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Charles Francis Adams, Jr. During his Civil War service. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-7390).

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Adams, Charles Francis (27 May 1835–20 March 1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), a diplomat and politician, and Abigail Brown Brooks. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and great-grandson of ...

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Nelson W. Aldrich. Drawing by Arthur Dove, published in Success, 1909. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54138).

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Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth (06 November 1841–16 April 1915), U.S. senator, congressman, and businessman, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, the son of Anan Aldrich and Abby Burgess, farmers. Having received a modest education in East Killingly, Connecticut, and at the East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island, Aldrich was by age seventeen working in Providence. Eventually a large wholesale grocery firm, Waldron, Wightman & Co., hired him as a clerk and bookkeeper. His career there was briefly interrupted in 1862 by service with the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers garrisoning Washington, D.C. After contracting typhoid that same year he returned to Providence and, by 1866, had been elevated to junior partner at Waldron, Wightman. He married Abby Chapman that year; the couple would have eleven children. His wife was of independent means, but Aldrich insisted on accumulating a fortune on his own account and gradually did so. He worked his way up to full partner at Waldron, Wightman, was a director of the Roger Williams Bank by 1872, and by 1877 was president of Providence’s First National Bank. He also headed the city’s Board of Trade in these years....

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Boteler, Alexander Robinson (16 May 1815–08 May 1892), congressman and businessman, was born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (now W.Va.), the son of Henry Boteler, a physician, and Priscilla Robinson. His mother died when he was only four, so Boteler was raised by his grandmother in Baltimore. He graduated from Princeton College in 1835 and married Helen Macomb Stockton the next year; they had at least one child. After his father’s death in 1836, Boteler moved to the family farm, where he earned recognition for agricultural experimentation, including the development of farm machinery. He also operated a flour and cement mill. He soon became a man of some wealth and was reported as owning an estate worth $41,000 in the 1860 census, including fifteen slaves....

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Brice, Calvin Stewart (17 September 1845–15 December 1898), U.S. senator, railroad builder, and financier, was born in Denmark, Ohio, the son of William Kilpatrick Brice, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Stewart. He received his earliest education at home and in the public schools of Columbus Grove, Putnam County, where his family moved after his third birthday. When Brice turned thirteen years old, his parents placed him in the preparatory program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where because of his father’s limited means he had to work his way through school. He required only one year of preparatory work before being granted admission as a freshman....

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Bullock, Rufus Brown (28 March 1834–27 April 1907), businessman and Reconstruction governor of Georgia, was born in Bethlehem, New York, the son of Volckert Veeder Bullock, a foundry operator and early promoter of the telegraph through his House Printing Telegraph Company, and Jane Eliza Brown. The family moved to Albion, New York, in 1840; Bullock was educated at Albion Academy....

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Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1625).

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Burnside, Ambrose Everett (23 May 1824–13 September 1881), soldier and businessman, was born in Liberty, Indiana, the son of Pamelia Brown and Edghill Burnside, a law clerk and farmer. The Burnsides had nine children and only a modest income, so Ambrose received no more than a rudimentary education before starting work as an apprentice tailor in 1840. His father took advantage of a term in the state legislature to have the boy appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which he entered on 1 July 1843. He graduated eighteenth out of thirty-eight cadets in the class of 1847 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery. His battery was serving in the Mexican War, and he joined it in Mexico City, too late to see action. Bored, he gambled away six months’ pay. Further embarrassment was prevented by a posting, in spring 1848, to Fort Adams, Rhode Island....

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Crocker, Alvah (14 October 1801–26 December 1874), manufacturer, railroad promoter, and congressman, was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Crocker and Comfort Jones. His parents were among the founders of the Baptist church in Leominster, and they imparted a strong work ethic to their seven sons, of whom Alvah was the eldest. He went to work at the age of eight in a Leominster paper mill, where he earned twenty-five cents for each twelve-hour day. He received little formal education (one year at Groton Academy at age sixteen), but he read widely on his own, and his letters displayed a bent toward literature and rhetoric. He subsequently worked in other paper mills in Franklin, New Hampshire, and Fitchburg, Massachusetts, before he started his first industrial concern, a paper manufactory in Fitchburg in 1826....

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Chauncey Mitchell Depew. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90755).

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Depew, Chauncey Mitchell (23 April 1834–05 April 1928), public speaker, railroad president, and U.S. senator, was born in Peekskill, New York, the son of Isaac Depew, a shipowner, merchant, and farmer, and Martha Mitchell. After graduating from Peekskill Academy in 1852, Chauncey entered Yale where he forsook the Democratic faith of his father and sided with the antislavery forces of the newly created Republican party. After receiving his diploma in 1856, young Depew began the study of law in the office of a Peekskill attorney and was admitted to the bar in 1858. That same year he was a delegate to the Republican State Convention, and in 1862 and 1863 he served in the New York state legislature, becoming a leader of the GOP caucus during his second session. In 1863 he was elected New York’s secretary of state, a post he held for two years. Throughout this period he developed a reputation as a campaign speaker who could sway a crowd in support of the Republican cause. In an age when oratorical skill was a prerequisite to political success, his gift for speaking proved an invaluable asset....

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Drake, Francis Marion (30 December 1830–20 November 1903), army officer, railroad promoter and executive, and governor of Iowa, was born in the western Illinois hamlet of Rushville, the son of John Adams Drake, a merchant and small-time capitalist, and Harriet Jane O’Neal. Drake grew up in a family of modest means. In 1837 his father relocated the family to the raw frontier settlement of Fort Madison, Iowa, then part of Wisconsin Territory. The Drakes stayed in this Mississippi River community until March 1846, when they moved to inland Davis County. There Francis’s father founded the town of Drakesville and pursued agricultural and banking interests. Like his thirteen brothers and sisters Francis received rudimentary formal education. He attended public schools in Fort Madison, although he never graduated from high school. But Drake expanded his knowledge through his own initiative; he read widely and enthusiastically and associated with “learned” people....

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Evans, George (12 January 1797–06 April 1867), lawyer, politician, and businessman, was born in Hallowell, Maine, the son of Daniel Evans and Joanna Hains. After attending Hallowell and Monmouth academies, Evans went to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, graduating in 1815. He remained so interested in Bowdoin that for the rest of his life he attended each subsequent commencement except for one. Evans read law in the office of Frederick Allen, was admitted to the bar in 1818, and began his law practice in Gardiner, Maine, before returning briefly to Hallowell. He won distinction as a criminal lawyer who could discern immediately the point on which his case would be decided and who appealed to the jury through reason rather than passion. In 1820 he married Ann Dearborn; they had three children....

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Gadsden, James (15 May 1788–26 December 1858), soldier, politician, and railroad executive, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Philip Gadsden, and Catherine Edwards. He was the grandson of Christopher Gadsden, a merchant and revolutionary leader. Like his older brothers, he attended Yale, from which he was graduated in 1806. After leaving Yale he returned to Charleston and became a merchant. Gadsden married Susanne Gibbs Hort; the couple had no children....

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Guthrie, James (05 December 1792–13 March 1869), secretary of the treasury, U.S. senator, and businessman, was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Adam Guthrie, a planter and politician, and Hannah Polk. Educated at the McAllister Academy in Bardstown, he subsequently worked on Mississippi River flatboats. After reading law with ...

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W. Averell Harriman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105320 ).

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Harriman, W. Averell (15 November 1891–26 July 1986), businessman and government official, was born William Averell Harriman in New York City, the son of the railroad organizer Edward H. Harriman and Mary Averell (Mary Williamson Averell Harriman). He spent his early years in New York and on the family estate of Arden in the nearby Ramapo Mountains. He was educated at Groton and Yale. Harriman did poorly in preparatory studies, which brought admonishment from his father, and it is possible that his stammer, which he carried throughout his long life, resulted from this experience. At Yale he did better academically, and excelled socially....

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Hayne, Robert Young (10 November 1791–24 September 1839), U.S. senator, governor of South Carolina, and railroad president, was born on the Pon Pon rice plantation in the Colleton District of South Carolina, the fifth of fourteen children born to William Hayne, a planter and one of the youngest members of South Carolina’s 1790 constitutional convention, and Elizabeth Peronneau. Owing to the large number of children in the Hayne family, a formal education for Robert was not feasible. After his initial years of educational preparation under Mr. William Mason and Dr. John Smith in Charleston, Hayne studied law in the office of State Senator ...

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Jewett, Hugh Judge (01 July 1817–06 March 1898), lawyer, railroad president, and Democratic politician, was born at his family’s homestead, “Landsdowne,” in Deer Creek, Harford County, Maryland, the son of John Jewett and Susannah Judge, farmers. A graduate of Hopewell Academy in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Jewett attended Hiram (Ohio) College and studied law in the office of Colonel John C. Groome in Elkton, Maryland. In 1838 he was admitted to the Maryland bar and moved to St. Clairsville, Ohio. Jewett was married in 1841 to Sarah Jane Ellis of St. Clairsville, with whom he had four children. After briefly practicing law with Judge William Kennon, he removed to Zanesville, Muskingum County, in 1848. In Zanesville Jewett gained a reputation as an honest but astute lawyer with an ability to handle cases involving complex financial questions. Jewett’s talent for financial problem solving impressed local banking interests and led to his election as president of the Muskingum County branch of the State Bank of Ohio in 1852. After the death of his first wife, Sarah Jane, Jewett married Sarah Elizabeth (Guthrie) Kelly in 1853, with whom he had three children....