Standing alongside J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, Charles Tyson Yerkes (1837-1905) was one of the most colorful and controversial public figures in nineteenth-century America. Robber Baron is the first biography of the streetcar magnate who was the mastermind behind Chicago's Loop Elevated and the London Underground and namesake of the University of Chicago's observatory. Yerkes also served as the inspiration for Frank Cowperwood, the ruthless protagonist of Theodore Dreiser's Trilogy of Desire: The Financier, The Titan, and The Stoic. Despite various philanthropic efforts, Yerkes and his methods were despised by the press and public after he was exposed for making millions from questionable financial transactions. John Franch has drawn upon every available source to tell the complete story of a man desperate to leave a lasting impression on his world. Yerkes's enduring public works and remarkable history are a testament to his success, but Robber Baron reveals that his legacy wasn't as sparkling as he might have hoped.
John Franch is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in scholarly and popular publications, including Sky and Telescope, Chicago History, and the Illinois Historical Journal.