Jay Gould

Jay Gould (May 27, 1836 - December 2, 1892), American financier, was born in Roxbury, New York. He was brought up on his father's farm, studied at Hobart Academy, and though he left school in his sixteenth year, devoted himself assiduously thereafter to private study, chiefly of mathematics and surveying, at the same time keeping books for a blacksmith for his board.

Early career

For a short time he worked for his father in the hardware business; in 1852-in Ohio, and of Oakland county in Michigan,County, and A History of the Late Anti-Rent Difficulties in Delaware'' (Roxbury, 1856). He then engaged in the lumber and tanning business in western New York, and in banking at Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

The railroad business

In 1863, Gould married Helen Day Miller, and through her father, Daniel S. Miller, he was appointed manager of the Rensselaer & Saratoga railway. He bought up and reorganized the railroad when it was in a very bad condition. In the same way he bought and reorganized the Rutland & Washington railway, from which he ultimately realized a large profit. In 1859 he moved to New York City, where he became a broker in railway stocks. In July 1868, the Erie War, which Gould and James Fisk engaged in against Cornelius Vanderbilt over control of the Erie Railroad, ended with Gould and Fisk taking control of the railroad. Gould was elected president of the railroad later that year. Gould and Fisk plundered the railroad and manipulated stock prices. From 1868-1870, the company sold $5 million in fraudulent stock, leading to litigation that forced Gould out of the company in March 1872 and forced him to pay back about $7.5 million.

The Tweed Ring

It was during the same period that Gould and Fisk became involved with Tammany Hall; they made Boss Tweed a director of the Erie, and Tweed in turn arranged favourable legislation for them. Tweed and Gould became the subjects of political cartoons by Thomas Nast in 1869. In October 1871, when Tweed was held in $1 million bail, Gould was the chief bondsman.

Black Friday

In August 1869, Gould and Fisk began to buy gold in an attempt to corner the market, hoping that the increase in price of gold would increase the price of wheat such that western farmers would sell, causing a great amount of shipping of breadstuffs eastward, increasing freight business for the Erie railroad. During this time, Gould used contacts with President Ulysses S. Grant's brother-in-law, A. H. Corbin, to try to influence the president and his Secretary General Horace Porter. These speculations in gold culminated in the panic of Black Friday, on September 24, 1869, when the price of gold fell from 162 to 135.

Late career and death

After being forced out of the Erie Railroad, Gould gained control of the Union Pacific Railroad, withdrawing from it in 1883 after realizing a large profit. He built up what became known as the Gould System of railways by gaining control of a total of four western railroads, including the UP and the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In 1880 he was in virtual control of 10,000 miles of railway, about one-ninth of the railway mileage of the United States at that time.

Gould also obtained a controlling interest in the Western Union telegraph company, and after 1881 in the elevated railways in New York City, and was intimately connected with many of the largest railway financial operations in the United States from 1868-1888. He died of consumption and of mental strain on December 2, 1892 and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York. His fortune was estimated at $72 million, all of which he left to his own family.

Reference


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