Jay Gould

(The second of three morning names from some time ago.)

From Wikipedia:

Jason [generally known as Jay] Gould (May 27, 1836 – December 2, 1892) was an American railroad magnate and financial speculator who is generally identified as one of the robber barons of the Gilded Age. His sharp and often unscrupulous business practices made him one of the wealthiest men of the late nineteenth century. Gould was an unpopular figure during his life and remains controversial.

Gould’s sharp business practices made him the target of the political cartoonists of the day, who churned out wicked caricatures of him.

Three examples.

The bowler. From Puck (magazine) Vol. XI, No. 264 (29 March 1882), a cartoon by Frederick Burr Opper, “Jay Gould’s Private Bowling Alley”:


Financier and stock speculator Jay Gould is depicted on Wall Street, using bowling balls titled “trickery,” “false reports,” “private press” and “general unscrupulousness” to knock down bowling pins labeled as “operator,” “broker,” “banker,” “inexperienced investor,” etc. A slate shows Gould’s controlling holdings in various corporations, including Western Union, Missouri Pacific Railroad, and the Wabash Railroad.

The spider.

(#2) A 1885 cartoon by Opper depicting Justice entangled in a web woven by Jay Gould and his Western Union Telegraph Company

Under water. A Friedrich Graetz cartoon from Puck ca. 1883: Jay Gould drowning in sea of watered stock, as William Vanderbilt looks on:


Years after Gould ran the Erie Railroad into bankruptcy he watered the stock of the Wabash Railroad and Western Union Telegraph Company, and once again came into conflict with the Vanderbilts, this time with the Commodore’s son William, who had become president of the New York Central after his father’s death.

9 Responses to “Jay Gould”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I occasionally wonder what Stephen Jay Gould’s parents were thinking when they gave him that middle name (or whether the name was already in the family for some other reason; l assume they were not actually related to the railroad magnate, although I could be wrong). During the years of our acquaintance (we sang in the same chorus for over 25 years) it never occurred to me to ask him.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Interesting question. In Christian families (like Jay Gould’s), the name Jay was generaly a shortened form of James or Jason (the robber baron’s name at birth was in fact Jason). I don’t know anything about the usage in Jewish families (Stephen Jay Gould’s family were secular Jews), though I have known several Jewish-heritage American men named Jay. (Maybe a distinctly American name, from the founding father John Jay?)

      • Robert Coren Says:

        Yes, I knew that Steve was jewish, and I assumed that Jay Gould was not, and wondered if that had anything to do with it. But then again, I’ve known plenty of Jewish-heritage Americans with distinctly non-Jewish-sounding given names (Neil, Ian, I think I may even have met a Jewish Kevin).

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        To make all ths more complex, for a time there was a fashion for naming Jewish-heritage American boys with Irish, or Irish-sounding first names: Sean, Kevin, etc. I *think* the idea was that these were truly American names.

      • Gadi Says:

        I heard there was once a Jewish guy named Jeffrey McKeough.

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        “I heard there was once a Jewish guy named Jeffrey McKeough.” I heard that too.

  2. Sim Aberson Says:

    Family lore has it that my uncle (Irving) didn’t want his Jewish-sounding name when he was growing up. He wanted people to call him by a chosen American name, like the other boys in the neighborhood (Lower East Side) had – Antonio.

  3. The octocrat | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] in the American context, the robber baron Jay Gould as a grasping octopus. Backgound from my 1/14/21 posting “Jay […]

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