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Jay Cooke's Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic of 1873 Hardcover – May 8, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

Review

John Lubetkin's experience as a cable executive underscores his superior ability as a story teller. This well-crafted volume brings together the full range of geographical scales - national events, regional development and local community impact. --Ralph K. Allen, Jr for Material Culture

About the Author

M. John Lubetkin is a retired cable television executive and the author of Jay Cooke's Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic of 1873, winner of the Little Big Horn Associates' John M. Carroll Award (Book of the Year) and a Spur Award for Best Historical Non-fiction from the Western Writers of America.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; 1St Edition edition (May 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806137401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806137407
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

After 32 years as a cable television executive and successfully co-founding two communications companies and a cable network (the Learning Channel), John Lubetkin knows first-hand the pains and risks involved in forming new businesses in the face of determined competition. In retirement, John first channeled his creative interests into the little known story of Jay Cooke ("The Financier of the Civil War") and the speculative, ethically-challenged creation of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The result was John's multiple award-winning, multi-disciplinary, Jay Cooke's Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, The Sioux, and the Panic of 1873 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006).

A follow-up book on a related topic, Surveyor, Sioux, and Soldier: Custer and the 1873 Yellow-stone Surveying Expedition is scheduled for 2012 publication. John, a former director of the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, has recently completed a parallel work of historical fiction entitled Donovan's Gold, a story of stolen Montana gold set against a Yellow-stone Valley backdrop of Indian fighting, railroad construction, illicit sex, and an astonishing villain.

A graduate of Union College in Schenectady, NY, John has also published Union College's Class of 1868: The Unique Experiences of Some "Average" Americans (1995), and has contributed numerous articles and book reviews for various historical publications and The Classic Western American Railroad Routes.

Recently John completed his first mystery-thriller, The Carlyle Betrayal, the story of a commu-nications conglomerate's chief trouble shooter attempting to track down the source of a risqué photograph of a Presidential candidate's wife, the woman being the daughter of the media company's owner. A follow-up, The Waldorf Seduction, is underway. John and his wife, Linda are empty-nesters living in McLean, VA.

Customer Reviews

All of this makes for a very entertaining and informative read.
J. Lindner
The author's engaging style and in-depth research combine as he takes us back in time to the full context of the Gilded Age.
John D. Mackintosh
The construction and financing of the Northern Pacific Railroad contributed to one of America’s great depressions in 1873.
Doctor at Arms

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John D. Mackintosh on September 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Author John Lubetkin has done an excellent job pulling together a widely diverse stockpile of sources and developing in-depth and unique look at the ill-fated attempt to construct the Northern Pacific Railroad in the early 1870s as America's second transcontinental rail link. Other books in the past have extracted the best-known portion of the series of events that constitute this story, namely Custer's 1873 Yellowstone Expedition as recounted in biographies of Custer and Sitting Bull as well as works from the late Larry Frost and John Carroll. The strength of Lubetkin's work lies in its all inconclusive disection of Jay Cooke and his Northern Plains Railroad dream which in no ways detracts from the military events that many of us find so compelling.

In the late 1860s, Cooke had reached the apex of America's banking world, having financed the Union war effort in the Civil War, funding that was crucial in the ultimate victory. He backed the dream, dormant since its 1864 charter, of creating the Northern Pacific Railroad running from Duluth, Minnesota across Dakota Territory, through Montana, Idaho, and ending in the Pacific Northwest.

The author's engaging style and in-depth research combine as he takes us back in time to the full context of the Gilded Age. We witness the brilliant Cooke as he ably finances his dream through repeated bond sales but the reality of what was being paid for soon begins to take its toil--poor management, gross overspending and corruption by those under Cooke, the unanticipated engineering challenges of laying a railroad through Minnesota's boggy, swampy terrain and, ultimately, the will of the the Lakota in resisting the railroad through their prime hunting grounds.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Berner on March 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
History tends to be written in "silos:" there is political history, military history and so forth. If a history in one sphere incorporates history in another, the other sphere tends to get short shrift. But real history isn't like that. Political history begets military history which in turn is influenced by the history of technology which itself is determined by financial history.

Mr. Lubetkin has chosen a seemingly minor historical event - the surveying expeditions of the Northern Pacific Railroad - and created an engaging combination of numerous areas of history, in the course of which he illustrates how minor events have a ripple effect which can have a major impact on the course of nations.

One of the authors real skills is the ability to think through the motives of historical characters. Sometimes the historical record is clear, sometimes the author has to resort to speculation (always clearly marked as such, unlike the tendency of a lot of modern historians). This makes the narrative very alive and places the reader into the middle of the events described.

Like most books today, the editing leaves something to be desired and the author makes some intriguing charges about J.P. Morgan which I would have liked him to document better (a photo caption alleges that Morgan aided the South during the Civil War - everyone knows about the Hall Carbine scandal, but that was just a classic example of shoddy; was there more? - and claims that Morgan may have deliberately undermined a US government bond sale in order to damage Cooke).

But these are minor quibbles in a book which takes the reader from the Big Horn River to Washington DC to Philadelphia to Burlington Vermont and manages to pull them all together.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charles M. Nobles VINE VOICE on December 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those special books that is virtually impossible to put down once you start reading. Written in a highly readable, narrative style that puts the reader in the time and place being depicted, this book is the story of Jay Cooke's attempt to build a second transcontinental railroad, known as the Northern Pacific. Present readers may recognize its successor, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad that just happens to be the largest private landholder in the United States. An integral part of the story is the creation of Yellowstone National Park, the forced Canadian-British effort to build the Canadian Pacific transcontinental railroad, the Panic of 1873, the instigation of the Great Sioux War, and most interestingly, the link between Cooke and George Armstrong Custer that brought him back from the South and, as is said, the rest is history. This is a worthy addition to both national and regional history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael E. Fitzgerald on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every so often a new author plumbs old tales with fresh insight, interpretation and newly discovered research and does so in a way that his analysis intertwines biography with the totality of the historic events and times that were the person's life. Such is the case with John Lubetkin's Jay Cooke's Gamble. As the book's subtitle describes, who would have thought Sitting Bull directly contributed to a severe US financial panic. But that is exactly what happened: Jay Cooke's Northern Pacific Railroad touched off a Sioux War that caused the Panic of 1873.

Seeking a new challenge after financing the North's portion of the US Civil War, Cooke embarks on a new undertaking that is nothing less than the construction of a second transcontinental railroad, a northern route stretching from Duluth, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington. In the process he reignites war with the Sioux, rescues George Armstrong Custer from obscurity, creates Yellowstone National Park, sets off a wave of Northern European immigration, pushed frontier settlement 400 miles further westward, halted western Canada's drift into the US orbit, triggered the Panic of 1873 and spurred JP Morgan's rise.

This is an absolutely wonderful story, excellently crafted, beautifully written and supported by quality maps. It manages to fit the construction of the Northern Pacific within the environment it transcended, the West, with the East, the area within which it was managed and financed. It includes ugly politics, shady dealing, illegal activities, larger than life personalities, Indian warfare, dishonesty and all of the other negatives one could expect from a swashbuckling story that spans not only a continent but the Atlantic Ocean as well.
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