A year prior to Gould's gold conspiracy he was elected president of the Erie Railroad,
again through shrewd maneuvering with the help of Fisk. During the
19th century the Erie was one of the most powerful eastern railroads
dating all of the way back to 1832, just five years after the Baltimore
& Ohio Railroad, when it was chartered that year by the Governor of
New York, De Witt Clinton as the New York & Erie Railroad to build a
rail line in the southern part of the state linking Piermont, New York
with Dunkirk on Lake Erie. It was finally able to complete this main
line by 1851. Over the years it acquired, leased, or built new lines and by
the late 19th century it had reached points such as Buffalo, Rochester,
Chicago, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. Having said that, gaining access
to these new markets was a very labor intensive and difficult task
because of two reorganizations (as the Erie Railway in 1859 and Erie Railroad in 1895) and a proxy fight by Cornelius Vanderbilt (of New York Central fame) to take over the Erie in the 1867.
What became known as the "Erie War" with Jim (James) Fisk, Gould, and Daniel Drew occurred with Vanderbilt attempted to gain control of the Erie Railroad to include with his NYC&HR system. This would be the only time Gould ever bested Vanderbilt. In what essentially started as an argument between the two turned into a battle of wills as Vanderbilt attempted to corner Erie's stock. In response, Gould and his associates attempted to artificially inflate the Erie's stock value (also known as "watered stock", Gould was issuing new stock as soon as Vanderbilt purchased it), which is fraud and against the law. However, Gould only defeated Vanderbilt by bribing the New York state legislature, which allowed the stock to be legalized. Gould's attempt to directly seize and take control of the Erie in 1873 failed when his bribery attempt backfired. He tried to solicit foreign investments for the takeover, attempting to bribe Lord Gordon-Gordon of Britain. However, Gordon-Gordon stole the money and ensuing battle between the two for the money resulted in Gould being ousted from Erie's board of directors.
After losing control of the Erie, Gould headed west where he eventually gained control of the Union Pacific, Missouri Pacific, and a number of other smaller systems. By the early 1880s he would hold more than 16,000 miles of railroad under his management. While it is said he was one of the most hated men of the 19th century he generally did well at overseeing the railroads under his control, such as the MP. The railroad began as the Pacific Railroad, which struggled after completing its original main line and was leased by the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad in 1872. The A&P would later come under the control of Gould after it defaulted, and the mogul purchased controlling interest in the company. Gould would in turn reorganize all of the railroads into simply the Missouri Pacific, which would quickly stretch throughout the west with acquisitions in Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas.
After Gould was also able to snatch up a somewhat parallel route of the
St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern the Missouri Pacific stretched
into Texas. Jay Gould would also come to own other interests such as
newspapers, the Western Union Telegraph Company,
and New York City's elevated railways. While remembered as a shady
businessman, many of Gould's children were thought of otherwise. George
became a successful manager of railroads himself, turning around a
number of lines while his oldest daughter Hellen is remembered as a
philanthropist donating thousands of dollars to
hospitals, universities, and libraries. At the time of his death in
December, 1892 Gould was said to be worth about $72 million and while he
did donate some money to charitable causes most of his fortune would be
willed to his children.
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