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No. 10 OCTOBER 2003


Jay Cooke, the son of Ohio Congressman Eleutheros Cooke, was born in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1821. A banker and investment broker, Cooke founded Jay Cooke & Co. in Philadelphia in 1861 and floated a $3 million Civil War loan for the state of Pennsylvania. Shortly after First Bull Run, the United States realized it required large sums of money to finance the war. Cooke's brother Henry was well acquainted with Salmon P. Chase, Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury. Henry arranged for Jay to accompany Chase to New York City. Cooke introduced Chase to the nation's banking elite, who privately underwrote the first $50 million for the Union war effort. Chase appointed Cooke the Union's bond agent. Cooke devised a system through which citizens redeemed U.S. bonds in gold at 6 percent interest after not less than five years or more than twenty. He advertised the "five-twenties" in newspapers across the country, offering bonds in denominations as small as $50. More than three million small investors bought bonds. By 1864, Cooke was raising money - nearly two million dollars a day - faster than the War Department could spend it. By war's end, Cooke had sold more than one billion dollars in bonds.

Elizabeth Butler, Dorothea Barney,
and Elizabeth Barney wait for Laura
Cooke Barney to prepare their picnic
lunch during a visit to nearby Green

When Cooke family members arrived at Gibraltar in July 1896, they discovered that a storm had torn the American flag that flew over the island. Caroline Moorhead, Clara Moorhead Cooke, and Laura Cooke Barney gathered on the Castle porch to make repairs.
Jay Cooke's brother Pitt of Sandusky, Ohio, oversaw the construction of Cooke Castle on Gibraltar Island in 1864. This image was
taken in 1906 for a biographical work of
Jay Cooke. Today, the exterior of the Castle
appears much as it did during Jay Cooke's lifetime.

Croquet was a popular 19th-century pastime. Rev. Jay Cooke and his wife Molly posed for this photograph before a game with Henry and Esther Cooke during their August 1894 visit.
Cooke family members enjoyed bicycling
on Put-in-Bay during their summer visits.
Esther Cooke posed for this photograph
before setting out on a cycling tour of
South Bass Island in July 1896. Caroline
and Henry Cooke, Jr., look on .
Jay Cooke's daughter Sarah Cooke Butler, her husband John Butler, Sr., and their children John Jr., Elizabeth, Laurance, Clarissa, and Allen posed by the porch of Cooke Castle upon their arrival in August 1890. The Rev. Henry Cooke wrote in the Gibraltar Record that he had "found the island literally invaded by the Butlers" on his return from a visit to Sandusky.

In 1864, Cooke returned to Sandusky and purchased Gibraltar, a seven-acre island nestled in the bay near South Bass Island. An avid fisherman and hunter, Cooke occupied the 15-room Cooke Castle at least twice each summer for nearly sixty years. Many prominent Gilded Age figures enjoyed Gibraltar: President Rutherford B. and Lucy Webb Hayes, General William T. Sherman, Salmon P. Chase, Senator John Sherman, J. Haseltine Carstairs, and William Howard Taft. Cooke's extended family spent weeks each summer enjoying Lake Erie's cool breezes, sandy beaches, and fine sailing. Cooke, and later his children and grandchildren, recorded the summer's events in The Gibraltar Record, a series of leather-bound volumes. The record also contains poetry, sketches, anecdotes, and more than 2,000 photographs, most taken by Jay Cooke's son, the Reverend Henry E. Cooke.
In 1925, the Cooke family sold Gibraltar to Franz Theodore Stone, who donated the island retreat to The Ohio State University for use as a marine biology laboratory. The first four volumes of the Gibraltar Record (1864 to 1888) are housed at The Ohio State University archives in Columbus, Ohio. The other three volumes (covering the years 1889 to 1920) are the centerpiece of a much larger collection of Cooke manuscripts donated to the Hayes Presidential Center in 1996 by Mr. and Mrs. James H. Harding of New York City. Mr. Harding is the great- great-grandson of Jay Cooke. (Jay Cooke Collection, GA-71) For more about Jay Cooke and Gibraltar Island, see "The Lake Erie Resort Era" and "A Half-Century of History: Photo Essay" by Brenda Ransom in the Summer/Fall issue of the Northwest Ohio Quarterly. Ms. Ransom used the Jay Cooke manuscripts and the Gibraltar Record extensively as part of her thesis research. She earned a Master of Arts degree in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University in 2001.

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