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Jay Gould

Gould, Jay, 1836–92, American speculator, b. Delaware co., N.Y. A country-store clerk and surveyor's assistant, he rose to control half the railroad mileage in the Southwest, New York City's elevated railroads, and the Western Union Telegraph Company. With savings of $5,000 at 21 he became a speculator, particularly in small railroads. After some years he became a director of the Erie RR. Aided by James Fisk and Daniel Drew, he defeated Cornelius Vanderbilt for control of this road and manipulated its stocks in his own interest and that of his group, including "Boss"Tweed. The Gould-Fisk scheme to corner gold in 1869 caused the Black Friday panic. Public protest forced the Gould group out of the Erie, ending with Gould's expulsion in 1872. He then bought into the Union Pacific and other western roads. He gained control of four lines that made up the Gould system. For years his name was a symbol of autocratic business practice, and he was widely disliked. After his death his estate and interests were managed by his son, George Jay Gould.

See biographies by M. Klein (1986) and E. J. Renahan, Jr. (2005); C. F. and H. Adams, Chapters of Erie (1871); R. O'Connor, Gould's Millions (1962); E. P. Hoyt, Jr., Goulds (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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