Characters Discussed

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Frank Algernon Cowperwood

Frank Algernon Cowperwood, the “financier,” primarily interested in acquiring a fortune. Energetic and skillful, he begins by dealing successfully in soap when he is about thirteen years old. His uncle gets him a job in a grain commission house. Cowperwood’s skill leads him into the brokerage business. He then marries Lillian Semple, the attractive widow of a business associate, five years older than he. Branching out into city railways and loans, he becomes involved with local politicians in Philadelphia. The daughter of a contractor becomes Frank’s mistress. When his speculations in municipal railways and city loans are brought to light in the turmoil following the Chicago fire of 1871, he is apprehended and sent to jail. Released in thirteen months, he rebuilds his fortune during the panic of 1873. He then decides to move to Chicago.

Lillian Semple Cowperwood

Lillian Semple Cowperwood, his wife. A beautiful, passive woman, she becomes inadequate for Cowperwood. She knows of his affair with Aileen Butler but tolerates it until he decides to go to Chicago. Then she divorces him.

Henry Worthington Cowperwood

Henry Worthington Cowperwood, Frank’s father, who began as a bank clerk, later becoming teller, head cashier, and finally president. He is forced to resign when his son becomes involved in the City Treasury scandal.

Edward Malia Butler

Edward Malia Butler, a Philadelphia contractor. For a time, Cowperwood is his financial adviser, thereby meeting his daughter Aileen. When Butler discovers, through an anonymous letter, that his daughter is Frank’s mistress, he hires detectives to trail his daughter, but he is unable to break up the affair. Through powerful political friends, he helps to ruin Cowperwood and send him to jail.

Aileen Butler

Aileen Butler, his daughter, strongly attracted by Cowperwood’s personal and financial magnetism. She remains loyal to him despite her awareness of her father’s objections. She visits him in jail and goes to Chicago as his mistress.

George W. Stener

George W. Stener, the city treasurer, appointed because he could easily serve as a dupe for the politicians. Through weakness and fear, he refuses to lend Cowperwood the additional city money necessary to cover his speculations.

Nancy Arabella Cowperwood

Nancy Arabella Cowperwood, Frank’s mother, happy with the elegant house he builds for her.

Seneca Davis

Seneca Davis, her wealthy brother, a former planter in Cuba. He encourages his nephew early in his career.

Anna Adelaide Cowperwood

Anna Adelaide Cowperwood, Frank’s sister. She becomes a clerk in the city water office.

Joseph Cowperwood

Joseph Cowperwood, Frank’s brother, whom he hires to work in the brokerage business.

Edward Cowperwood

Edward Cowperwood, another brother and a faithful employee.

Frank Cowperwood, Jr.

Frank Cowperwood, Jr., Frank’s son.

Lillian Cowperwood

Lillian Cowperwood, Frank’s daughter and favorite child.

Mrs. Edward Butler

Mrs. Edward Butler, Aileen’s religious mother, who never knows of her daughter’s affair.

Nora Butler

Nora Butler, Aileen’s younger sister.

Owen Butler

Owen Butler, the older brother of Aileen, a hard, cruel man who is a member of the state legislature.

Callum Butler

Callum Butler, his younger brother, a clerk in the city water office and an assistant to his father.

Harper Steger

Harper Steger, Frank’s friend and defense counsel.

Alfred Semple

Alfred Semple, Lillian’s first husband.

Henry A. Mollenhauer

Henry A. Mollenhauer, a rich coal dealer, the most vicious politician in Philadelphia. A city profiteer, he opposes Cowperwood bitterly during the scandal in order to get his railway shares.

Edward Strobik

Edward Strobik, president of the Philadelphia city council, a henchman of Mollenhauer.

Senator Mark Simpson

Senator Mark Simpson, a state senator who joins Mollenhauer and Strobik in their financial dealings.

Albert Stires

(This entire section contains 790 words.)

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Albert Stires

Albert Stires, Stener’s secretary, the city clerk who issues the check that later gets Frank in legal trouble.

Van Nostrand

Van Nostrand, the state treasurer.

Senator Terence Relihan

Senator Terence Relihan, another crooked politician.

Judge Wilbur Payderson

Judge Wilbur Payderson, the judge at Cowperwood’s trial. To please the politicians, he hands down the maximum sentence.

Dennis Shannon

Dennis Shannon, the district attorney who prosecutes Frank.

Mary Calligan (Mamie)

Mary Calligan (Mamie), Aileen’s school friend, now a teacher, with whom Aileen lives when she leaves her family.

Mrs. Katherine Calligan

Mrs. Katherine Calligan, Mary’s mother, a widow and a dressmaker.


Alderson, the Pinkerton detective who uncovers Aileen’s and Frank’s trysting place.

Judge Rafalsky

Judge Rafalsky, the jurist who writes the dissenting opinion, in Frank’s favor, at the appeal.

Judge Marvin

Judge Marvin, another dissenting judge.

Stephen Wingate

Stephen Wingate, who acts financially for Frank while the latter is in prison.

Warden Desmas

Warden Desmas, warden at the Philadelphia prison in which Frank is kept. He treats Frank very well.




Critical Essays