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Before the Gilded Age

W. W. Corcoran and the Rise of American Capital and Culture

Mark L. Goldstein

"Enormously successful in business, W. W. Corcoran was compassionate and generous, yet notoriously sympathetic to the slaveholding South. With broad context and telling detail, Goldstein gives us the first full elucidation of Corcoran’s contradictions, multifaceted achievements, and complex legacy."
John DeFerrari, historian and author of Lost Washington, D.C.
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The first modern biography of financial pioneer and philanthropist W. W. Corcoran

Before the Gilded Age
reveals the extraordinary ways in which W. W. Corcoran shaped the emerging cultural elite and changed the capital and the country both for better and for worse. A complex and controversial character, Corcoran influenced banking and finance, art and American culture, philanthropy, and the nation’s capital.

Based on extensive archival research, Before the Gilded Age examines the fascinating life of an entrepreneur ahead of his time. A generation before Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller donated vast sums of money, Corcoran gave away most of his fortune and helped shape American philanthropy. His dedication to landscaping the emerging National Mall predates plans for New York’s Central Park. Other legacies included cofounding the Riggs Bank and founding the Corcoran Gallery of Art, whose collection has been dispersed among other arts organizations in Washington, DC, including the National Gallery of Art.

Mark L. Goldstein provides a colorful account of a political chameleon who successfully transcended political party, geography, and ideology to become one of the richest and most influential people in the country even as he navigated such controversies as rumors that he was linked to plots to kill President Lincoln. Before the Gilded Age also offers readers a detailed historical perspective on the development of banking, investing, lobbying, art collecting, and philanthropy.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Beginnings
2. Rise of the Political Banker
3. Selling the War
4. America’s Lobbyist
5. Culture and Community
6. The Collector
7. Interregnum
8. Resilience and Repair
9. Legacy
Notes
Bibliography
Index
About the Author

Reviews

"Enormously successful in business, W. W. Corcoran was compassionate and generous, yet notoriously sympathetic to the slaveholding South. With broad context and telling detail, Goldstein gives us the first full elucidation of Corcoran’s contradictions, multifaceted achievements, and complex legacy."—John DeFerrari, historian and author of Lost Washington, D.C.

"[An] insightful and meticulously researched biography."—Washington Independent Review of Books

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Awards

About the Author

Mark L. Goldstein has held senior positions at the US Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the US Government Accountability Office. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a PhD in US history from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Hardcover
264 pp., 6 x 9
8 color illus., 8 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-1-64712-361-1
Aug 2023
WORLD

Paperback
264 pp., 6 x 9
8 color illus., 8 b&w illus.
ISBN:
Aug 2023
WORLD

Ebook
264 pp.
8 color illus., 8 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-1-64712-362-8
Aug 2023
WORLD


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