Original Document
Original Document
Jay Gould Obituary, 1892

Close of the Life of Jay Gould, the
Great Financier.
He Falls a Victim to Consumption–
The End Came Peacefully–
Sketch of His Career.
NEW YORK, Dec. 3–Jay Gould died at 9:15 o'clock a. m. The direct
Cause of Mr. Gould's death, as stated at the house, was pulmonary consumption. The scene at the house at midnight was not extraordinary, as it was stated at that time that the strong master mind had ceased to battle for life. His children were at his bedside and they recognized that the hopes of the past few days were vanishing and that the end was not far off. They tearfully admitted this to a few close personal friends, and then began the vigil which only ceased when his last breath left the body. Dr. Munn, his physician, had Dr. Janeway in consultation, but they said that nothing could be done but make Mr. Gould's last hours as comfortable as possible. When the end came the members of the family who were in the house were: Mr. and Mrs. George Gould, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Gould, Miss Helen Gould, Howard Gould, Harold Gould and Miss Annie Gould.

Bade Them All Good-By.

Mr. Gould died in a room on the second floor of his home in the extension in the rear of the building, just over the conservatory, the same room in which his wife died. A few moments before he died Mr. Gould desired to bid his family good-by. Then he looked tenderly into the face of each one, smiled at each and all was over.

The Gould family are prostrated with grief. Miss Helen Gould was ill when her father was taken sick, and the blow has come upon her with terrible force. The members of the family are very much devoted to each other. Mr. Gould had always been very much of a domestic man, notwithstanding his weight of cares from his gigantic financial operations, and the death of the father so shortly after the demise of the mother has come with an added force of affliction.

A Peaceful End.

Dr. Munn came out of the house at 11:22, after being there half an hour. He told a little about the death scene. He said that Mr. Gould was unconscious of his death and passed away very peacefully and quietly, without a struggle or a sigh. He became speechless through weakness just before his death, and at that time recognized the
members of the family by nodding his head.

The News Spreads.

The news of Mr. Gould's death spread quickly and almost every person who
passed up or down Fifth avenue stopped and looked up at the house. About ten o'clock messenger boys began to go and come thick and fast. Richard A. Galloway, first vice
president of the Manhattan elevated railroad, called before 10 o'clock. Several ladies also called, but none of them asked to see members of the family. They evidently had no other purpose than to inquire about Mr. Gould's condition and when they learned of his death they quickly hurried away.

The Market Not Affected.

The death of the great financier inspired unusual regret, but it did not cause any sensational break in the stock market, in which, for twenty years, he was the most important figure. The market was not even shaken, mainly because Mr. Gould had provided against it by placing his immense holdings in the hand of men whose integrity he trusted. There was no considerable sale of securities known as Gould stocks and no attempt to force a panic was made.

Funeral Arrangements.

It has been definitely settled that the funeral services will be conducted by Dr. Paxton, assisted by Chancellor McCrachen, of the university of New York, and Rev. Roderick Terry, of 169 Madison avenue. The choir from Dr. Paxton's church will also be present and render the singing.

Dr. Paxton said that the funeral would take place on Monday next, either at 10 o'clock in the morning or at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the exact hour not yet having been settled. The funeral services will be held at the house. The place of interment will probably be in the same cemetery where his wife lies.

Wealthiest Man in the World.

When Jay Gould balanced his books the first of the year the figures showed that he was the richest man in the world. One year before John D. Rockefeller headed the list and William Waldorf Astor, representing the Astor family, was next. These two men were then rated at $150,000,000 and $140,000,000 respectively. Mr. Gould was next with $125,000, 000. The next showing placed Mr. Gould at the top, and it is not because either of the other two lost any money, but because he made more. The magnitude of the feat of doubling a fortune of $125,000,000 in one year has the elements of a tale of the "Arabian Nights" in the telling, but just the same it is asserted, and with probable truth, that this is what Mr. Gould did.
The richest family in the world is, of course, the Rothschilds, whose combined holdings are valued at £300,000,000, or $1,000,000,000, yet no single member of the family is worth more than $40,000,000. The next richest European is the duke of Westminster, who owns a part of the city of London, which, together with his other possessions, most of which island, makes his fortune in round numbers about $80,000,000. There are five men in this country who have more money than that. John D. Rockefeller has $150,000,000; W.W. Astor, $140,000,000; Cornelius Vanderbilt, $90,000,000; William K. Vanderbilt about $80,000,000. All of them except Gould and Rockefeller inherited the bulk of their fortunes. The Vanderbilt family has probably as much money as Gould, yet he had more than any two members of it, and , what is more, he made it all himself.

Some of the other wealthy people in this country are Collis P. Huntington, who is rated at $45,000,000; Russell Sage, $40,000,000; William Rockefeller, Leland Stanford, Mrs. Hetty Green, William Astor, each $30,000,000 or $25,000,000; Philip D, Armour, the Mark Hopkins estate, the Charles Crocker estate, Henry Hilton and D.O. Mills, $25,000,000, and A.J. Drexel, J. Pierpont Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, O.H. Payne, F.W. Vanderbilt, George W. Vanderbilt and their sisters, Mrs. E.F. Shepard, Mrs. W.D. Sloane, Mrs. H. McK. Twombley and Mrs. W. Seward Webb; George M. Pullman, J.W. McKay, Robert and Ogden Goelet, Mrs. Moses Taylor, James Gordon Bennett, David H. Moffat, ex-Senator Fair and the Flood estate, each of which controls between $5,000,000 and $20,000,000.

His Career.

When Jay Gould began business in this city he possessed $750,000, but the path he trod to earn it was rough and stormy, and his capital varied at different times from five dollars to ten cents.

He was born in Roxbury, Delaware county, N.Y., May 27, 1835, of parents who worked a small farm and were people of strong sense and sturdy integrity. Jay was kept on the farm until he was 12 years old, but his father found him of small account. He had little schooling save that given by his older sister, who aided him in the study of mathematics. He developed early and importuned his father to send him to an academy at some distance from Roxbury. His father could not afford this, but the boy determined to go to the academy and pay his own expenses, and he did go, his entire worldly goods upon leaving home being fifty cents in his pocket and the clothes upon his back. Thirty-two years later, being charged with treacherously selling out his associates, he laid upon a table stocks and bonds of his own of the value of $35,000,000.

Tinsmith and Surveyor.

Arrived at Hobart, and canvassing the town for work, he got a chance to keep books for the village blacksmith, who had started a little store next the shop. This helped him out. He spent mornings and evenings with the son of Vulcan and paid his way at school. He rested little, played little, talked little, worked hard and made surprising progress. In six months he learned what the academy had to teach and left it.

He then obtained employment in a tin shop and learned to make pails, pans and cups, while his evenings were spent in study. He made himself so useful that at the age of 15 he was a full partner in the concern, and when he visited Albany and New York to purchase material he succeeded in opening accounts with Phelps, Dodge and Co., and other firms well known to the public.

The tin shop was profitable but slow, and in 1852 he transferred his interest to his father and arranged to take charge of a surveying party at $20 a month, the object being to obtain a new and accurate map of Ulster county. He organized his party and started with five dollars in his pocket; walked 40 miles the first day and worked a fortnight, when his employer suddenly ‘‘failed" before he had been paid a cent. Gould at once resolved to carry out the survey himself.

A. Tanner, Also.

A respectable sum was received from the map. Young Gould now became a professional surveyor and civil engineer. He mapped Albany, Ulster, Greene and Delaware counties in New York, Lake and Geauga counties in Ohio, and Oakland county in Michigan; made the surveys for a plank road and a railroad, wrote and published a history of Delaware county, started a tannery, where he employed 250 men, built a town (Gouldsboro) and established a bank and carried it through the panic of 1857 before he was 21.

Gets Married.

He sold an interest in the town for $80,000 and invested the money in depreciated railroad securities after the panic. It was during one of Mr. Gould's occasional visits to New York about this time that he noticed in the window of an Everett house room–he was a guest there at the time–an attractive-looking young lady. He saw her frequently and after observing her bowed. She did the same. A mild flirtation ensued. Chance brought the two young people together, and, after a slight acquaintance, without the knowledge of her father, Mr. Miller, they were married.

He Enters "the Street."

Reconciliation followed, and this opened the door to railroad speculations, as Mr. Miller influenced the employment of Mr. Gould as manager of the Rensselaer and Saratoga railroad, connecting Troy and Saratoga. This road was under a cloud and its securities were selling for a few cents on the dollar. Here was Gould's opportunity. He managed the road well, made valuable and paying connections and brought it up to positive value. Meantime, little by little, Gould obtained possession of it all. He paid about five cents on the dollar for stock to all but Vanderbilt, who made him pay fifteen cents, and the consequence was that after selling out again he returned to New York with a clean credit of $75,000. With this he entered "the street."

Secures Control of the Erie.

The rise and progress and ups and downs of Erie are a romance In themselves, of which the most enlivening chapter pertains to the connection of Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, Jr., with its control. The result was a compromise between Gould and Vanderbilt, the latter being relieved of 50,000 shares, for which he received $2,500,000 in bonds and other concessions not pertinent to this article. Before he left the management the Erie stock was expanded in less than three years from $34,000,000 to $86,000,000–an increase of $52,000,000.

"Black Friday" Comes.

Mr. Gould was for years chief among the great gold operators. In March, 1869, gold was "down" to 131. Gould purchased $7,000,000, and then, by adroit playing on the market's dread of Cuban insurrections, the Alabama trouble and European complications, rushed the price up to 145. The enormous success of this move emboldened him, who was daring enough [illegible] in his quiet study [illegible] the financial center of the nation. He determined to send gold up to 200.

Friday, September 24, forever memorable as Black Friday, came. The plan was for the clique to call for the $80,000,000 bought on option, lock up the gold in the stock exchange vaults, and then force the bears, whose short interest was estimated at $250,000,000 to settle as best they might. The Tenth national bank was controlled by the clique, and was ready to certify their checks to any amount to facilitate the shifting of the gold.

Albert Speyers bought for them $26,000,000. As the price jumped Gould's agents were forcing the timid bears into settlement. William Heath bid 160 for a million. The crowd hesitated; no one dared accept the offer, as the price was on the upward bound. Meanwhile Gould's partners were settling up millions and millions with the thoroughly frightened bears, and pandemonium raged the length of the street. While Gould's agent was bidding 160, 161 and 162 for millions Gould's other agents were selling all the gold they could privately at 135 and 140. During all the excitement and uproar Gould was calm and collected. Never did he have such a drain on his nerve as this, but he met the demand with a full supply. When the price touched 162½ some one called out: "Government is selling this ten millions." It was a great shock, a great relief. In ten minutes the rate was 135 and with bewildered brains and pallid faces hundreds of ruined operators rushed into the darkness of their private offices to weep and wail over the wrecks of their fortunes.

The ruin wrought by the speculation cannot be overestimated. Failures and suicides followed hard on each other, and nothing but the vigorous efforts of Vanderbilt and Drew, aided by the wise assistance of the government, stemmed the tide that bade fair to bear the soundest into bankruptcy. Gould's wily sales of gold at the time his agents were forcing up the price netted him immense sums.

Pacific Mail.

At one time Gould cast his eye on Pacific Mail and hammered the price down some 25 per cent. He had made some large contracts for delivery, and when the time came secured the stock at low rates and cleared several millions on the differences. He also made largely by a 40 per cent. rise in Union Pacific.

Western Union.

Mr. Gould's connection with the Western Union Telegraph Company began in the early part of 1881. For a number of years, with the aid of the American Union and the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph companies, which he controlled, he was able to advance and depress the stock of the Western Union at will. He was simply playing a great game with his larger rival and waiting the chance when he would take possession and unite all the lines. In 1881 Mr. Gould and his associates had practically secured control of the Western Union. The stock of the Western Union Telegraph Company was at once "watered" $40,000.000, or 87 per cent, and Mr. Gould became the leading spirit in that company, directing its affairs from his offices, which were in that building. Nothing Mr. Gould ever did in his life so arrayed public sentiment against him as this creation of the telegraphic monopoly. Eventually the Western Union acquired the Baltimore and Ohio telegraph, which Robert Garrett was glad to sell in order to get money to help the Baltimore and Ohio railroad out of the difficulty into which it had fallen.

On the Brink of Ruin.

Gould's fortune was on the verge of ruin during the second week of May, 1884, that period of wild financial dread and distrust following the failure of Grant and Ward. He was nearer being "broke" then than at any period since Black Friday. Then he threw the burden by wily manipulation on his opponents, combined to compass his undoing if it were possible, and [illegible] things seemed possible in those days when the panics of 1857 and 1873 bade fair to find their parallel in Wall street. It was generally known that Gould was heavily involved in the smash of Grant and Ward, and he soon found arrayed against him every bear operator in the street. Before Mr. Gould extricated himself from his difficulties he sold out his entire holding of stock in the Mercantile Trust Company.

From company after company Mr. Gould retired, and it was not until the summer of 1884 was well advanced that he rested easily and could look complacently on the market and call it his own. During the year more than forty railroads had passed into the hands of receivers, among them the New York and. New England road, in which Mr. Gould had been particularly interested.


The Gould summer house is at "Lyndhurst," near Irvington, up the Hudson, and comprises about 600 acres of beautiful land and one of the finest conservatories and graperies in America. Rare plants and rare flowers have been sent to him from all parts of the world, so that the place is stocked with choice plants. Mr. Gould made a close study of botany and could call most of the plants byname. His gallery contains hundreds of valuable paintings. His own taste ran to modern art, best works of the French masters, Meissouler, Millet, Delaroche, Bouguereau, Delacroix and others.

By telegraphic wire service
As published in Iowa City (Iowa) Daily Citizen
Saturday, December 3, 1892
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