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.