This Day in Financial History - January 19 . . .

1881 - In 1881 Jay Gould, the ravenous financier and archetypal robber baron, used his wiles and ways to seize control of Western Union, William Vanderbilt's mighty telegraph company. Gould mounted an elaborate campaign to drive down the company's stock, using his newspaper, as well as his influence on Wall Street, to raise doubts about Western Union's leadership and hefty stock price. He also started a rival telegraph concern, the Atlantic and Pacific Company, in hopes of raising doubts about Western Unionís dominance over the industry. The gambits worked and Western Union's stock swooned. In a desperate attempt to staunch the bleeding, Western Union snapped up the Atlantic and Pacific Company on this day in 1881. Far from staving off the competition, the deal further fattened Gould's pocketbook and, more importantly, primed him for the final phase of his takeover scheme. Gould convinced his Wall Street associates to start another raid on Western Union. However, as the traders were busy driving down Western Unionís asking price, Gould, in the guise of an "anonymous" investor, started gobbling up the companyís suddenly cheap stock. When the dust settled, Gouldís cronies were left counting their losses; meanwhile, the devious financier had successfully wrested control of Western Union. Source:

1993 - IBM announces a $4.97 billion loss for 1992, the largest single-year corporate loss in United States history. Source:

2012 - Eastman Kodak, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera and helped bring the world the first pictures from the moon, filed for bankruptcy protection, capping a prolonged plunge for one of America's best-known companies. The company was formed in 1880.

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