A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Part II-Chapter 8 : Railroad Barons  >   Index and Introduction   Previous  1 -  2   Next

   The Railroad Barons - building and consolidation  
   of the Nation's transportation network   

First consolidation -  the New York Central 
The Vanderbilt dynasty
Commodore Vanderbilt - shipping magnate and railroad tycoon
William Henry Vanderbilt - the inception of the Vanderbilt dynasty
The main heirs - Cornelius Vanderbilt II genesis
The main heirs - William Kissam Vanderbilt genesis
                Branches of the Vanderbilt family

The Transcontinental railroad 
Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier 
                 Union Pacific Eastern Division
                 The Central Pacific and the Pacific Quartet

From the Encyclopedia of American Wealth
                 Family Profiles : Ames - Gould - Harriman - Vanderbilt

With Independence gained from England, the United States of America needed one generation to consolidate and establish its political system. During this time the old colonial economy which was dominated by landowning country squires gave way to a mercantile society, where trade, and particularly the national trade gained increasingly in importance. With the Louisiana and Florida purchases, room was being made for the extension of the new nation, fuelled by a unique immigration policy derived as much from the generous idealistic principles of democracy as from the economic pursuits of the nation's leaders. Yet, as the country grew in size and people, the needs for an efficient transportation system linking the coastal cities with the rich agricultural interior countryside became more and more pressing.

The first significant progress in national transportation was river steam navigation, pioneered by Fulton and Livingston on the Hudson and Henry Miller Shreve on the Mississippi. Steam navigation cut the time of a journey between New York and Albany by two third. The second major improvement was canal construction. Prominent people in New York who supported the building of the Erie canal included Stephen Van Rensselaer III, the last patroon of Rensselarswyck. The Erie canal which linked the Hudson river to Lake Erie was opened in 1825 and its impact on the economic development of New York City and its hinterland was huge. It firmly established New York as the first city in the United States, against its rivals, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The latter reacted by their own canal projects, notably the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Delaware & Hudson. But canal building was expensive and slow, so when the first railroads were built in England, pioneers in America closely followed their development.

In various places steam railroad companies were started; among them the most successful were the Baltimore & Ohio which ran a train on 15 miles of track from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills in 1830, the Charleston & Hamburg in South Carolina and the Mohawk & Hudson, a forerunner to the New York Central, the first consolidated railroad system in America. The beginnings were difficult and it would take another generation of railroad building until the first large fortunes derived from railroads would appear. In 1853, the merger of 15 local railroads into the 600 miles long New York Central was the first major consolidation in the industry and made some of the scheme's promoters moderately rich, among them Erastus Corning and Dean Richmond. Yet the main beneficiaries of the consolidation and the subsequent increased profitability of the road were New York City financiers, including John Jacob Astor III, Edward Cunard and John Stewart.

Railroad Barons  >   Index and Introduction   Previous  1 -  2  Next

The Mining Bonanza Kings

The Railroad Barons

The Trusts



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