You are here: / Events / Men Who Built America / Jay Gould

Jay Gould

Captains Of Industry – Jay Gould

Radio broadcasting during the era of recovery from the Great Depression was a critical factor in that recovery. The early Radio networks were recovering as well. Cash-strapped and low on capital, the networks of the era turned more and more to independent programming producers to meet the Nation’s voracious appetite for new and unique Radio entertainment. The mid-1930s found more networks extending their programming around the clock, commencing as early as 5:00 a.m. and broadcasting as late as midnight to 1:00 a.m. in most metropolitan areas of the country. The increase in demand combined with longer and more regular programming schedules presented even greater opportunities to a growing number of independent transcription houses. The mid-1930’s also saw a great deal of consolidation in transcription houses–on the east and west coasts, in particular. Here’s a representative list of the independent and network transcription houses throughout 1934.

200px-Jay_GouldJason “Jay” Gould (May 27, 1836 – December 2, 1892)

He was a leading American railroad developer and speculator. He has long been vilified as an archetypal robber baron, whose successes made him the ninth richest American in history.  Condé Nast Portfolio ranked Gould as the 8th worst American CEO of all time.  Some modern historians working from primary sources have discounted various myths about him.

Early life and education

Jason Gould was born in Roxbury, New York, the son of Mary More (1798–1841) and John Burr Gould (1792–1866). His father was of British ancestry and his mother was of Scottish ancestry. Gould’s maternal grandfather Alexander T. More was a businessman, and his great-grandfather John More was a Scottish immigrant who founded the town of Moresville, New York. Jay Gould studied at local schools and the Hobart Academy.

Early career

His principal was credited as getting him a job working as a bookkeeper for a blacksmith.  A year later the blacksmith offered him half interest in the blacksmith shop, which he sold to his father during the early part of 1854. Gould devoted himself to private study, emphasizing surveying and mathematics. In 1854, Gould surveyed and created maps of the Ulster County, New York area. In 1856 he published History of Delaware County, and Border Wars of New York, which he had spent several years writing.  In 1856, Gould entered a partnership with Zadock Pratt to create a tanning business in Pennsylvania in what would become Gouldsboro. Eventually, he bought out Pratt, who retired.

In 1856, Gould entered another partnership with Charles Mortimer Leupp, a son-in-law of Gideon Lee, and one of the leading leather merchants in the United States at the time. Leupp and Gould was a successful partnership until the Panic of 1857. Leupp lost all his money, while Gould took advantage of the opportunity of the depreciation of property value and bought up former partnership properties for himself.   After the death of Charles Leupp, the Gouldsboro Tannery became a disputed property . Charles Leupp’s brother-in-law, David W. Lee, who was also a partner in Leupp and Gould, took armed control of the tannery. He believed that Gould had cheated the Leupp and Lee families in the collapse of the business. Eventually, Gould took physical possession, but was later forced to sell his share of the company to Lee’s brother.

He marriaged Helen Day Miller (born 1838–died 1889) in 1863. They had six children:

The Tweed Ring

It was during the same period that Gould and James Fisk became involved with Tammany Hall, the New York City political ring. They made Boss Tweed a director of the Erie Railroad, and Tweed, in return, arranged favorable legislation for them. Tweed and Gould became the subjects of political cartoons by Thomas Nast in 1869. In October 1871, when Tweed was held on $1 million bail, Gould was the chief bondsman.

Black Friday

Jay Gould (right) in 1855

In August 1869, Gould and Fisk began to buy gold in an attempt to corner the market, hoping that the increase in the price of gold would increase the price of wheat such that western farmers would sell, causing a great amount of shipping of bread stuffs eastward, increasing freight business for the Erie railroad. During this time, Gould used contacts with President Ulysses S. Grant‘s brother-in-law, Abel 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 premium over face value on a gold Double Eagle fell from 62% to 35%. Gould made a nominal profit from this operation, but lost it in the subsequent lawsuits.

The gold corner established Gould’s reputation in the press as an all-powerful figure who could drive the market up and down at will.

Lord Gordon-Gordon

In 1873 Gould attempted to take control of the Erie Railroad by recruiting foreign investments from Lord Gordon-Gordon, whom he believed was a cousin of the wealthy Campbells looking to buy land for immigrants. Gould bribed Gordon-Gordon with $1 million in stock. But, Gordon-Gordon was an imposter; he cashed the stock immediately. Gould sued Gordon-Gordon, and the latter went to trial in March 1873. In court, Gordon-Gordon gave the names of the Europeans whom he claimed to represent, and was granted bail while the references were checked. He fled to Canada, where he convinced authorities that the charges against him were false.

After failing to convince or force Canadian authorities to hand over Gordon-Gordon, Gould and his associates, which included two future governors of Minnesota and three futuremembers of Congress, attempted to kidnap him. The group snatched him successfully, but they were stopped and arrested by the North-West Mounted Police before they could return to the United States. The kidnappers were put in prison and refused bail.  This led to an international incident between the United States and Canada. Upon learning that the kidnappers were not given bail, Governor Horace Austin of Minnesota demanded their return; he put the local militia on a state of full readiness. Thousands of Minnesotans volunteered for a full military invasion of Canada. After negotiations, the Canadian authorities released the kidnappers on bail.  The incident resulted in Gould losing any possibility of taking control of Erie Railroad. ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.