Jay Gould had one of the most turbulent, controversial, and significant business careers in the nineteenth century. Largely self-taught, incredibly strong-willed and intelligent, Gould made his first fortune with his masterful understanding of finance during the Civil War. Postwar, he came to public attention in his protracted financial “war” against Cornelius Vanderbilt over the Erie Railroad. Gould’s dizzying financial maneuvering and his attempt to corner the market in gold cemented his reputation as a predatory capitalist or robber baron. But Gould’s talents and achievements were greater than this caricature. During the second half of his career, he established himself as an innovative and creative businessman, reviving the moribund Union Pacific Railroad and turning it into an efficient and profitable transportation system. Ruthless but never a mere speculator, Gould’s wide-ranging influence on business, from the financial markets to modern management techniques, helped shape the modern American economy.
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