Publication date: February 2009
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Silver King in the Gilded Age
From the early 1870s until his death in 1902, John Mackay was among the richest men in the world, and he was without doubt the wealthiest man to emerge from Nevada’s fabulous Comstock Lode. Beginning life as a poor Irish immigrant, he early developed a strong work ethic that distinguished him for the rest of his life. He came west to seek his fortune in the California Gold Rush, then moved on to Virginia City, Nevada, where he operated silver mines and discovered the “Big Bonanza” that was three times as rich as any other Comstock strike. After making a fortune, he transferred his energies to banking and communications.
John Mackay offers new insight into the life and achievements of this remarkable man. Particularly, it sets Mackay into the broader context of the Gilded Age, an era of robber barons and corruption, rapidly advancing technology, national and international capitalism, and flagrant displays of newfound wealth. Even in this milieu, he stood out, not only for his contributions to Nevada and mining history but also for fighting the consolidation and venality of corporate power in the Gilded Age.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mackay was respected for his ethical conduct and generous philanthropy, and his unassuming lifestyle endeared him to less-affluent contemporaries. While his wife pursued social status in Europe, maintaining palatial estates in Paris and London, Mackay mostly remained in the U.S., tending to his many business concerns and shunning publicity.
This fascinating new biography contributes significantly to our understanding of the development of the Far West and of business and society in the Gilded Age.
"The author has done a good job of capturing the color of the times and the more romantic image of the man. The book is well worth the read for those interested in the gold rush, the Comstock Lode, and the mining regime in Nevada and northern California during the second half of the nineteenth century." - Southwestern Historical Quarterly"
"Makley once again exhibits exhaustive research, a pleasing writing style, and an insightful sense of the person he is portraying." - Ronald M. James, Nevada in the West
"...this is an excellent book for those interested in a number of the industrial aspects of the Gilded Age." - Western Historical Quarterly