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The Bonanza King: John Mackay and the Battle over the Greatest Riches in the American West Paperback – June 4, 2019
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“Crouch excels in documenting the life of a 19th-century capitalist who wished to find success, treat his workers fairly, and make advancements in science and technology. Fans of American history, the American West, or business will find Mackay’s life story inspiring.” —Library Journal
“Crouch presents a well-written and laudatory biography of a remarkable and admirable man.” —Booklist
“A thorough tribute to the life and work of an honest man who earned his fortune and kept his good name in an era of fierce competition and astounding corruption.” —Publishers Weekly
“Admirers of scrupulous entrepreneurship will find much of value in this book…full of useful pointers on how to treat people and build an enduring legacy and fortune.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In the annals of American capitalism, there is probably no crazier, wilder, more chaotic, boom-to-bust-and-back-again phenomenon than the Comstock Lode. Gregory Crouch has given us the definitive story of the man who clawed his way to the top of all that madness, and he has done it in a way that makes for irresistible reading.” —S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell
“The cattle towns of Dodge City and Cheyenne have lodged in American memory as epitomizing the “wild West,” but they were sedate as 1950s Scarsdale in comparison with the silver Golconda of Washoe, which contained the Comstock Lode—in the 1860s, the richest couple of square miles on earth. In the struggle to extract the metal from Nevada’s impervious rock, and to own it once it was out, Gregory Crouch finds a story of violence and high color and national significance, a tale of industrial genius and breathtaking rascality that is engrossing from start to finish. Crouch’s swift, strong, lucid prose makes problems of metallurgy and mineshaft framing seem as lively as a gunfight, and the rise of his Irish immigrant hero, John Mackay, from the mire of a New York City slum to become one of the wealthiest men in the world has all the elements of a preposterous fantasy—save that it is entirely true. Moreover, in a brass-knuckles era of peril and general scurrility, Mackay was always as honest as he was tough, and so among its many other pleasures The Bonanza King offers a heartening saga of virtue rewarded.” —Richard Snow, author of Iron Dawn and I Invented the Modern Age
“There are plenty of marvelous legends that surround the gold rushes of California and Alaska, the copper mines of Arizona, and the silver deposits of Deadwood and Leadville. But in the end, there was only one Comstock Lode—and like the men who hacked out the ore chambers more than a thousand feet beneath Virginia City, Gregory Crouch has brought to the surface a glittering, grit-encrusted, and utterly glorious tribute to the greatest trove of precious metals ever discovered in the United States. The Bonanza King drills unerringly through the human themes that cut across the heart of this narrative, from ambition and corruption to ingenuity and greed, braiding together a saga whose jaw-dropping scope and monumental history are worthy of the American West itself.” —Kevin Fedarko, author of The Emerald Mile
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Crouch’s “The Bonanza King” is a superb detailed history of both John Mackay’s rise in America as well as the rise of the American West. San Francisco rises as a major financial and cultural center on the back of the Gold Rush. A stock exchange is established to raise capital. Railroads dot the landscape to move ore. Telegraph lines are strung across the desert. Cities appear out of nowhere. Men with little more than a pick and strong will earn $4 dollars a day whacking solid rock at depth nearly in the dark and in boiling hot temperatures with little ventilation. Accidents abound. Fortunes are made, and lost even faster.
From a cultural and societal standpoint the reader can feel the strong forces shaping America in this book, it is written with smooth prose and includes multitudes of political, historical, and scholarly references throughout the novel. The book, as its subject matter, is of true value...tough to find a hardcover under $30 with more than 300 pages these days. Crouch comes in over 450 pages with a solid, enlightening read that reinforces the value of a strong work ethic.
Lots of cool cameo appearances like Mark Twain and General Ulysses S. Grant, both of whom Mackay had the opportunity to meet in different stages of his life.
During the 20-year boom, production was estimated at $306 million or nearly half a TRILLION in modern economic impact. Mackay’s Con. Virginia and California mines, comprising the subterranean size of about four football fields, produced nearly a third of that total value. Indeed, Mackay once remarked that he “could have rebuilt Trinity Church from the basement to spire top in solid silver.”
Love to see this book made into a movie.
5 Solid Gold Stars!