The print was described and promoted in the February 1882 issue of The Banker’s Magazine:
WHO ARE THE KINGS OF WALL STREET? — In a photographic engraving just executed for Root & Tinker, they are grouped together thus: William H. Vanderbilt, Russell Sage, Cyrus W. Field, D.O. Mills, August Belmont, Jay Gould, James R. Keene, Rufus Hatch, George W. Ballou, and Sidney Dillon. These worthies are robed in “purple and fine linen,” and the face of each will be readily recognized. It is an interesting picture of men eminent in the money-making art, whose names have become as familiar to the people as that of the President, or the most noted politicians. It is an appropriate engraving to put in offices of those who are engaged in financial business. The price announced in the advertisement at the end of this number seems very moderate for so handsome a picture.
Cyrus West Field was a businessman and financier, best known today as the entrepreneur in charge of the first transatlantic telegraph cable project. Rufus Hatch was a colorful broker and financier, popularly known as “Uncle Rufus,” who made and lost great fortunes in the railroad and steamship industry. Jay Gould was a leading American railroad developer and speculator. George William Ballou was also an investor and broker. Russell Sage was a financier and railroad executive who also served in the House of Representatives as a member of the Whig Party. William Henry Vanderbilt was a railroad magnate and philanthropist who nearly doubled the Vanderbilt family fortune inherited from his father. Sidney Dillon was America’s premier railroad builder, instrumental in construction of the first transcontinental railroad, and afterwards became a financier for numerous other ventures. August Belmont was a banker and industrialist as well as a breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. He founded the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) to operate New York’s first subway line and also built Belmont Race Track. Darius Ogden Mills made his fortune as a banker during the California Gold Rush and eventually became the first president of the Bank of California. After he retired, he returned to New York where he built three hostels for the poor.
The publisher, Root & Tinker, produced general interest subjects that could be imprinted with company names to be used as advertising promotions. Read more about the firm here. In this regard, the bottom edge of the offered print probably contained a promotional message in the bottom margin. Apparently this was cropped off leaving only the tops of the lettering — the righthand portion seems to have said “1882 The American [illegible] Office.” Apparently this was done long ago inasmuch as the print is in an early — possibly original — frame typical of the period 1880s to 1920s. The Smithsonian Institution National Portrait Gallery also owns one of these prints, which can be viewed online. That print is shown without the bottom margin; we do not know if that was cropped as such for web display or if the actual example they have is physically cropped (see References below). A smaller version of the print, titled Kings of Wall Street and omitting the year, was also published as a cigar box label for the Weinstock & Lubin department store in Sacramento, and imprinted with their store information (see References below).
Upon examination of the artwork in the print, there is a perceptible difference between the style of the heads and the style of the bodies and background, suggesting that the poses were invented while the heads were based on actual photographs. This theory is supported by the existence of another advertising broadside with the title Kings of Wall Street 1882 by Root & Tinker, with individual portrait heads of the same 10 men that are obviously derived from the same sources. The latter broadside is much smaller than the offered folio print, and shows them arranged like trompe-l’oeil cards against a landscape background and imprinted, “Compliments of the Empire Refining Co. Limited, New York” (see References below). All versions of Kings of Wall Street by Root & Tinker apparently are scarce.
Full publication information: “Copyright 1882 by Root & Tinker 102 Nassau St. N.Y. Lith. by Buek & Lindner 65 Warren St. N.Y.”
Gray, Christopher. “Streetscapes/ Lamb & Richards.” New York Architecture. 11 July 2004. http://www.nyc-architecture.com/ARCH/ARCH-LambRich.htm (26 March 2013).
“Kings of Wall Street.” Smithsonian Institution (Natural Portrait Gallery). 2012. http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID:npg_NPG.73.14 (20 March 2013).
“Kings of Wall Street 1882.” David M. Beach. http://cigarboxlabels.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=54576 (20 March 2013).
“Kings of Wall Street Cigar Label.” AuctionFlex. 2011. http://auctionflex.com/showlot.ap?co=1&weid=11922&weiid=4192661&mindate=19900101
&maxdate=20501231&lso=pricedesc&pagenum=4&lang=En (22 March 2013).
“The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929.” Library of Congress. 14 August 1995. http://lcweb2.loc.gov:8081/ammem/amrlhtml/dtdrygod.html (26 March 2013).
“Visualizing Nineteenth-Century New York.” Bard Graduate Center. 2011. http://resources-bgc.bard.edu/19thcNYC/map-about.php (22 March 2013).
“Who Are the Kings of Wall Street?” The Banker’s Magazine and Statistical Register, Vol. 36. February 1882. p. 643. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=2lYmAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA643 (20 March 2013).