvey - <span class="date-display-single">10/15/2020 - 5:30pm</span>

The King of Confidence

10/15/2020 - 5:30pm


The riveting story of the most infamous American con man you’ve never heard of: James Strang, self-proclaimed divine king of earth, heaven, and an island in Lake Michigan, until his assassination in 1856.


Miles Harvey will appear in conversation with Doug Gordon of Wisconsin Public Radio. Join the event at: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/wbf-king-of-confidence. Before the event begins, you will see a countdown and the event image. 


In the summer of 1843, James Strang, a charismatic young lawyer and avowed atheist, vanished from a rural town in New York. Months later he reappeared on the Midwestern frontier and converted to a burgeoning religious movement known as Mormonism. Following the murder of church founder Joseph Smith, Strang unveiled a letter purportedly from the prophet naming him successor. He then persuaded hundreds of fellow converts to follow him to Beaver Island in northernmost Lake Michigan, where he declared himself a divine king.


From this stronghold he controlled a fourth of the state of Michigan, establishing a pirate colony where he practiced plural marriage and perpetrated thefts, corruption, and frauds of all kinds. Eventually, having run afoul of powerful enemies, including the U.S. president, Strang was assassinated, an event that was frontpage news across the country. The King of Confidence tells this fascinating but largely forgotten story. Centering his narrative on this charlatan’s turbulent twelve years in power, author Miles Harvey gets to the root of a timeless American original: the Confidence Man. Full of adventure, bad behavior, and insight into a crucial period of antebellum history, The King of Confidence brings us a compulsively readable account of one of the country’s boldest con men and the boisterous era that allowed him to thrive.

Miles Harvey

About Presenter Miles Harvey


Miles Harvey is the author of the national and international bestseller The Island of Lost Maps and the recipient of a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan. His book Painter in a Savage Land was named a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year and a Booklist Editors’ Choice. He teaches creative writing at DePaul University in Chicago, where he is a founding editor of Big Shoulders Books.


The King of Confidence

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