• American Rascal

  • How Jay Gould Built Wall Street's Biggest Fortune
  • By: Greg Steinmetz
  • Narrated by: Feodor Chin
  • Length: 8 hrs and 45 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)

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American Rascal  By  cover art

American Rascal

By: Greg Steinmetz
Narrated by: Feodor Chin
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Publisher's Summary

The gripping biography of Jay Gould, the greatest 19th-century robber baron, whose brilliance, greed, and bare-knuckled tactics made him richer than Rockefeller and led Wall Street to institute its first financial reforms.

Had Jay Gould put his name on a university or concert hall, he would undoubtedly have been a household name today. The son of a poor farmer whose early life was marked by tragedy, Gould saw money as the means to give his family a better life...even if, to do so, he had to pull a fast one on everyone else. After entering Wall Street at the age of 24, he quickly became notorious when he paralyzed the economy and nearly toppled President Ulysses S. Grant in the Black Friday market collapse of 1869 in an attempt to corner the market on gold—an event that remains among the darkest days in Wall Street history. Through clever financial maneuvers, he gained control over one of every six miles of the country’s rapidly expanding network for railroad tracks—coming close to creating the first truly transcontinental railroad and making himself one of the richest men in America.

American Rascal shows Gould’s complex, quirky character. He was at once praised for his brilliance by Rockefeller and Vanderbilt and condemned for forever destroying American business values by Mark Twain. He lived a colorful life, trading jokes with Thomas Edison, figuring Thomas Nast’s best sketches, paying Boss Tweed’s bail, and commuting to work in a 200-foot yacht.

Gould thrived in an expanding, industrial economy in which authorities tolerated inside trading and stock price manipulation because they believed regulation would stifle progress. But by taking these practices to new levels, Gould showed how unbridled capitalism was, in fact, dangerous for the American economy. This eye-opening history explores Gould’s audacious exploitation of economic freedom triggered the first public demands for financial reform—a call that still resonates today.

©2022 Greg Steinmetz. All rights reserved. (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about American Rascal

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A tale of America

Steinmetz tackles the question: robber barons or captains of industry? In doing so he helps us understand the way in which financial and industrial titans of the 19th century built America while at the same time causing financial havoc to rich and poor alike. This is a tale of the great economic forces and the intimate lives of extraordinary people. It is written in an engaging and accessible manner for those interested in the details of financial wheeling and dealing as well as for those who just want a general understanding of the period.

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A long wikipedia entry

This is OK, but not more than OK.

I was hoping for some actual analysis — perhaps not on the level of Robert Caro, but still, an effort to provide insights.

Instead, what you get is just a long recounting of episodic details and facts. It’s mildly interesting, periodically tedious. Jay Gould was a corrupt, unlikable thief and criminal, yet not in a way that’s actually gripping in some voyeuristic way. He’s merely loathsome and dull and deservedly forgotten.

The final chapter reveals, perhaps, why the author didn’t offer more analysis in the rest of the book: He concludes with an apologist’s love letter that glamorizes Gould and romanticizes trickle-down economics.

So between a whole book of that sort of cringey toadying or a boring wiki entry, I’ll take the wiki entry for 3 stars.

Not recommended, but if you know this topic is up your alley for your own reasons, then it’s adequately competent. (Same with the reader — “adequate.”)

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what a tale of American corruption

the laissez-faire of the Gilded Age was mindblowing. just as today. it was the workers and small investors who lost everything. while the rich figured out how to get richer.

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Exciting History

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. the narration was fantastic the historical content was awesome. Not much has changed in 100 some odd years of capitalism

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Capitalism with no regulation

This was an interesting time of Rapid growth with other gilded Age titans like JP Morgan,, Carnegie and many others. We need to remember that President Truman said there are no surprises as president if you study history. This was when someone asked him if it was stressful to be president. We had a small glimpse under President Trump of capitalism with reasonable regulation. We are now back to over regulation. Always worth studying history.

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Jay Gould was certainly interesting, in business.

This is a great story of a man who helped shape Wall Street, for good and bad. If you're looking for the early stages of corporate finance, this is certainly going to give you a good base. As far as entertainment value, not the most exciting of stories. The fact is that Jay Gould had no personal life, therefore nothing all that exciting really happened to him outside business. He certainly belongs with Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt from a business standpoint. If you're looking for a larger than life character story, that's simply not Jay Gould.

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A breezy biography of a Gilded Age titan

A fun introduction to Jay Gould and Gilded Age finance. The book moves quickly and is well written and well narrated.

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Worth the time, but…

The writing brings Gould to life, and paints a vivid picture of the Gilded Age. The pace and energy of the text, however, is stunted by a wooden and hobbled narration, for which the producers, not the narrator, bear most of the blame. If allowed to flow in a more conversational tone, the project would be much better enjoyed by the listener.