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Dark Genius of Wall Street: The Misunderstood Life of Jay Gould, King of the Robber Barons Paperback – 18 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Pbk. Ed edition (18 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465068863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465068869
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 271,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Edward J. Rehehan Jr. is the author of several books including Dark Genius of Wall Street, The Kennedys at War, The Lion's Pride, The Secret Six, and John Burroughs. He contributes to such publications as American Heritage and has appeared on the History Channel, C-SPAN, and PBS. He lives in Rhode Island.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
OUTSIDE THE TOWNHOUSE at the northeast corner of Forty-seventh Street and Fifth Avenue a stray adventurer did a good business selling freshly printed calling cards with the chiseled name of one of the sons: Edwin Gould. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This biography of Wall Street baron Jay Gould is in some ways a primer on how American media and public opinion seem to demonize capitalists who succeed at doing what capitalists are wont to do, namely, making money. Of course, Gould was no ordinary capitalist. His ruthless tactics gave his enemies a big target to dislike. After all, when you single-handedly create an investment bubble that leads to a crash in the price of gold, resulting in congressional hearings aimed at placing blame, you expect to make a few enemies. Veteran biographer Edward J. Renehan paints a fair, nuanced and colorful portrait of Gould, whose manic focus on business success probably was driven by his tragic childhood. We strongly recommend this book, especially to students of business history, in the belief that it offers a more in-depth record about an extraordinary and extraordinarily flawed man who was vilified in his time.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Drake on 19 May 2006
Format: Hardcover
Edward J Renehan, has produced a marvellously written book about the ruthlessly honest, financial genius & business titan Jay Gould. A resounding five star effort, deeply researched, well thought out and arranged.

For those who understand financial history & business responsibility, this book highlights the authors passion and honest accountability of a great man highly misunderstood with an undeserved muckraking appeal.

Although independently written, Mr Renehan corroborates the articulate, Maury Klein's account of Mr Gould in his book 'The Life & Times of Jay Gould'. Both these books disintegrate the muckraking flack that appeals more to the public sense for 'feeling' historically trapped, by deceptive and dishonest accounts from low effort lazy and envious perceptions of Mr Gould from such works as Mathew Josephson's 'Robber Barons'.

Muckrakers peddle the usual prejudices and dishonest fabrications about Gould because it reinforces the publics' feeling toward 'big' business as evil. Unfortunately, the scam is an easy money earner for a muckraking fabricator. The scam works and the muckraker knows it while deliberately duping the public for a buck. So, the public at large is aloof and in the dark for decades and in this case for generations. But without distorting the facts, Edward Renehan does not reinforce the usual psychological preferences the public wants to hear to earn easy royalties. Great credit has got to go to this author for shining a bright light on muckraking dishonesties and fake truths about Mr Gould.

The thread moves beautifully and so it does, revealing Gould's honesty, integrity and deeds as ruthlessly supreme. This compares to the usual trivial accounts against the great man as dishonest, evil and unscrupulous.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By edwin george lambert on 26 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I originally bought the hard back copy shortly after publication, some years ago. This order was a replacement, as I thought I had lost the original. I have since found it, so this order has been given to the Society of Genealogist in London. Their librarian is very pleased with it.

Edwin Lambert
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 38 reviews
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
The smartest guy on The Street 4 Jun. 2005
By Linda Shookster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Many of us grew up in the greater NY area and have visited Jay Gould's opulent castle, Lyndhurst, on the Hudson River in Tarrytown. But the man himself has remained a mystery until I read Mr. Renehan's fast-paced bio of this nineteenth century transportation and communications mogul. Dark Genius takes the reader to a byzantine world where anything and anyone can be bought for a price, and, hence, one could make a fortune doing so, sans scruples. Mr. Gould, driven to make a fortune, possibly by his impoverished childhood experiences in Roxbury, NY, and without the moral backbone to restrain him from using his enormous intelligence to exploit Wall Street, succeeds marvelously at his goals. Perhaps in envy, the press and his rivals berate him until his dying day. He literally becomes a national pariah, only because he plays the game better than anyone else. In private, he is a good family man, with compassion for his relatives who are down on their luck. Having sought religion and never found it, Mr. Gould is curiously devoid of hypocrisy, much to the chagrin of his whitewashed rivals. This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the Gilded Age or the history of New York City. Mr. Renehan has succeeded in writing a most engaging chronicle of an era that we all hope is long gone, yet piques all our romantic tastes.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Thorough but technically challenging 1 Dec. 2005
By Peter Lorenzi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Renehan really did his homework. He also does a fair job of trying to reduce some of the mischaracterizations and misunderstandings about some of Jay Gould's machinations. Yet Gould remains less than admirable and still a bit of an enigma. The primary difficulty is the need for degrees in law and finance to fully appreciate the intricacies of Gould's schemes. Some were brilliant. Some schemes were lucky. Most of the time meant to manipulate markets. Gould's repeated use of stock shorting, watered down stocks, "pools" and injunctions makes one's head spin. Gould and his regular colleague in crime, Jim Fisk, used the law -- especially easily swayed or purchased judges -- to have their way with the financial markets.

But he remains an unsympathetic if not fully appreciated character. He did no worse -- in most respects -- than his equally unscrupulous colleagues. Some of this is a sign of the times, when unethical if not downright evil men did their best to exploit the immature markets, pre technology, pre regulation, and prior to any professional standaqrds or ethics.

Reading Gould's life story shows -- for the most part -- how he sort of stumbled into this life of milking the markets. His motives remain somewhat hidden. All in all, Gould comes across as an unsavory genius, not just a dark one. The story is highly complex and sometimes bogs down in the details that don't come across clearly in a biography. Read slowly.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A Splendid Look at the Master of the Game 2 Aug. 2005
By Standard Oil Tycoon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Any history of finance and entrepreneurs is incomplete without noting the paramount character of Jay Gould. However, few unbiased writings exist on the life of the so-called "Dark Genius". Gould was painted as the Ty Cobb of business - a talented master of the game, but also a vilified character held in contempt by his contemporaries. Renehan strips away the years of misinterpretation and provides his readers with an honest look at a man who deserves our attention. Business is not a place for the timid. If it were then we would live in a drastically different and in my view a deplorable state of affairs. Gould took an ambitious and aggressive posture in his dealings, and by so doing helped build the industrial might of early 20th century America. Furthermore, much of the financial wizardry that we take for granted today originated in the creative thought of Gould. This book is an absolute must for anyone seeking to understanding business.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Refreshing and Interesting......... 9 Oct. 2005
By D. E. Allen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this account of Wall Street "manipulator" Jay Gould. I appreciated the personal stories and anecdotes, alot of which were missing from the more scholarly works about this great man. I congratulate the author for his diligence in turning up heretofore overlooked sources for his biography. You come away feeling like you really know Jay as he was, not as he was portrayed by the media of the times, or the numerous authors that rekindled the bias and falsehoods, something that continues, apparently to this day.

I also liked that fact that he included the personal histories of the members of Gould's family.

Lastly, if you enjoyed Gordon's "The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street", this book is a definite addition for your library. You won'' be disappointed.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Readable but slight 28 Dec. 2010
By Jim Palmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joseph Pulitzer, as quoted by Edward Renehan in "Dark Genius of Wall Street", once said that Jay Gould was "the most sinister presence that ever flitted, bat-like, across the vision of the American people." This was the popular perception of Gould during his lifetime, and it's the popular perception today. While Renehan's stated purpose is to correct this image of Gould, he doesn't really do so.

That's not to say that reading "Dark Genius" is a waste of time. It's not. This is a readable and smartly-written biography of one of the seminal figures of the Gilded Age, and Renehan does a fine job of animating the man behind the name and the legend. But a lot of it is a retread of the work of Maury Klein and Julius Grodinsky, two business historians who were more sympathetic to Gould than previous historians were.

Renehan is a Gould sympathizer, and perhaps not without reason. Certainly Jay Gould was a brilliant and impressive man, and certainly he was demonized in his lifetime and beyond. But Renehan doesn't explain why Gould SHOULDN'T be demonized. We can explain away some of the excesses of his peers, like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Morgan, by looking at their accomplishments. They built gigantic businesses ex nihilo and, altruistically or not, laid the groundwork for America's 20th century industrial and financial preeminence. But if Jay Gould also deserves credit for this, Renehan doesn't explain how, beyond pointing out that Gould traveled a lot on his own railroads to see first-hand how things were going and make suggestions for their improvements.

Renehan doesn't really do much to place Jay Gould in a broader context. Had he done so, we might have learned more about Gould's significance. We might have come to regard him as one of the architects of American finance and capitalism. We learn that he liked growing orchids, we learn that he suffered from tuberculosis, and we learn that he was startlingly egalitarian for his time. He respected other self-made men, and apparently genuinely encouraged others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps as he'd done. But we don't learn why he should be regarded as anything other than a sinister manipulator of the markets, nor if he did anything more significant than make a heck of a lot of money.

One fascinating twist to the Gould story is that, according to Renehan, he actually encouraged the popular perception of himself so that everyone would be afraid of him, even to the extent of giving to charity anonymously, so no one would know what an ol' softie he really was. Well, perhaps. But "Dark Genius" doesn't provide a lot of evidence to suggest that the popular perception was wrong.

"Dark Genius of Wall Street" is a good source of information about Jay Gould, and an entertaining read. But if Renehan set out to write a definitive work of revisionist history, he didn't accomplish it. Gould may be a little less inscrutable by the end of "Dark Genius," but he still comes across as a cynical, self-interested manipulator of the work of others--a primordial Gordon Gekko and template for the 20th century corporate raider who used his breathtaking mastery of the market to exploit the accomplishments of others.
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