THE SCARLET WOMAN OF WALL STREET: Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the Erie Railway Wars by John Steele Gordon

THE SCARLET WOMAN OF WALL STREET: Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the Erie Railway Wars

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A vivid account of Wall Street's first great scandal, the so-called Erie Railway Wars; by Gordon, an occasional writer for The New York Times, author of Overlanding (1975). This story reverberates with future echoes of the scandals of Boesky and insider trading. Gordon writes of some of the biggest names in high finance in any era, giving the particulars as well as the general background of the ""shrine"" of Wall Street, where moguls like Vanderbilt, Fisk, and Gould worshipped. What makes this tale compelling is that it is, as Gordon puts it, ""the search by the Victorians for one small part of the rules by which they learned to govern their world: those rules that delimited the great game of Wall Street's financial free market. . ."" Gordon presents Daniel Drew--who ""acted exactly as though he believed God to be his silent partner in financial speculations,"" and who was reduced to nothing by the Erie scandals--as manipulated by Vanderbilt, who in turn was made a fool of by the shrewder Gould and Fisk (before the latter's assassination). From the scandals came the term ""watered stock,"" a term that was regnant for some time before government regulation rendered it obsolete. And from the scandals emerged Vanderbilt's lifelong hatred of Gould (""God Almighty has stamped every man's character upon his face,"" the Commodore stated; ""I read Mr. Gould like an open book the first time I saw him""). Gordon, a descendant of Wall Streeters, tells this story with novelistic panache, making of it not only a tale of duplicity but a portrait of an era.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson