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Dark genius of Wall Street : the misunderstood life of Jay Gould, king of the robber barons /
Edward J. Renehan.
New York : Basic Books, 2005.
xiii, 352 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., ports.
More Details
New York : Basic Books, 2005.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2005-11-01:
In his own lifetime and beyond, Jay Gould (1836-92) was for many the prototypical icon of the abuse of capitalistic power and the manipulation of financial markets to amass wealth. In the popular press and in subsequent histories, his name and actions symbolized the Machiavellian drive to succeed. But as this insightful biography illustrates, the reality of Gould's life and career as a financier is more interesting than the one-dimensional image commonly accepted. Renehan's narrative of Gould's life and America's Gilded Age is more objective than most and reveals that this is a more compelling history than the formulaic story too often repeated in earlier accounts. Gould's rise from modest means to his notorious attempt to corner the gold market to his battles with Cornelius Vanderbilt and his efforts to crush unionism tell volumes about the development of American financial and commercial markets. But as this scholarly book reveals, there were other aspects to Gould's life and the circumstances under which he conducted his work. This balanced, thorough biography explains Gould's similarities to many of his notable contemporaries and also his unique contributions to developing new methods of financial and business practices. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduate students, researchers and faculty. T. E. Sullivan Towson University
Appeared in Library Journal on 2005-07-01:
Jay Gould has been commonly regarded as the biggest robber of the robber barons, a man whose only motivation was to make money. He dominated the railroad and telegraph systems-the leading technologies of the time-and invented ways to manipulate the stock market. Some of his methods were made obsolete by the modern stock market, some were made illegal when the Securities and Exchange Commission was established, and some are still practiced today. Renehan (The Kennedys at War) maintains that Gould was not the marauding financial monster that history portrays. He reminds us that Gould's enemies were only too happy to provide grist for the anti-Gould mill, a situation Gould ignored to his own detriment. He also contradicts charges that Gould took no interest in his companies by detailing Gould's personal management of his railroad business, and he recounts Gould's philanthropy to his employees, his community, and his church-all undertaken anonymously. Eminently readable, this book takes us into the world of the Gilded Age and makes the case that history has not given Gould a fair shake. Recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries collecting in this period.-Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2005-06-13:
In the late 19th century, strong and well-moneyed families such as the Morgans and the Vanderbilts controlled the fortunes of Wall Street and the emerging industries. Renehan, author of splendid biographies of the Kennedys, Theodore Roosevelt and the naturalist John Burroughs, turns in a masterful glance at the social history of the Gilded Age as well as a brilliant biography of Gould, who outfoxed many of these other wealthy industrialists to win fame and fortune. Although his early work as a surveyor and a tanner did not bring Gould much wealth, he learned to engage in shrewd business practices that would eventually allow him to gain some dominance in the tanning industry. Wall Street and the newly emerging rail industries soon attracted his financial eye, and he turned his full attention to them. While he initially dabbled at the edges of the stock market, he picked up enough financial savvy to engineer a scheme to corner the gold market in 1869 and cause the infamous Black Friday frenzy. Renehan deftly chronicles Gould's canny financial successes in the acquisitions of the Erie, the Union and Pacific, and the Atlantic and Pacific railroads as well as the emerging telegraph industry. Maligned by his competitors and the media as an unscrupulous businessman, Gould never achieved the fame and status of Cornelius Vanderbilt or J.P. Morgan. Yet, as Renehan points out so gracefully, Gould was simply an ambitious financier in an ambitious time before the existence of regulations that his own financial deals helped create. Renehan's sumptuous prose and his dazzling research and style provide a window into Gould's ambitions and offer a first-rate social history of the financial workings of his time. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, June 2005
Publishers Weekly, June 2005
Washington Post, June 2005
Library Journal, July 2005
New York Times Book Review, July 2005
Choice, November 2005
New York Times Book Review, July 2006
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