Huntington, Collis Potter, 1821-1900Alternative names
Collis P. Huntington was President of the Southern Pacific Railroad at the time this letter was written (1892). He tells his Fresno District Superintendent, James L. Frazier, that he is glad the latter's family is comfortably situated in the Pollaskey house, Fresno.
From the description of Huntington correspondence, 1892. (University of the Pacific). WorldCat record id: 36847465
Financier and railroad executive.
From the description of Papers of Collis Potter Huntington, 1797-1901. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71070495
Collis P. Huntington was born on October 22, 1821, in Harwinton, Connecticut, the sixth of nine children of Elizabeth and William Huntington. After a brief and perfunctory education, he was apprenticed at age fourteen to a neighboring farmer and the following year to a local grocer. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, he was an itinerant note collector in the South.
In 1842, Huntington purchased a partnership in his brother's hardware store in Oneonta, New York. It was here that he married Elizabeth Stoddard in 1844. In 1849, he went to California by way of Panama with a group of Oneontans. He entered the hardware business in Sacramento, and by 1855 was joined by Mark Hopkins in the hardware firm of Huntington & Hopkins, one of the largest of its kind on the West Coast. This partnership lasted until 1867.
With Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, a dealer in dry goods, and Leland Stanford, a grocer, Huntington was one of the founders of California's Republican Party. He worked for the admission of California as a free state in 1850, and later supported Abraham Lincoln for president.
A Railroad Tycoon
Huntington's railroad career began in 1861 when he, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and others formed the Central Pacific Railroad Company. In 1862 the company received a loan from the Federal government to build the western end of the first transcontinental railroad. A further incentive was provided in 1864 when Congress promised to give the company 12,800 acres of adjoining Federal lands for each mile of track laid; the Central Pacific received some 9,497,600 acres. Finally in May, 1869, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific connected in Utah and the first transcontinental railroad was completed.
In December, 1862, Huntington moved to New York City to serve as financier, purchasing agent, legal adviser, and Washington lobbyist for the Central Pacific. As soon as the transcontinental line was completed, Huntington began to purchase twenty-three separate railroad companies in California. Although he thought of selling his Central Pacific stock in 1871, he was already far too involved in building and acquiring transportation systems to quit the field. The financial panic of 1873 put him under great financial strain, but neither he nor the Central Pacific defaulted on their loans.
In the late 1870's Huntington was instrumental in financing and building the Southern Pacific system. Completed in 1883, the Southern Pacific ran from California to New Orleans. Eventually the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific systems were consolidated into one transcontinental railroad company with 9,000 miles of tracks and 16,000 miles of water transportation systems. Huntington succeeded Leland Stanford as president of the Southern Pacific Company in 1890. In 1892, Henry E. Huntington, Collis' nephew, became vice-president of the company and increasingly carried on his uncle's business enterprises.
During the building of the Southern Pacific, Huntington also served as president and director of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company. When this company was sold at a foreclosure sale in 1878, Huntington purchased the road and continued to manage it until 1888 when he sold his shares and the company was reorganized. The eastern terminus of the Chesapeake & Ohio was Newport News, Virginia, where Huntington later established the Chesapeake Dry Dock & Construction Company. The western terminus of the road was Huntington, West Virginia. Both of these cities, built under the supervision of Huntington, were built on property owned by land companies controlled by Huntington.
A Baron of Finance and Political Lobbying
Huntington's financial interests in railroads, steamship companies, land companies, as well as many manufacturing and construction companies, made him an extremely powerful financial figure. His influence an Congress was considerable. As such, during his thirty-nine years as a railroad financier and builder, Huntington faced opposition from both Congress and the press. In 1887, for instance, the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawed rebates, while the United States Pacific Railway Commission was investigating to determine whether Leland Stanford and Huntington had used bribery with Congressmen to obtain favorable railroad legislation. These charges were never proved. Huntington was such an adroit lobbyist that he could obtain preferential legislation at the same time as he was being investigated by Congress.
Philanthropy is an aspect of Huntington's life which is little known. He established the Huntington Industrial Works at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, of which he was a trustee. He financially aided Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute. Huntington was an avid book collector and connoisseur of fine art. His art collection was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His fortune went into the founding of such institutions as the Henry E. Huntington Library, the Hispanic Society of America, and the Mariners' Museum.
In September, 1844, Huntington married Elizabeth Stoddard. Having no children of their own, they adopted Mrs. Huntington's niece, Clara Prentice, later the Princess Clara von Hatzveldt. Elizabeth Huntington died in 1883 and in 1884 Huntington married Mrs. Arabella Duval Yarrington Worsham and adopted her son, Archer Milton. Collis P. Huntington died suddenly on August 13, 1900, at the age of seventy-nine. Arabella Huntington later married her late husband's nephew, Henry E. Huntington, and died in New York on September 16, 1924.
From the guide to the Collis Potter Huntington Papers, 1797-1904, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|San Francisco (Calif.)|
|Panama, Isthmus of (Panama)|
|United States, History, 1865-1898.|
|United States, Politics and government, 19th century.|
|United States, Social life and customs, 19th century.|
|Business and industry|
|Capitalists and financiers--United States|
|Upper class--United States|
|Will--Huntington, Collis Potter, 1821-1900|
|Railroad law--United States|
|Railroads and state--United States|
|Palaces, United States|
|Voyages to the Pacific coast|
|Capitalists and financiers|