Jay Gould: One of The Robber Barons and Captains of Industry
There were many individuals who contributed to the advancement of America during the industrial revolution. Most of these individuals were labeled either robber barons or captains of industry. Captains of industry typically led in truthful, hard-working ways to the nation. However, the robber barons were dishonest and plotted against the nation. “One of the most notorious robber barons of the time was Jay Gould. By working as an American railroad executive, financier, and speculator, Gould went from a childhood of poverty to a lavish millionaire lifestyle.” (Britannica, Int.)
Gould was born in 1836 in New York to an impoverished family. His father owned a small store. As a child, he was too weak to farm, so he went to different schools and became a New York state surveyor. By the time he was 17, he trained himself to survey and set up his own business. He became an extremely diligent and ambitious young man. He created maps which he sold at a fair price, and when he was 19 years old, he published Delaware County 426 pages of history. In 1859, he started working in New York City’s few railways. Gould purchased the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railway, the Rutland and Washington Railway in the next eight years. Then, he became the Erie Railroad’s manager. He was Cornelius Vanderbilt’s adversary at this stage and he assisted James Fisk, William ‘Boss’ Tweed, and Peter Sweeney in trying to keep ownership of the railroads. In order for Vanderbilt not to gain power, Gould started to control stock prices and secretly sold 100,000 stock shares for Erie Railroads. “He then went to Albany, New York, to bribe legislators to ‘legalize’ the action. Vanderbilt discovered he had met his match and settled, receiving $1 million and leaving the Erie Railroad to Gould. Gould then began to expand the Erie, which vastly increased its debt. Meanwhile, he traded in Erie stock and skillfully made a lot of money.” (World Biography) This illegal action caused Gould to receive the title, robber baron.
In 1873, Gould met a man who went by the name of Lord Gordon-Gordon, who was supposed to help him. Instead, Gordon crashed the stock of the Erie Railroad, was proved innocent in court, and he fled to Canada. Gould, trying to kidnap him, was caught and incarcerated. When Gould was finally freed, he was no longer allowed to own the Erie Railroad, but he had a fortune of $25 million. Therefore, he bought other stocks. In 1874, Goud purchased the Pacific Telegraph Company, and he bought the Missouri Pacific Railway in 1879.
After these two purchases, he controlled 10,000-miles of the railroad, which was around one-ninth of the existing railway distance in the US. He reorganized the railroad system, making it prosper. Unfortunately, Jay Gould died from tuberculosis on December 2, 1892 in New York. “He had not lived down his reputation as the most hated man in America, and he remains the most widely reviled capitalist in American history.” (American History Fats Facts).
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