The Bonanza King: John Mackay and the Battle over the Greatest Riches in America

Gregory Crouch. Scribner, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0819-8
Crouch’s comprehensive narrative combines the history of Nevada’s bustling Comstock Mine with the tale of how penniless miner John Mackay became a famous multimillionaire. The book’s first half establishes background on the life of miners and the technical elements of mining. Mackay takes center stage in the second half, rising from poverty (so abject that the family shared quarters with its pig) to form a partnership that eventually built a very successful mine operations company. Since the former miner was a man of few words (and had a stutter), Crouch lets Mackay’s work speak for him, showing how his firsthand mining knowledge gave him a competitive edge: while other mining companies engaged in speculation over mine stocks, Mackay focused on the tangible ore itself and was shielded from a major economic bust in 1860. The taciturn Irishman also enjoyed an unconventional but happy personal life; Crouch provides an admirably well-rounded description of Mackay’s wife Louise’s difficult early life and the balance that she offered him, despite their living apart most of the time. Helpful footnotes relate historical sites to modern landmarks or locations. This is a thorough tribute to the life and work of an honest man who earned his fortune and kept his good name in an era of fierce competition and astounding corruption. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2018
Release date: 06/19/2018
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-6323-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-5082-6322-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-6334-0
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