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Spencer Trask was a member of the group of Gilded Age Financiers that included J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. One of America's earliest billionaires, his story is rarely told and warrants rediscovery. Spencer Trask was a visionary financier for new inventions in their experimental stages. He backed the Marconi wireless...
Spencer Trask was a member of the group of Gilded Age Financiers that included J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. One of America's earliest billionaires, his story is rarely told and warrants rediscovery. Spencer Trask was a visionary financier for new inventions in their experimental stages. He backed the Marconi wireless telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the trolley car, and the automobile. His early backing of Thomas Edison was an inspired leap of faith, and resulted in not only the light bulb and the world's first electrical company but also the world's first recording studio. His eleventh hour rescue of The New York Times. of which he was majority shareholder and President, by installing Adolph Ochs as its publisher was a stroke of genius. Trask's life story is about worthiness as much as worth. He was celebrated in his day for leading the effort to establish Saratoga Springs, NY as a world class health resort destination along with George Foster Peabody, his partner in the Western Pacific Railroad. In the 1890s, Trask led what some have called 'the first international human rights movement in American history,' in response to the Armenian Genocide. And, most famously, he and his wife, Katrina, established Yaddo, one of the most important gifts to American culture in our country's history. John Cheever once wrote that the 40 or so acres on which the principal buildings of Yaddo stand have seen more distinguished activity in the arts than any other piece of ground in the English-speaking community and perhaps the world. Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 63 Pulitzer Prizes, 58 National Book Awards, 22 National Book Critics Circle Award, a Nobel Prize, and countless other honors. Many books by Yaddo authors have been made into films. The list of famous names associated with Yaddo runs into the hundreds and includes James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, Aaron Copland, Patricia Highsmith, Langston Hughes, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Katherine Anne Porter, Mario Puzo, and John Cheever. These pages explore the life and achievements of Spencer Trask through meticulous and exhaustive research, and offer him the recognition that has been long overdue.
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