Stokes isn’t constituted for prison life. Sing Sing makes the Tombs look like a health spa, and within months he suffers respiratory ailments that cause the authorities to fear for his survival. They move him to a medical facility at Auburn, where he revives sufficiently to boast to visitors that he is speculating in stocks. He claims to have cleared thirty thousand dollars in recent transactions. He applies for a pardon to Governor Tilden, hoping the anti-Tammany chief executive will look mercifully on his case. But Tilden, whose ambitions have moved beyond breaking Bill Tweed and the Tammany ring to running for president, has no desire to dredge up old scandals. Yet Stokes still manages to exit prison early. His physical condition declines again, and in October 1876, three years into his four-year sentence, he is granted a medical discharge.
Bill Tweed has no such luck. The Tammany boss manages to get his twelve-year criminal sentence reduced to one year, but he is quickly brought up on a civil suit and reconfined, for debt. He posts bail and then jumps it, fleeing the country to Cuba. By the time he is traced there, he has shipped out for Spain. Spanish authorities discover and arrest him—using, reportedly, a Thomas Nast cartoon for identification—and extradite him back to America. Returned to the Ludlow Street jail, in the heart of the city he once ruled, mere blocks from the courthouse that remains his monument to corruption, forgotten by Tammany Hall, which has moved on without him, Bill Tweed contracts pneumonia and in 1878 breathes his last.
Jay Gould exhibits greater staying power. After the death of Fisk and the fall of Tweed, Gould gradually regains his financial touch, building a railroad empire in the West and adjoining it to the Western Union telegraph network. His accomplishments win him applause from many of those his enterprises employ, but the old enmities die hard, and his 1892 passing inspires reflection on his days at Erie. “The example he set is a dangerous one to follow,” the New York Herald warns. The World calls Gould “one of the most sinister figures that ever flitted bat-like across the vision of the American people.”
Stokes reaches the new century but is largely forgotten. He never recaptures the insouciance of his youth, and even the affected nonchalance of certain moments of his post-Fisk phase is more than he can sustain. Friends find him fearful, often paranoid; he seems to think the ghost of Fisk is on his trail. He tries his hand at the hotel trade, purchasing the Hoffman House, his residence at the time of the shooting, but he has to sell it a few years later. He develops kidney disease and dies in November 1901, while America is reeling from another shocking murder, of President William McKinley at Buffalo, which brings the Gilded Age to a belated but resounding close.