E. H. Harriman: Railroad Czar, Volume I E. H. Harriman: Railroad Czar
By George Frost Kennan
1999/12 - Beard Books
Volume I - 439 pp.
1893122700 - Paperback - Reprint
Volume II - 430 pp.
1893122719 - Paperback - Reprint

The fascinating story of one of America's great nineteenth-century entrepreneurs who made a fortune buying foundering railroads and turning them around.

Publisher Comments

Categories: Biographies & Memoirs | Maritime & Transportation 

This title is part of the Business Histories list.

Of Interest:

E. H. Harriman: Master Railroader

Edwin H. Harriman, railroad czar, was a nineteenth century turnaround specialist. He bought his first railroad at age 33, a foundering company that he reorganized and sold for a tidy profit. At the turn of the century he became Director of the Union Pacific, a property in receivership and near collapse. He resuscitated it and then acquired Central Pacific, which brought Southern Pacific with it.

From Barnes and Noble:

Edward H. Harriman (1848-1909) railroad czar, was one of the early turnaround pros. He started on Wall Street at age fourteen as an office boy, but by twenty one he had displayed sufficient gumption that his uncle lent him $3,000 to buy a seat on the stock exchange. His first foray into the transportation business was as owner of a boat plying the Hudson between New York and Newburgh not until age 33 did he buy his first railroad a broken-down affair He reorganized it and made a tidy profit on its sale.

A subsequent involvement with the Illinois Central taught him much. The lesson was a long and thorough one: he was almost fifty when he became a director of the Union Pacific, a property in receivership and near collapse. Undaunted by rusty rails and track-edge communities turned ghost towns by the Panic of 1893, Harriman plugged $25 million into the company in 1897 before his first inspection trip was completed.

By 1901 he'd turned the railroad completely around, and set out to acquire the Central Pacific, which would bring the Southern Pacific with it. He coveted the Santa Fe, Northern Pacific and Burlington lines, too, but died young--sixty-two in 1909. Had he lived longer, his name might have become even greater. 

George Kennan was an American journalist, author, lecturer, and explorer who was responsible for much of what late ninteenth century Americans knew about the Russian Empire. E. H. Harriman: A Biography is the biography authorized and paid for by Mary Harriman after her husband's death. George Kennan distant relative, George F. Kennan, became a leading figure in U.S. foreign policy.

Volume I

I. Ancestry, Boyhood, and Early Life 1
Attends trinity School, New York-- becomes successively messenger boy, "pad-shover," clerk, and chief clerk in office of D.C. Hays, stockbroker, New York-- Opens broker's office of his own-- First venture in stock speculation-- Interest in horses, boxing, and rifle shooting-- Vacations in the Adirondacks-- Makes acquaintance of Dr. E.L. Trudeau
II. The Boys' Club 25
First Boys' Club in the world founded by Harriman with three boys on the East Side, New York-- Average attendance during first five years only about one hundred-- Harriman puts up new building for it in 1901 at cost of $185,000-- Membership grows to seven thousand-- Since its foundation club has influenced lives and characters of 250,000 street boys
III. Entrance into the Railroad Field 59
Becomes director of Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad Company-- Marries Mary W. Averell of Ogdensburg, New York-- Buys Sodus Bay and Southern Railroad, rebuilds it, and sells it to the Pennsylvania-- Elected director of Illinois Central--  Retires from brokerage business and buys Arden Estate in Orange County, New York-- contest with J.P. Morgan for control of Dubuque & Sioux City Railroad Company-- Elected Vice-President of Illinois Central-- Congress enacts interstate  Commerce Law--  Its influence on Harriman's later career-- Contest with general manager of Illinois Central over question of rates.
IV. Illinois Central and Erie 88
Acquires great influence in Illinois Central-- Extension and improvement of that road-- Makes thorough study of practical railroading-- Acquires interest in the Erie-- contest with J.P. Morgan over reorganization of Erie Company-- Supports financially Erie Canal Work of Furnace Ville Iron Company
V. The Reorganization of the Union Pacific 109
Causes which brought about the insolvency of that company-- Attempts at reorganization-- Harriman determines to get control of the road and opposes plan of reorganization committee-- Finally agrees to cooperate if given position on Executive Committee-- Elected Director of reorganized company in December and chairman of the Executive Committee in May
VI. Reconstruction and Reequipment of the Union Pacific 139
Harriman makes trip of inspection over Union Pacific System-- Bad condition of road and of country tributary to it-- Asks appropriation of $25,000,000 for betterments-- His plans for reconstruction and reequipment of road-- Colossal engineering difficulties-- Work of reducing grades, eliminating curves, and reballasting-- The Aspen Tunnel-- Abandonment of one hundred and fifty miles of old line and reconstruction on new route-- Reacquirement of Oregon Short Line and Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company lost at time of bankruptcy-- financial results of Harriman's work-- Great increase in traffic and earnings-- Enhancement in values of farm lands and products-- Enormous increase in service rendered to public-- Reduction of rates
VII. The Expedition to Alaska 185
Charter of steamer George W. Elder-- Harriman invites twenty-five distinguished scientists to accompany him and pays all their expenses from New York to Siberia and back-- departure from Seattle-- Scenery, fauna and Flora of Alaskan waters-- visit to Muir Glacier-- Side trip over ice to "Howling Valley"-- Visit to Malaspina Glacier -- discovery of Harriman Fjord-- Stop at Island of Kadiak-- Harriman shoots great Kadiak bear-- Steamer strikes reef in Bering Sea dense fog-- Visit to coast of Siberia-- Return to Seattle-- Scientific results of expedition
VIII. The Kansas City Southern Episode 214
History of Kansas City Railroad Company-- Harriman acquires control of road and partially rebuilds it-- New Board of Directors elected and Harriman retires-- Criticisms of his management
IX. Acquirement and Reconstruction of the Southern Pacific 232
Harriman buys control of Southern Pacific-- Objects of purchase-- Reduction of grades and eliminations of curves-- Building of Lucin cut-off across Great Salt Lake at cost of $9,000,000-- Abandonment of three hundred and seventy-four miles of old line and reconstruction of three hundred and twenty-two miles on new route-- Rebuilds thirty miles of wooden trestles and bridges, replacing them with structures of concrete, or steel-- Spends #20,000,000 in improving road in only three places-- Introduces system of block signals-- Builds extension Southern Pacific to Mazatlan in Mexico-- Spends in reconstruction, reequipment and extension of Southern Pacific about $242,000,000-- Cost of betterments and extensions on the two Pacific Roads $400,000,000
X. Railroad Combinations 261
Results of railroad combinations and consolidations-- they reduce rates instead of increasing them-- Alleged danger of monopoly-- It is disproved by history of Pennsylvania-- Results of Harriman's management of Southern Pacific-- Great increase in traffic and service to public-- Economy in operation through pooling of cars and standardization of equipment-- Evils of over-regulation-- Harriman's view of centralized control in railroad field.
XI. Control of the Burlington 286
Reasons for desire of both Hill and Harriman to acquire the road-- Harriman makes to unsuccessful attempts to get it-- Hill succeeds in making the purchase but refuses to let Harriman share in it-- Harriman then tries to secure control of Northern Pacific by purchasing $79,000,000 of its stock
XII. Northern Pacific Panic 311
Heavy purchases and short sales of Northern Pacific stock bring on panic in Wall Street-- Hill and Morgan compromise with Harriman and form Northern Securities Company-- Objects of this organization-- Government attacks it in the courts on the ground that under the Sherman Anti-Trust Law it is a combination of trade-- U.S. Supreme Court orders its dissolution
XIII. Contests with Senator Clark and Keene 340
Contest with Senator Clark over building of San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railway-- James R. Keene attempts to get control of Southern Pacific-- Harriman and Schiff form defensive pools for protection of Union Pacific
XIV. Harriman and the Erie 360
Elected a director of the Erie Company and a member of its Executive Committee-- Cooperates with President Underwood in financing betterments-- Saves Erie from great loss on its purchase of Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad-- Prevents bankruptcy of the Erie Company by taking up $5,500,000 of its short-term notes
XV. The Contest with the Santa Fe 378
Harriman buys $30,000,000 of Santa Fe stock and elects two directors
XVI. Northern Securities Company Dissolved 387
Contest with Hill over distribution of its assets-- U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of Hill-- Harriman sells Northern Pacific and Great Northern shares at profit of $58,000,000-- Invests $130,000,000 of Union Pacific money in stock of other roads-- Expediency of such investment questioned
XVII. Equitable Life Investigation 405
Harriman becomes director of company-- President Alexander and Vice-President Hyde begin factional quarrel-- Harriman suggests committee of investigation-- Frick committee appointed with Harriman as member-- Committee recommends dismissal of both Alexander and Hyde-- Both factions then attack Harriman-- State Legislature appoints investigation committee with Charles E. Hughes as counsel-- Harriman makes statement of his relations with company

Volume II

XVIII. Far Eastern Plans 1
Harriman goes to Japan for purpose of acquiring interest in Manchurian and Siberian railroads and establishing round-the-world transportation line-- Concludes agreement with Japanese Government-- Baron Komura, upon his return from Portsmouth, opposes Harriman's plans and Government withdraws from its agreement-- Russian Government promises to sell Chinese Eastern Railroad to American syndicate, but Harriman does not live to conclude negotiations
XIX. Life and Work at Arden 30
Harriman enlarges, improves, and develops estate-- Personal relations with his employees-- Christmas at Arden House-- Religious life-- Attempt to secure better county roads-- Organizes "Horse and Road Improvement Association"-- Complete success of the movement
XX. Changes in the Illinois Central 42
Contests with Stuyvesant Fish over unauthorized disposal of Illinois Central funds-- Removal of Fish from presidency
XXI. San Francisco Earthquake and Fire 66
Harriman goes to relief of sufferers-- His railroads carry 224,000 refugees out of the city and bring in 1600 carloads of food and supplies without charge-- Results of his relief work
XXII. The Union Pacific Dividend in 1906 77
Increase of Union Pacific dividend rate to ten per cent-- Harriman unjustly accused of stock speculation in connection with it
XXIII. The Imperial Valley Oasis 88
Struggle for control of the Colorado River when it changes its course and threatens to destroy the Imperial Valley-- The Colorado Desert-- History of the Salton Sink-- Creation of fertile oasis in desert basin of an ancient sea-- Colorado River breaks bounds and pours 160,000,000 cubic feet of water into Salton Basin every hour-- Formation of inland sea with area of one hundred and fifty square miles
XXIV. The Fight with a Runaway River 136
At request of President Roosevelt, Harriman undertakes to close the great crevasse and thus save the Imperial Valley as well as national property to the potential value of $500,000,000-- The fight with the runaway river-- At cost of $3,000,000, Southern Pacific engineers finally close crevasse after dumping into it more than 2,000,000 cubic feet of rock brought from distances of 60 to 485 miles-- The recompense-- Congress refuses to reimburse Southern Pacific Company for its outlay, although it was made at the President's request 
XXV. The Break with President Roosevelt 174
Rupture of long standing friendly relations between Roosevelt and Harriman
XXVI. The Break with President Roosevelt (continued) 203
XXVII. Investigation of the Harriman Lines 228
Reorganization of the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company by Harriman and his associates-- It is described as the "crippling," "looting," and "scuttling" of a prosperous road-- History of the reorganization and its results
XXVIII. Reply to Accusations 275
Replies to criticisms of Chicago & Alton Syndicate
XXIX. The Saving of the Erie 311
Erie Railroad threatened with bankruptcy-- Midnight conference in J.P. Morgan's library-- company's bankers decline to give it financial support-- Harriman, with his own resources, takes up $5,500,000 of company's maturing notes and thus averts renewal of panic-- Revival of confidence in Wall Street
XXX. Last Years 326
Harriman advised to limit his work and take a rest on account of his health-- His reply-- Vacation at Pelican Bay Lodge, Klamath Lake, Oregon-- Shows John Muir how to write books-- Attack of "Harriman Extermination League" -- Government brings suit to disrupt Union Pacific-Southern Pacific combination-- Building of new Arden House-- Trip to Mazatlan-- Failing health makes necessary trip to Europe for rest and medical advice-- Spends summer at Bad Gastein, Austria-- Returns hopelessly ill and dies in Arden House, September 9, 1909-- Gift of one million dollars and ten acres of land to state of New York for public park
XXXI. Character and Business Methods 347
XXXII. Recollection, Estimates, and Appreciations 368
By Jacob H. Schiff, R.S. Lovett, Epes Randolph C. Hart Merriam, John Muir, L.S. Rowe, E.D. Kenna, Dr. Lewis R. Morris, Bishop Morrison, Dr. E.L. Trudeau, and Nelson O'Shaughnessy
Chronology of E.H. Harriman's Life 399
Index 407

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