Gould was probably the American man most likely to be burned in infamy in the late nineteenth century, as people regarded him as the worst of what were called the Robber Barons, who the public perceived as very wealthy men who took advantage of the poor. Gould was a master at stock manipulation, and at the height of his career could drive prices there up or down at will, infuriating other investors of whom he took advantage. Today, the Stock Market has laws to prevent such domination by greedy investors, and managers there are always having to make new laws as people find out how to take advantage of the markets with the advance of computer technology and other factors.
Gould got his start in a tannery where the owner made him a partner, entrusting him to keep the accounts. Gould kept those accounts so well that he ended up taking over the company, though he was later sued by relatives of his former partner for their assets. Using this stake, Gould turned into a master of buying and selling stocks with particular alacrity, taking advantage of conditions to reap immense profits. Railroads were his most extensive investment, where he allied with politicians, including the infamous Tammany Hall Machine of New York City, to advance his interests. He once remarked that in if he were in a Democratic district, he was a Democrat, or if it were a Republican one, he was a Republican. This remark shows the rather cold blooded cunning with which Gould preyed upon his adversaries. On one occasion, Gould bought up a massive amount of a particular stock along with his supposed cronies, who temporarily shared in the profits that accrued as the price of the stock went up due to these purchases. Then without telling his fellow investors, Gould quickly sold off all of his stock, leading to a plummet in the price of the stock, causing his cronies to lose their shirts. Two of these men were famous investors of their day, Diamond Jim Brady and Jim Fisk. One of Gould’s more notable capers became known as Black Friday, when, in 1869 Gould cornered the Gold Market to push up its price, partially for the benefit of other investments. Though Gould was successfully sued for the profits from this caper, the damages did not affect the vast wealth that he obtained by manipulation of the Stock Market.
Gould had a large yacht that he sailed around the world on, enjoying the profits of his immense wealth with aplomb. To accusers of his methodology Gould would reply that he did the same as any person could who chose to invest in the market. Like Plunkitt, the old sage of Tammany Hall, he could say, “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”