Booklist reviews THE BONANZA KING

Booklist, 6/1/2018: 

“In the history and mythology of the American West, the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill and subsequent California gold rush have iconic status. However, in terms of concentrated precious-metal wealth, the so-called Comstock Lode in the Sierra Nevada was unmatched in the nineteenth century, yielding more than $300 million in gold and silver. A chief developer and promoter of this treasure trove was an Irish immigrant, John Mackay. Raised in poverty in New York, he spent eight years digging unsuccessfully in California, then crossed the mountains to Nevada in 1859. When he died, in 1902, Mackay’s net worth, in adjusted terms, was well over $10 billion. According to Crouch (China’s Wings, 2010), Mackay was no robber baron. As one who had worked claims himself, he understood the needs and aspirations of his workers. In an age of industrial turmoil, he maintained harmonious relations with his employees, contributed heavily to charities, and fought against various monopolies as his business interests expanded. Crouch presents a well-written and laudatory biography of a remarkable and admirable man.” 

I’ll forgive them the few errors for that last sentence. However, the Comstock Lode is in the Virginia Range, not the Sierra Nevada; the modern emotional impact of Mackay’s net worth is more like $40-$60 billion (measured as an equivalent slice of GDP); and China’s Wings published in 2012.


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