Jay Gould: The ruthless railroad tycoon
Jay Gould, one of the richest and most hated men in America in the 1880s, was an elusive, slippery character, difficult to assess and more difficult to understand. The secretive tycoon was brilliant and ruthless, the quintessential "robber baron." In a fiery sermon delivered a week after Gould's death, the Rev. G. Inglehart said: "Gould, with his 70 millions, was one of the colossal failures of our time. He was a purely selfish man. His greed consumed his charity. He was like death and hell -- gathering in all, giving back nothing." Honed by a frenzied media to despise Gould, most Americans shared this view. However, Thurlow Weed, a powerful politician and philanthropist of impeccable reputation, disagreed. "Whenever a really deserving charity is brought to my attention, I explain it to Mr. Gould . . . He is a constant and liberal giver, but doesn't let his right hand know what his left hand is doing. Oh, there will be a full page to his credit when the record is opened above."