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April 19, 2004



I actually have that book. Folsom's take is that Gould was bad because he fed from the government trough:

It is sad to read of the UP struggling for survival in the 1870s and 1880s, only to collapse into bankruptcy in 1893. Yet it's hard to see how its history could have taken any other direction, given the presence of government aid.

and, oh yeah, manipulated rates and stocks and ate the living beating hearts of his enemies. Wait, that was Jim Fisk.


I am envious. My nogoodnik criminal ancestors were merely petty thieves and gamblers, nowhere on Mr. Gould's exalted scale.


My grandma was a child during Prohibition, and she used to pull her wagon down the street making deliveries of smuggled whiskey. No one ever suspects a kid, I guess.


When you factor in inflation, 30 million isn't really a lot of money, was it? (Or does it go "Fall forward, spring back"? I always get these things backward).

What about Stephen Jay Gould? You'd think he'd have to be a relative. (Or had to have been, alas.)


It's about $300 million in current money. See this handy site.

Man, they had style then. Champagne fountains? These days, that sort of money only gets you a FOX reality show and the chance to date Brian Urlacher.

Belle Waring

Yes, Zizka, Stephen Jay Gould was a cousin of some distant sort, but I never knew him personally. And due to inflation, as Carlos points out, $30 mil was hella money back in the day. I just feel I ought to have more tiaras and houses on the beach in east Hampton and things to show for it. What the hell was she buying? A photo I have of my grandad in a pram with two nurses in uniform and a MINK baby outfit on should give me a clue, I guess. And partly there's the French aristocrat dispersal effect of having lots of children and grandchildren. I have to admit we're not exacty poor now, either.

Ed Renehan

I am currently at work on a full bio of Jay Gould to be published by Perseus in 2005. For the record, Stephen Jay Gould (a friend of mine) had absolutely NO connection to Jay Gould or any of Jay's numerous descendants, a number of whom (such as DC developer Kingdon Gould Jr.) remain more than solvent, not having "pissed" away their inheritance as indicated above. Professor Gould's father was not a Gould heir, but rather a court reporter.

re: "wastrel" descendants. Gould's son Edwin built his own sizable fortune outside the Gould family trust, and founded the Edwin Gould Foundation for orphaned and under-privileged children, which still goes strong. When he died he left an estate in excess of $40 million. Another son, Frank, was a pioneering developer of resorts on the French Riviera, where he made his own considerable fortune outside the family trust. In 1930, Frank's Rivera holdings alone were valued at $30 million. When he died in 1956 he left New York University $2.5 million and an estate at Ardsley-on-Hudson. In fact, Gould's sons Edwin, Howard and Frank each never touched a dollar of the capital of their inheritances, but instead invested the income from the capital to create vast financial empires of their own. When Howard died in 1959, he left a $60 million estate. Of the boys, only Gould's eldest son George Jay Gould proved inept enough to die with considerably less than what he started with. (Gould's two daughters also died quite rich, one of them after a long lifetime of good works.)

Jay never played chess with living people in costumes. That was his son George, granfather of the aforementioned Kingdon Jr., who staged these odd games at his estate in New Jersey.

Jay Gould in his lifetime made large gifts to New York University, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and numerous other charities - always, however, insisting on anonymity.

In his Wall Street tactics he was no better but certainly also no worse than any other financier of his generation. They would all, to a man, be considered crooks today. That being said, Gould was a visionary in his ability to merge dying railroads into expansive, profit-making lines, including the Union Pacific. He was easily one of the most creative, innovative and original entrpreneurs of his age. And he never in fact uttered the sentence that his ungrateful descendant attributes to him above, about hiring half the working class to destroy the other half. He himself was a product of the working class.



Well, that's one sale less, and me in the target audience. Don't worry, Ed, I'll also spread the news about your conduct around -- I'm pretty well known on the history newsgroups -- and maybe show up at your NYC reading(s) and ask you why you feel it's OK to harass descendants of Gould on the Internet as well.


Barry Seiler


I live in Roxbury NY, Gould family home. The family built a lovely church here, tiffany windows and all. One of their homes is a home for the elderly now. A number of the town's widow ladies, who live to great old ages, reside there.
Mazol Tov on the birth

Belle Waring

Wow, bringing the Gould partisans out! I'll be very disappointed if it turns out old Jay never said that about the working class. Looks like I was wrong on the human chess and Stephen Jay Gould angles, though (I always just assumed we were related.) And granted, not all the money was frittered away; I know Kingdon Gould is crazy rich. Maybe it's because we're on the distaff side. By contrast, all the Rockefellers I know are as rich as...um, Croesus.
Barry--cool! I think I've seen pictures of the house that's now a home for the elderly. A bit gloomy, if it's the one I'm thinking of.

Barry Seiler

That Gould family house is not at all gloomy, and the residents, mostly white hiared, iron-willed ladies are a hoot and a joy.

Kathryn Cramer

I visted Lyndhurst this afternoon. Somehow the tour guide failed to mention these choice bits of history.

Edward J. Renehan Jr.


Back after a very long time, I'm noting the comments of one Carlos (above). Regardless of his reaction - I hope YOU don't feel I was trying to "harass" you with my comments of April 27th. That was not my intention at all. Just trying to get the history straight.

On another small point, Helen Gould Shepard's old home KIRKSIDE, right next door to the Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church in Roxbury, is actually quite pleasant and something of a Godsend to those elderly members of the community who find themselves spending their final days there. Well-lit, airy, nicely-decorated, and - unlike so many such places - very homey. Not "institutional" at all.

Ed Renehan

Tom Monath

I am trying to find a picture of Gould House, Ardsley-on-Hudson. Can anyone help?

Alice Lyons

My mother's friend Joan Hancock, who passed away years ago was a decendant of the old Jay Gould. She had several urns and such that had belonged to him. She also had great old frames with Jays picture in them. I have one of the urns and can not find out where it it from. It definitely is from the 1830-40 era and looks oriental, but not even the most knowledgeable of antique experts has ever seen its mark. I wondered if anyone knew of collections he might have had? It is very puzzling.

paul f ploutz

as a neighbor (100 yrs later) to both Jay Gould & naturalist John Burroughs in Roxbury, I took it upon myself to pardon Jay. Several townsfolk thought it presumptious, others were delighted...
The book MENTORING is available from the Roxbury Educational Foundation, P. O. Box 66, Roxbury , N. Y. 12474. Its 16.95

Gary Bell

I have never seen so many people with an interest in Old Jay Gould. I'm the family historian in my family. And had heard stories that we might be related to the Old man. My grandmother had traveled to New York to visit with his daughter. Well, it seems that my family has the name Northrop and he married Old Jay's sister. So, I guess I'm not really related to the Old man...but to those that came before him. I would be interested in your new book if you have it finished. maybe someone could let me know. Or if anyone has information on the Gould family tree, I would be interested in sharing information. thanks Gary
[email protected]


$30 million from 1928-1938 was a shitload of money. My great-grandfather was a hotel magnate and was worth between $30-40 million dollars in prime NYC, Boston, and DC real estate in 1935. He owned hotels in NYC like the St. Regis and the Penisula on 5th. Our family has sold all of the hotel assets by 1988 and I can tell you it was a hell of alot more than $300 million, try closer to $1 billion but then split it over 4 families and a million grandkids....its called wealth dilution.

wanda senecal

my mother was the daughter of oscar gould shesaid jay gou;ld was her uncle any truth?

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