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Saturday, September 26, 2020

FUMBLE ; How Do We Survive This Game?

I think the second most important man in the history of American football was a dictatorial opera-loving control freak, who began each training camp by warning his players that it was “Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football.” He described his ideal coach as “...severe, arbitrary and little short of a czar” and proceeded to live up to that image. His teams' diets were heavy on raw meat, and devoid of apples. John Heisman (above) found American football a brutal, violent helmetless ground game that killed 44 players in 1904, and was filled with arcane idiosyncratic rules, such as a team just scored against could chose to either kick or receive. It was John Heisman who invented the forward pass, the hidden ball play and divided each half into quarters. And it was John Heisman who led the Georgia Technology Institute “Engineers” to the most decisive victory in the history of the game. Of course, he had a little help.
Twenty miles east of the metropolis of Nashville, in the picturesque village of Lebanon, is tiny Cumberland University. In the decades around the dawn of the twentieth century its prestigious School of Law graduated more future Congressmen than any other school in the South – impressive, with a student body of less than 1,000. In the more significant aspects of college life, the 1903 Cumberland football team had a championship 7-1 season, and a post season Thanksgiving day 11-11 tie against a Clemson team coached by John Heisman.
In March of 1916 Cumberland signed a contract to play a fall game against Georgia Tech in exchange for at least $500 from the ticket sales. Then, over the howls of disappointed students and alumni, hard economic times forced acting President Dr. Homer Hill to choose academics over football. New student manager George Allen was told to cancel all football contracts. 
Except John Heisman (above),  now in his second year coaching at Georgia Tech, and who depended on ticket proceeds for a portion of his salary, refused to cancel their game. Also, there had been a “misunderstanding” the previous summer over some alleged “professional ringers” in a baseball game between the two schools, and Heisman, who was also the Georgia Tech baseball coach, had insisted on adding a $3,000 penalty to their football contract, which Cumberland had unwisely agreed to. So, if a Cumberland football team did not suit up on Saturday, 7 November, 1916 , the small school would have to pay Georgia Tech today's equivalent of $60,000.
The burden for preventing the bankruptcy of Cumberland University fell to acting coach and law student Ernest “Butch” McQueen. Promised half of the $500 guarantee, he recruited a squad of 20 volunteers (mostly from his Kappa Sigma fraternity) and put them through some tough scrimmages. Gentry Dugat, who had played football once in high school, agreed to join the team only because the overnight trip to Atlanta would be his first ride in a Pullman sleeping car. There had been hopes of recruiting more “ringers” from the Vanderbilt team while changing trains in Nashville, but none could be obtained. In fact, three of the Cumberland volunteers missed the train to Atlanta, cutting the roster available for the game to just 17.
Waiting for the Cumberland Bulldogs on Georgia Tech's three year old Grant Field was a squad of 40 highly motivated dedicated players, who, a week earlier,  in their season opener, had demolished Mercer College 61 to zero. 
Also waiting was Coach John Heisman, who had found a new enemy to motivate himself; sportswriters, whose habit of “totaling up the number of points each team has amassed...and comparing them with one another”  annoyed him   To prove their reasoning was specious, Heisman had decided “ show folks it was no difficult thing to run up a score in one easy game.” And the Cumberland Bulldog stand-ins were going to be the his stand-ins, too .
There were 1,000 fans in the grandstands the students had built (above) to watch Georgia Tech win the coin toss. In what must be viewed as almost his only act of mercy that afternoon, Heisman decided his team would kick off, and defend the north goal line. 
The festivities began when Jim Preas kicked off for Georgia Tech. “Morris” Grouger caught the ball at the Cumberland 25 yard line and got no closer to Georgia's goal line. On their first play Cumberland quarterback Leon McDonald handed the ball off to Grouger again, and he made three yards against Georgia's left tackle. On second and seven, McDonald was stopped at the line of scrimmage. The Bulldogs also failed to advance the ball on third down. On fourth down McDonald punted – sort of.  His kick covered less than 20 yards and was caught by Georgia quarterback Jim Preas. Cumberland finally tackled Preas on their own 20 yard line. 
On Georgia's first play Junior halfback Evertt “Strupp” Strupper went around the left end for the score. Jim Preas kicked the extra point , and that quickly the score was Georgia 7 and Cumberland zero.
This time Heisman picked Tommy Spence to kick off. Again it was “Morris” Grouger who caught the ball, this time at the Cumberland's five yard line. And this time he made five yards before he was tackled. With the ball on Cumberland's ten yard line, McDonald handed off to running back George Murphy who went to the right side, where he was hit and coughed up the ball. It was picked up by "Engineer" Marshall Guill, who ran the ten yards for Georgia's second touchdown. Preas again kicked the extra point; Tech, 14. Cumberland, 0.
What followed was either depressingly predictable or delightfully surprising – depending on which team you were rooting for. Preas kicks off, Grouger received at the 20 and returned ten yards to the Cumberland 30 yard line. On first down quarterback McDonald fumbled behind the line, and it was recovered by “Hip” West for Georgia at the Cumberland 20. Strupper made fifteen yards on the first down, and Jim Preas went the last five for the score. He then kicked the extra point; Georgia Tech, 21, Cumberland, zero. 
Preas kicked off, and it was received by McDonald at the ten, who made it to the 20 yard line before being tackled.  Morris Gouger tried the left side and was thrown for a 5 yard loss. McDonald tried a pass, but it was incomplete. Out of frustration, McDonald punted on third down, putting it out of bounds on the Cumberland 35. On the first down for Georgia, Buzz Shaver hit the left side of the Cumberland line for twenty five yards. Halfback “Strup” Strupper went the remaining ten yards for the score. Preas kicked the extra point; Georgia, 28, Cumberland, zero.
Desperate to try anything, Cumberland decided to use the obscure rule that allowed them to kick off. How this was supposed to help the Bulldogs is unclear, in part because it did not.  McDonald got a good foot on the ball, and it was received at the Georgia 20 by Buzz Shaver, who ran it back 70 yards to the Cumberland 10 yard line. Strupper could have scored on the next play but he grounded the ball on the one yard line. The Georgia Tech team had decided that guard J.S. "Canty" Alexander should be allowed to score the next touchdown. But “Canty”was worried that his teammates might be setting him up. He admitted 70 years later that on the hand off, “I was so busy watching to make sure they blocked, that the ball hit me in the chest and I fumbled. But I picked it up on the five and pranced across like a debutante.” Preas hit the extra point. The score was now Georgia Tech, 35, Cumberland zero.
Again Cumberland chose to kick off. Walter “Six” Carpenter caught the ball on the Georgia 35 and was stopped after just a five yard return. Things were actually looking up for Cumberland for a moment, and then on the next snap, “Strup” ran it for sixty yards and the score – after Preas conversion, it was now Georgia, 42, Cumberland zero. Again McDonald kicked off . Again Carpenter caught the ball. This time he made a ten yard return to the Georgia thirty-five. Then “Buzz” Shaver got twenty-five yards over the right side, Ralph Puckett made five up the middle, and Spence went thirty-five for the score. Preas hit the extra point; Georgia, 49, Cumberland, zero.
Cumberland gave up the idea of kicking off, and McDonald received at the Cumberland ten. He then tried three passes, before punting. “Strup” Strupper returned the kick thirty-five yards for another touchdown, and Preas kicked the extra point; Georgia 56, Cumberland, zero. Cumberland decided to try kicking off one more time. Tommy Spence returned it ninety yards for a trouch down, and Preas kicked his ninth extra point – Georgia, 63, Cumberland, zero. Georgia let Tommy Spence kick off, and Morris Gouger caught it at the fifteen and returned it to Cumberland twenty-five, before losing five yards on the first play from scrimmage. McDonald then lost more five yards, before trying two passes in a row. Then, mercifully the whistle blew, signifying the end of the first quarter – just three more to go. And Everett “Strupp” Stupper had already scored four touchdowns.
Cumberland started the Second quarter with a very respectable fifty yard punt by McDonald, but Charlie Turner for Georgia returned it forty-five of those yards, back to the Cumberland twenty. On the very next play Jim Senter scored. Preas kicked the extra point; Georgia, 70, Cumberland, zero.
Cumberland actually made nine yards on the next series of downs, but that triumph was overshadowed when McDonald's weary foot could punt the ball just eleven yards. Two plays later Preas ran the ball in from the fifteen. Preas kicked the extra point; Georgia, 77, Cumberland, zero. Preas kicked off, Grouger returned to the Cumberland twenty, McDonald threw an interception to Marsall Guill who scored. Preas kicked the extra point; Georgia 84, Cumberland, zero. Preas kicked off, George Murphy received for Cumberland and was nailed at the ten yard line. Charles “Eddie” Edwards then fumbled for Cumberland and one play later George Griffen scored. Preas kicked the extra point; Georgia, 91, Cumberland, zero.
At some point during the endless horror of that second quarter, members of the Cumberland team contend that they made a major football innovation. Between plays, in an attempt to find a way to survive the overpowering Georgia line, they gathered together, and thus invented the huddle. Maybe – but the half did finally, mercifully end; Georgia Tech, 126, Cumberland, zero.
John Heisman found a way to give a half time pep talk to his Georgia team. “You're doing all right, team,. We're ahead. But you just can't tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. They may spring a surprise. Be alert, men! Hit 'em clean, but hit 'em. Hard!” He also agreed to reduce the torture to just 12 minutes each for the two remaining quarters.
But even the shortened third quarter was no better for Cumberland than the previous two. According to Grantland Rice, who was covering the game for the Atlanta Journal, “Cumberland's greatest individual play of the game occurred when fullback (George) Allen circled right for a six-yard loss.” It was only a slight exaggeration. Cumberland did complete one six yard forward pass, but they never got the ball into Georgia territory. So crushing was the Georgia Tech line, that when yet another Cumberland fumble rolled toward Cumberland Bulldog B.F. “Bird” Paty, he froze. Shouted the man who had lost the ball, “Pick it up!” Paty shouted back, “Pick it up yourself, you dropped it.” Wrote Rice, “As a general rule, the only thing necessary for a touchdown was to give a Tech back the ball and holler, “Here he comes' and “There he goes'”.
The other Atlanta Journal writer in attendance, Morgan Blake, noticed that the Cumberland team “... couldn't run with the ball, they couldn't block and they couldn't tackle. At spasmodic intervals they were able to down a runner, but they were decidedly too light and green to be effective at any stage of the game.”  In his opinion, "there are from eight to ten prep schools in Tennessee that could beat this Cumberland university anywhere from forty to sixty points. "  Near the end of the shortened Third Quarter, Georgian quarterback George Gariffin discovered two Cumberland Bulldogs sitting on the Georgia bench. Heisman yelled at them to get back on their own side of the field. One of the interlopers pleaded, “Don't make us go back. We'll have to go into the game.' “
Morris Grough later claimed he had saved the Bulldogs from even more grief. "I called for a quarterback sneak on fourth down late in the final period. We needed 25 yards and were deep in our (own) territory. I made it back to the line of scrimmage and saved us from really ignominious defeat. If we had punted, as we should have, Tech would have blocked the kick, made another touchdown and the score would have been 229-0.” On the last play of the game, Cumberland lost 5 yards. The final result was awe inspiring; Georgia Teach, 222, Cumberland, zero. Georgia's wooden scoreboard barely had enough room for the numbers
The Georgia Tech Engineers gained 1,620 yards, 978 of it during their own 28 offensive plays, the other 642 by their defense on turnovers. They scored a record 32 touchdowns – 10 on first downs and 14 by their defence and specialty teams. They threw not a single forward pass. They gained 220 yards on punt returns – scoring five TD's - and another 220 yards returning kicks – producing 1 TD. The only issue of concern, if you could call it that, was the two “points after” that they missed. Of course that was 2 out of 32 attempts. They also set records for the most points kicked after touchdown by one player -18 by Jim Preas - most points scored in one quarter – 63 - and most individual players scoring touchdowns - 13 . All of those records still stand.
Meanwhile, Cumberland's offense total was a minus 42 yards. They threw 18 times, gaining a total of 14 yards through the air. Their receivers held onto only two of those passes. They were intercepted six times, and gave up 9 fumbles. Their longest play of the game was a ten yard completed pass. It would have been a first down except it came on fourth and 22. In the entire game neither team scored a first down from scrimmage. Cumberland couldn't, Georgia Tech didn't need to. At the end of the game, Coach Heisman handed over the $500 check to Butch McQueen, adding,  “Maybe we can get together again next baseball season.”
Cumberland did not field another football team until 1920. Shortly thereafter they built a new football field,  Kirk Field, to ensure the teams continued existence. And except for a short disappearance during the Great Depression, it worked. In 1929 Georgia Tech made their first appearance at the Rose Bowl, and about the same time they ceased to be the “Engineers” and became the “Yellowjackets”.
Coach John Heisman stayed at Georgia Tech for three more years, leaving with 102 wins, 29 losses and 7 ties, a 77% winning percentage, and a national championship in 1917. Heisman and his wife divorced in 1919, and he left Atlanta. He coached at Pennsylvania University, and then Washington and Jefferson College, and ended his coaching career at the Rice Institute. In his later years he was hired as a trainer for the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan. After his death in 1936 the club created a yearly award to the top college football player – The Heisman Trophy. John Heisman is also remembered for an American football adage, a piece of advice which has guided American business leaders and politicians for the last century; “When in doubt, punt”
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Friday, September 25, 2020

OLD SMOKEY, 1910 Global Warming Crises

I have to tell you that, during the “carboniferous age”, our planet was far more flammable than it is today. About 420 million years ago the air was made up of almost 40% oxygen, compared to less than  20%. today.  All this “extra” oxygen came from the exultation of mosses and plankton which had run such a riot over the earth that they laid down the vast coal beds and oil reservoirs which we mine today. But this plant-foria also left behind extensive beds of charcoal, hinting at vast tiny forests which had burned before they could become coal. Today, dead wood burns at 150 F. But with twice the oxygen available, that flash point was reduced to within a few degrees of 90 degrees F. The Silurian Age was,  not the kind of world a little bear cub could survive in for very long.  Which was, in part, why there no little bear cubs wandering around 430 million years ago.  And damn little hard wood.
More recent charcoal records tell an equally interesting story. It seems that before the twentieth century there were a greater number of forest fires in North America than since. As long as there was a frontier, flames were used to conquer the land. Native Americans burned swaths of grasslands and forests to trap prey, and Europeans burned them to convert woods into farms and grazing lands. But with the closing of the American frontier – which happened in 1880 according to Professor Jackson Turner - all the land in America became property. It was owned by somebody or some corporation or the government. It was then that fire became not a tool but a threat. It was a brand new way of thinking about fire. For the first time in history humans had made the moral judgment that fire was usually a bad thing.  Because it was burning somebody's property.
In 1891, the Forest Reserve Act was signed by U.S. President Benjamin Harrison. It put 13 million acres of forest under Federal protection, so it could be managed to maintain water drainage and lumber sources. Wildfires still remained largely beyond human control, even when humans had started them. In Yellowstone, America’s first National Park, only those 6 to 10 wild fires which broke out each year along the park's roads.  Meanwhile  the 35 fires in the back country each year, usually started by lightning, were allowed to burn themselves out. Then came the drought year of 1910.
They called it The Great Fire. It was started by a lightening strike on Saturday, 20 August, 1910. There were  2,000 fires already burning in the forests of Idaho and Montana. The Great Fire by itself burned 3  million acres,  as well as the towns of Avery, Falcon and Grand Forks, Idaho, De Borgia, Haugan, Henderson, Saltese, Taft and Tuscor, Montana. The smoke was seen as far away as Watertown, New York.  Eighty-six humans were also killed, including 28 members of “The Lost Crew” of firefighters.
That fall Henry Graves, Chief of the Forest Service, decided the key to fighting wildfires was the quick arrival at the fire by an adequate, trained force , armed with the proper equipment. And by 1935 enough resources had been committed to this fast response that the new Chief, Ferdinand Silcox, could order that all wild fires reported must brought under control by 10:00 a.m. the very next morning. By 1939 the Forest Service had even established “Smokejumpers”, men who would parachute into remote back country and with shovels and hand axes, isolate a wild fire and tamp down any smoking embers. And that was when the story turned Hollywood.
On Thursday 13 August, 1942 Walt Disney released his fifth animated feature film, which was called “Bambi”.  In the climax of the movie the adult Bambi and his father struggle to survive a raging forest fire. The Forest Service thought they had a good fit with that dramatic sequence and hired "Bambi" for use on wildfire warning posters. Unfortunately the movie was a disappointing financial dud, when the forerunners of the NRA protested this “insult to American Sportsmen,” since the movie showed hunters shooting Bambi’s Mommy.  Disney decided to withdraw the characters for the duration of World War Two, which meant that the Forest Service had to go looking for another animated spokes-figure.
At the time the most famous firefighter in America was 86 year old “Smokey” Joe Martin of the NYFD, who had just died in October of 1941.  So the Advertising Council, which drew up the posters for the Forest Service, decided any new spokes-figure should be named for him. The very first poster of the new figure was released on Wednesday, 9 August, 1944.  August used to be the start of the "wild fire season".  The poster showed Smokey Bear (No “The” in the name) wearing blue jeans and a Forest Rangers’ hat, pouring water on a campfire. Three years later they added the caption “Remember, Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
On Thursday, 4 May, 1950, sparks from a camp stove started a fire in the Capitan Mountain Range, of the Lincoln National Forest in northern New Mexico. It eventually burned 17,000 acres. One of the crews sent to deal with the conflagration was a unit out of Fort Bliss, Texas. Over a couple of days, while they worked, the men saw a black bear cub running around in the burning forest, and finally, on 9 May , they were able to capture him. He seemed to have been abandoned by his mother, was about 3 months old, and was burned and badly singed.
The crew named him “Hotfoot Teddy” and turned him over to local veterinarian Edward Smith. Smith and his wife Ruth had two children, 15 year old Donald and 4 year old Judy. Everybody fell in love with Hotfoot, except Judy, who according to her brother, kept expecting the bear to bite her. And yet it was Judy who was used as a prop when the photographer from Life Magazine showed up to take pictures of the little bear with the bandaged feet.  The little bear cub became an instant piece of merchandise.
Over night the little cute bear cub had his own comic strip and his own cartoons at the movies. The Forest Service recognized the value of Hotfoot, and he was flown to Washington, D.C., rechristened “Smokey Bear”, and given his own cage at the National Zoo. And there he resided, loping back and forth on his still tender feet until 1976, when he died at the ripe old age of 26. They buried the old guy back in New Mexico, in the forest of his birth. And about the time he died, so did the moral judgment about forest fires being bad.
As the  Smokey Bear baby-boomers grew up, a more nuanced vision of fire in the wilderness has taken root. The Forest Service no longer uses the phrase “Forest Fire”, exchanging it for “Wildfire.” In 1965 , 94% of the public approved of the under control by 10 a.m. policy. By 1970 that percentage had fallen to 46%, and by 2004 only 6%. Part of that was probably the cost of fighting the fires; in an average year over 84,000 wildfires burn over 3 million acres, at a cost of over $540 million, and the lives of 16 firefighters.  But then, what is an average fire season anymore?
There is the perception that these numbers are going up, but it is hard to measure that based on something less than a century of hard data. After all, the “Great Fire” of 1910 burned 3 million acres by itself.  In 1988 Yellowstone Nation Park suffered 99,000 acres burned, 36% of the park. But nobody remembers the 1910 fire. There is very little film of that conflagration. Everybody remembers the fire of 1988. That’s human nature, and will never be cured. But...
...British and American statistical studies have come to the conclusion that, since the 1970's,  the fire season has gotten longer by 78 days.  Anthony Westerling of the Scrips Institution summed up the situation this way; “With the snowmelt coming out a month earlier, areas then get drier earlier overall...There's more opportunity for ignition.” As Thomas Swetnam, of the University of Arizona has pointed out, “Lots of people think climate change and the ecological responses are 50 to 100 years away.'s happening now…”
So poor little Smokey was actually lucky he was not born fifty years later, or he would have been in real trouble. That little cub had few tools for dealing with a fast moving forest fire, and none for climate change - but then neither do we. And the Koalas of 2020 Australia certainly didn't.  It would be helpful, I think, to remember we should not be worried about climate change because of what it might mean for just Smokey, or even Bambi, or the more than 25,000 Koalas burned to death in January of 2020. We should be worried about what it means for us, too. And our children. And our grandchildren.  And our great grandchildren.  Need I go on?

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

JAY GOULD, The Libertarian Dream

I wish modern libertarians could meet Jay Gould. Because Jay Gould was unfettered capitalism in the flesh, “the human incarnation of avarice,” as one minister described him, the Mephistopheles of Wall Street, the robber baron par excellence, “prince of the railroad schemers”, and the man within whom all the theories of the libertarians about capitalism and freedom met the reality of human nature, and got the living tar beat out of it.
He (above) was a “…short, thin man with cold black eyes, a narrow face and, in his maturity, a “full black beard”. Born into poverty, his mother was active in the Methodist Church until her death, when Jay was 10 years old. When he was seventeen, Jay apprenticed himself to a surveyor, Mr. Oliver Diston, at the salary of $10 a month. When Jay started issuing his own maps for sale, Diston sued his apprentice. Jay’s attorney, Mr T. R. Westbrook,  managed to have the lawsuit dismissed. But, as one biographer noted, from that day forward, “…there was scarcely a day during his whole life that (Jay Gould) did not have some litigation on his hands.”
His map business made Jay $5, 000, which he invested with Zadock Pratt, a Manhattan leather merchant. Smothering Mr. Pratt in adoration, the 21 year old Jay proposed to write the older man’s biography. That project drew the pair into a partnership in a new leather tannery south of Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Using  Pratt’s money, Jay built an entire company town, which he named “Gouldborough”. He wrote Pratt sycophantic letters, in one describing the organizing meeting for the new community. “Three hearty cheers were proposed for the Hon(erable) Zadock Pratt…This is certainly a memorandum worthy of note in your biography, of the gratitude and esteem which Americans hold your enterprising history.”  However Mr. Pratt, who knew a lot more about the tanning business than did the young Jay Gould, had begun to see through the fog of compliments.
Pratt (above) showed up at the plant unannounced in the summer of 1858, to go over the books.  He quickly discovered them to be a confusing mess, showing unauthorized risky investments, including in a private bank which Jay had established in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  But the company did not share in the bank's profits. Those went only to Jay Gould. Pratt decided to fire his erstwhile friend and sue him to take ownership of the bank.  However, Jay had anticipated this, and had already lined up a richer and more docile partner.  In August,  when confronted by Pratt, Gould stunned the man by offering to buy him out for $60,000.  Pratt quickly accepted.  The cash for the buyout had come from Jay’s new partner, Charles Lessup.
But it wasn’t long before even the somnolent Lessup began to suspect he was being had. By the fall of 1859 Lessup was panicked by the commitments Jay had made, using his good name. But it was too late.  On 6 October, 1859, facing financial disaster, Charles Lessup shot himself.  Lessup’s daughters bitterly demanded Jay repay them for their father’s lost investment, and Jay countered with an offer of a payment of $10,000 a year for six years.  He had, of course, neglected to include any interest during the five year delay.  Unfortunately for Jay, the Lessup families’ lawyers caught the omission.  Still, in the early months of 1860, it became clear that Jay was hiding huge assets from the family.
Lawyers and 40 deputized men were dispatched to the tannery on Tuesday morning, 13 March, 1860. They flashed the legal papers, ushered the workers out and padlocked the doors. They held the place for a little over six hours, until Jay returned from New York.  Just past noon some 200 men stormed the building with axes, muskets and rifles.  Four men were shot, others were badly beaten, and according to the New York Herald, “…those who did not escape were violently flung from the windows and doors…”  As Jay Gould would later boast, “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.”  The courts would eventually throw Jay Gould out of the tannery, but by then he had shifted his operations to a place more suited to his nature; the unregulated economic free-for-all that was Wall Street.
While North and South battled over slavery, Jay Gould battled over wealth. He formed his own brokerage firm -  Smith, Gould and Martin.  Like all of Gould's  partners, Smith and Martin  were soon left behind, broken and broke.  Gould  then made the acquaintance of James “Big Jim” Fisk, who made a fortune smuggling southern cotton through the Federal armies, and selling Confederate War Bonds. And even while brave men died in their tens of thousands,  Gould and Fisk joined with Daniel Drew, director of the Erie Railroad, in their own, private war.
Their enemy was Cornelius Vanderbilt (above), who owned every railroad in the east except the Erie. Naturally, “The Commodore”, as Vanderbilt liked to be called, was seeking a monopoly, so he could charge whatever freight rates he wanted, and he began to buy stock in the Erie. Sensing blood in the water, Jay and friends printed up 100,000 new shares of Erie stock, which The Commodore promptly bought, and which the board of the Erie – Drew, Fisk and Jay Gould – immediately declared to be worthless.
Bilked out of $7 million, Vanderbilt filed legal papers to examine the Erie’s books.  Jay and friends grabbed the company records and retreated to New Jersey, where they re-incorporated.  Vanderbilt then had arrest warrants issued for all three men, but since New York law could not touch them in New Jersey, the Commodore began to assemble ships and men to invade that state,  all by himself. While the Erie Board prepared to receive the invaders, Jay managed to slide a bill through the New York State assembly making the issuing of worthless stock, perfectly legal, retroactively, of course.
This trick was managed by the simple expedient of giving William “Boss” Tweed (above), the head of political graft in New York, a seat on the Erie board.  That brought the Erie War to a temporary pause.  And if you are feeling sorry for the Commodore, remember that Cornelius himself once said, “Law, what do I care about the law? Ain't I got the power?" -  another libertarian hero.  The entire bunch were so busy cheating and stealing they barely noticed the end of the Civil War.
With the Commodore’s cash, and further fortified by looting the Erie’s assets, Jay, Fisk and Drew began their own complicated scheme to raise freight rates on the Erie Railroad. Using the profits from that scheme, in 1869 they began to buy and hoard gold, because raising the price of gold would raise the price of wheat, which would allow them to raise the freight rates they charged farmers for shipping the wheat.  As insurance the trio took on another partner, Abel R. Corbin, who happened to be President Grant’s brother-in law.  The new partner gave the appearance that “the fix” was in, and other investors jumped on the bandwagon. The price of gold skyrocketed.
When President Grant learned about the manipulations, he immediately ordered the U.S. Treasury to sell $4 million in gold. On 24 September, 1869, the sudden influx hit the market like a bomb, and gold dropped 30% in a day.  The date would henceforth be known as “Black Friday” - at least until October of 1929. Thousands of investors were wiped out, including Abel Corbin. An angry mob swarmed the Gould’s brokerage offices, smashing the furnishings and chanting “Who killed Charles Lessup?” Of course the trio of Gould, Fisk and Drew, walked away from the wreckage with an $11 million profit.
Gould's own partner Daniel Drew was to be his next victim.  In 1870 Fisk and Gould sold their shares in the Erie to their one time enemy the Commodore, for $5 million. The deal gave Vanderbilt his monopoly, but it also revealed that the Erie was bankrupt.  And it left Daniel Drew, abandoned by his partners, out $1.5 million. He would die flat broke nine years later, just one more partner and one more victim of Jay Gould.
Big Jim Fisk was saved from a similar fate when, in 1871, a competitor for a woman shot him to death in a New York Hotel. After that Jay was reduced to stealing from lesser partners, such as Major Abin A. Selover, who actually considered himself a friend of Gould’s.  It was Selover who introduced Jay to a California friend of his, James R. Keene.  After Keene and Selover had both been battered by Gould in a contest for control of the telegraph company, Western Union,  Jay and Selover happened to meet on the street one day. Jay tried to walk past, but for once in his life, Jay Gould had been caught out in the open.
Selover grabbed Jay be the collar and shouted, “I’ll teach you to tell me lies!” The six foot tall Selover then threw Jay to the ground, and then yanked him up again by one hand, dangling him above the stairwell of a below-street level barbershop. With his free arm Selover began slapping the Mephistopheles of Wall Street and shouting, “Gould, you are a damn liar!” Nobody who witnessed the event interrupted to disagree. When Selover finally let go, Gould dropped 8 feet to the stairs. A stock broker the next day quipped, “It was characteristic of Mr. Gould that he landed on his feet.”
Overnight, Abin Selover became the most popular man in New York City. Jay Gould was smart enough not to press charges, since no jury could be expected to convict anyone of assaulting Jay Gould. Henceforth, Jay never went out without a body guard. He began to describe himself as the “most hated man in New York”, but there was a touch of pride in his voice when he said it. Selover eventually went broke, as did Keene. However, when he finally died in 1892, Jay Gould was the ninth richest man in America, worth about $77 million. He died a hero only to those who never did business with him. Gould scoffed at the idea that Wall Street should be regulated. “People will deal in chance….Would you not, if you stopped it, promote gambling?”
It was and is a philosophy which fails to see an advantage to drawing a line between gambling and investing. It is the philosophy of libertarianism. It is the philosophy of unmitigated greed. It was the philosophy of Jay Gould.  And people had lots of reasons to hate him. Not a very healthy hero.
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