Jay Gould, 1836–1892
Born Roxbury, New York
Jay Gould had one of the most turbulent, controversial, and significant business careers in the nineteenth century. He made his first fortune through shrewd trading in stocks and gold during the Civil War. Postwar, he came to public attention in his protracted financial “war” against Cornelius Vanderbilt over the Erie Railroad. In 1881, he gained control of the Western Union Telegraph Company. Gould’s dizzying financial maneuvering and his attempt to corner the market in gold cemented his reputation as a predatory capitalist or robber baron.
During the second half of his career, Gould established himself as an innovative and creative businessman, reviving the failing Un...