Excesses of the Rich and Wealthy Jay Gould

About the excesses of the rich Jay Gould, biography and history of his extravagent spending.


JAY GOULD (1836-1892)

The beginning of railway magnate Jay Gould's fortune was reputedly a patented mousetrap. However he began, he went on to connive, cheat, and steal with such ruthless zest that he can truly be labeled the ultimate robber baron. Leaving in his wake countless ruined businessmen, he emerged a multimillionaire. Being primarily interested in money and power, he was a man of relatively few indulgences and left the business of serious spending to his heirs.

However, he did have a few habits which are worthy of mention. He had a weakness for orchids, possessing the largest collection in the world; and for yachts, which culminated in his plush vessel, the Atlanta. The Atalanta's staff boasted, among its coterie of French chefs, a Viennese pastry cook whose sole task was to make ladyfingers for Gould, ladyfingers being the only dainty the sickly Gould--on a strict diet--allowed himself. On his railroad car, also named Atalanta, he took a private doctor with him at all times. Also accompanying him was a cow--in her own car--whose butterfat content was suited to Gould's ulcerated stomach. But these are trifling matters compared to the one real coup Jay Gould enjoyed with his ill-got gains.

It began when Gould was refused membership in the New York Yacht Club. The blue bloods of this club did not care to have their ranks adulterated by robber baron rapscallions like Gould, no matter how rich they were. So Gould started his own organization, the American Yacht Club. However, this was only a portent of things to come.

The "club" that Gould--and many others, such as the Astors, Rockefellers, Morgans, and Vanderbilts--really wanted to join was the Academy of Music. It was New York's finest opera house, and the staunchest barricade of elite old money and old snobbery. A box at the academy (and there weren't many) could not be bought at any price. In a great surge of rebellion, Gould joined forces with other snubbed millionaires, and they built the Metropolitan Opera. The box holders at the Met's opening night were said to be worth, collectively, $540 million. In less than two seasons, the academy was ruined and forced to close down.

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