The Life and Legend of Jay Gould

Maury Klein, Author Johns Hopkins University Press $45 (614p) ISBN 978-0-8018-2880-5
His own and succeeding generations called him a robber baron, Wall Street shark, a secretive lone wolf brokering power and influence through his rail and communications empire. But Gould, according to Klein, has been unfairly cast as the villain of a new industrial age, his legend largely the creation of newspaper hacks. This massively researched biography lacks the spark of its subject, and its reassessment of the notorious financier is only sometimes convincing. Klein, a University of Rhode Island professor, is most engaging when he charts Gould's sly maneuvers vis-a-vis Vanderbilt, Tweed and other high rollers. There is undoubtedly some credibility in his sympathetic portrayal of Gould as a reformer of railroads, possessed by the dream of a transcontinental line. As a driven entrepreneur who seized the main chance long before his rivals, Gould is believable yet typical. In the end, we are left with a devoted family man for whom stable deals held no challenge. (May 26)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1986
Release date: 03/01/1986
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-8018-5771-3
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