George Westinghouse George Westinghouse Jr. Westinghouse saw the potential in alternating current as an electricity distribution system in the early s and put all his resources into developing and marketing it, a move that put his business in direct competition with the Edison direct current system. In Westinghouse received the AIEE's Edison Medal "For meritorious achievement in connection with the development of the alternating current system.
From his youth, he was talented at business. At the age of fifteen, as the Civil War broke out, Westinghouse enlisted in the New York National Guard and served until his parents urged him to return home. In April he persuaded his parents to allow him to re-enlist, whereupon he joined Company M of the 16th New York Cavalry and earned promotion to the rank of corporal.
After his military discharge in August , he returned to his family in Schenectady and enrolled at Union College. However, he dropped out in his first term there. Westinghouse was 19 years old when he created the rotary steam engine, he devised the Westinghouse Farm Engine. At age 21 he invented a "car replacer", a device to guide derailed railroad cars back onto the tracks, a reversible frog , a device used with a railroad switch to guide trains onto one of two tracks. At about this time, he witnessed a train wreck where two engineers saw one another, but were unable to stop their trains in time using the existing brakes.
Brakemen had to run from car to car, on catwalks atop the cars, applying the brakes manually on each car. In , at age 22, Westinghouse invented a railroad braking system using compressed air. The Westinghouse system used a compressor on the locomotive, a reservoir and a special valve on each car, a single pipe running the length of the train which both refilled the reservoirs and controlled the brakes, allowing the engineer to apply and release the brakes on all cars, it is a failsafe system, in that any rupture or disconnection in the train pipe will apply the brakes throughout the train.
It was patented by Westinghouse on October 28, ; the Westinghouse Air Brake Company was subsequently organized to manufacture and sell Westinghouse's invention. It was in time nearly universally adopted by railways. Modern trains use brakes in various forms based on this design; the same conceptual design of fail-safe air brake is found on heavy trucks.
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Westinghouse pursued many improvements in railway signals. In he founded the Union Switch and Signal Company to manufacture his signaling and switching inventions. Westinghouse's interests in gas distribution and telephone switching led him to become interested in the new field of electrical power distribution in the early s.
Electric lighting was a growing business with many companies building outdoor direct current and alternating current arc lighting based street lighting systems and Thomas Edison launching the first DC electric utility designed to light homes and businesses with his patented incandescent bulb. In Westinghouse started developing his own DC domestic lighting system and hired physicist William Stanley to work on it. Westinghouse became aware of the new European alternating current systems in when he read about them in the UK technical journal Engineering.
AC had the ability to be "stepped up" in voltage by a transformer for distribution long distances and "stepped down" by a transformer for consumer use allowing large centralized power plants to supply electricity long distance in cities with more disperse populations. This was an advantage over the low voltage DC systems being marketed by Thomas Edison's electric utility which had a limited range due to the low voltages used. Westinghouse saw AC's potential to achieve greater economies of scale as way to build a competitive system instead of building another competitive DC lighting system using patents just different enough to get around the Edison patents.
Stanley, assisted by engineers Albert Schmid and Oliver B. Shallenberger , developed the Gaulard—Gibbs transformer design into the first practical transformer. In , with Westinghouse's backing, Stanley installed the first multiple-voltage AC power system in Great Barrington, Massachusetts , a demonstration lighting system driven by a hydroelectric generator that produced volts AC stepped down to volts to light incandescent bulbs in homes and businesses. The Westinghouse company installed 30 more AC-lighting systems within a year and by the end of it had 68 alternating current power stations to Edison's DC-based stations; this competition with Edison led in the late s to what has been called the " War of Currents " with Thomas Edison and his company joining in with a spreading public perception th.
Homestead strike The Homestead strike known as the Homestead Steel strike, Pinkerton rebellion, or Homestead massacre, was an industrial lockout and strike which began on July 1, , culminating in a battle between strikers and private security agents on July 6, The battle was one of the most violent disputes in U. The dispute occurred at the Homestead Steel Works in the Pittsburgh area town of Homestead, between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and the Carnegie Steel Company ; the final result was a major defeat for the union of strikers and a setback for their efforts to unionize steelworkers.
Carnegie Steel made major technological innovations in the s the installation of the open-hearth system at Homestead in , it now became possible to make steel suitable for structural beams and for armor plate for the United States Navy , which paid far higher prices for the premium product. In addition, the plant moved toward the continuous system of production.
Carnegie installed vastly improved systems of material-handling, like overhead cranes, charging machines, buggies. All of this sped up the process of steelmaking , allowed the production of vastly larger quantities of the product; as the mills expanded, the labor force grew especially with less skilled workers. In response, the more-skilled union members reacted with a strike designed to protect their historic position; the bitterness grew between workers.
The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers was an American labor union formed in , it was a craft union representing skilled steel workers. The AA's membership was concentrated in ironworks west of the Allegheny Mountains ; the union negotiated national uniform wage scales on an annual basis. It acted as a hiring hall, helping employers find scarce puddlers and rollers; the AA organized the independently-owned Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Works in Homestead in The AA engaged in a bitter strike at the Homestead works on January 1, in an effort to prevent management from including a non-union clause in the workers' contracts, known as a " yellow-dog contract ".
Violence occurred on both sides, the plant brought in numerous strikebreakers. The strike ended on March 20 in a complete victory for the union; the AA struck the steel plant again on July 1, , when negotiations for a new three-year collective bargaining agreement failed.
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The strikers once again made common cause with various immigrant groups. Backed by 2, townspeople, the strikers drove off a trainload of strikebreakers on July 10; when the sheriff returned with newly deputized agents two days the strikers rallied 5, townspeople to their cause. Although victorious, the union agreed to significant wage cuts that left tonnage rates less than half those at the nearby Jones and Laughlin works, where technological improvements had not been made.
Carnegie officials conceded that the AA ran the Homestead plant after the strike; the union contract contained 58 pages of footnotes defining work-rules at the plant and limited management's ability to maximize output. For its part, the AA saw substantial gains after the strike. The Homestead union grew belligerent, relationships between workers and managers grew tense; the Homestead strike was organized and purposeful, a harbinger of the type of strike which marked the modern age of labor relations in the United States.
The AA strike at the Homestead steel mill in was different from previous large-scale strikes in American history such as the Great railroad strike of or the Great Southwest Railroad Strike of Earlier strikes had been leaderless and disorganized mass uprisings of workers. Andrew Carnegie placed industrialist Henry Clay Frick in charge of his company's operations in Frick resolved to break the union at Homestead.
Carnegie was publicly in favor of labor unions, he condemned the use of strikebreakers and told associates that no steel mill was worth a single drop of blood.
But Carnegie agreed with Frick's desire to break the union and "reorganize the whole affair, and Far too many men required by Amalgamated rules. He drafted a notice withdrawing recognition of the union. With the collective bargaining agreement due to expire on June 30, , Frick and the leaders of the local AA union entered into negotiations in February.
With the steel industry doing well and prices higher, the AA asked for a wage increase. Carnegie encouraged Frick to use the negotiations to break the union: " These works, will be non-union after the expiration of the present agreement. It admitted only a small group of skilled workers. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Cornelius Vanderbilt. John D. Andrew Carnegie. The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November Archived from the original on December 2, Retrieved December 3, History original documentary films and miniseries. Categories : American television series debuts History U. TV channel original programs s American drama television miniseries Television series about the history of the United States American television docudramas.
Hidden categories: CS1 errors: deprecated parameters Pages using infobox television with editor parameter. Revision History. Pipeline transport. Related Images. YouTube Videos. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person's experience of these life events. Physician Jared Linsly testifying as to the mental and physical condition of Cornelius Vanderbilt during court proceedings surrounding the challenge to his will.
From an illustration in Harper's Weekly. John Davison Rockefeller Sr. He is widely considered the wealthiest American of all time, and the richest person in modern history. Rockefeller's birthplace in Richford, New York. Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist, business magnate, and philanthropist. Birthplace of Andrew Carnegie in Dunfermline , Scotland. Morgan's role in the economy was denounced as overpowering in this political cartoon. Morgan by Art Young. Cartoon relating to the answer Morgan gave when asked whether he disliked competition at the Pujo Committee. Morgan, photographed by Edward Steichen in Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman, who has been described as America's greatest inventor.
Extravagant displays of electric lights quickly became a feature of public events, as in this picture from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Thomas A. Edison Industries Exhibit, Primary Battery section, Share of the Edison Storage Battery Company, issued October Henry Ford was an American captain of industry and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Time magazine, January 14, Beginning in , he emerged as a dominant force in the Democratic Party, standing three times as the party's nominee for President of the United States.
Henry Clay Frick was an American industrialist, financier, union-buster, and art patron. He founded the H. Berkman's attempt to assassinate Frick, as illustrated by W. Snyder in , originally published in Harper's Weekly. Jason "Jay" Gould was a leading American railroad developer and speculator. He has been portrayed as one of the ruthless robber barons of the Gilded Age, whose success at business made him one of the richest men of his era.
Keystone Marker for Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania , named after Gould. Rutherford B. Part of this is that the time period is more interesting to me, but in addition, the book covers every angle imaginable for the Biltmore and the family behind its legacy. I live in the region, so there's a local angle too, but Kiernan provides a great glimpse of how the lived, George and Edith Vanderbilt in particular.
Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Renehan Jr. Only 1 left in stock - order soon. Commodore Vanderbilt has always been a mystery to me. I felt this book was well researched, interesting, and easy to read. It seemed to give the full and accurate picture of his life. Only 11 left in stock more on the way. Juan Liska Guatemala. Like most modern, internet-age text, the writer's prose is very simple.
Quotes from filibusters make evident that language has become lost color over time. He uses a few annoying modern ready-made phrases, such as "in order to physically reintroduce slavery". Physically makes no sense there, but nowadays it's often used common parlance in stead of more meaningful words. Queen of the Golden Age. Graham Ohio. I love everything Vanderbilt! This book was just excellent.
I have read many of the stories before but I truly enjoyed reading this story written by Grace Vanderbilt's son Neil. Excellent book!!!!!!!!!!! Too brief. I thought it would be more informative and ensightful. Was more of a term paper than a book. I was disappointed. The qualityy of the paper was good, for a paper but not a book.
The best book ever written on this episode of Wall Street history. Well researched, very interesting and highly entertaining. A line between Syracuse and Utica opened in , as did the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad further to the west toward Bualo. The next line west, the Auburn and Rochester, chartered in , began service in Four other small railroads followed, completing the links to Bualo in ; it now became possible to travel the entire distance The trip took thirty hours over seven separate railroads, required changing cars more than six times, and carried a one-way fare of between eight and ten dollars.
Despite the inconvenience of changing railroads, passenger trac between Albany and Buffalo grew phenomenally, because even thirty hours with six changes represented a vast improvement over the ten or more days aboard a foulsmelling barge on the Erie Canal. Both management and investors in the new railroads recognized the logic of consolidation. Increased trac would follow if a single railroad provided direct service; ticketing, billing, and convenience for the traveling public would improve signicantly.
At a meeting in Albany in February of , representatives of all the railroads gathered to discuss a merger. After some tough bargaining, they agreed to petition the New York State legislature for enabling legislation to merge the separate lines into a single railroad between Albany and Bualo. The New York legislature authorized consolidation on April 2, Acting swiftly, the railroads met again on April 12th, to work out the details. Formal incorporation of this conglomerate, the New York Central system, took place on July 6, , after some hard bargaining among the ten railroads over the number of New York Central shares each would receive in exchange for their own shares.
A number of the railroads, well built and quite protable, demanded a premium in the exchange of stock. Erastus Corning, the former mayor of Albany and president of the Utica and Schenectady Railroad, provided the driving force behind the consolidation and became the New York Centrals rst president. Corning, a long-time power in New York Democratic politics, maintained varied business interests, including the Albany Iron Works, which manufactured wheels and rails for the railroads he controlled.
Like Commodore Vanderbilt, Corning never built railroads: he played the role of organizer and nancier and left the dicult construction problems and day-to-day management to others. The New York Central dominated railroading in upstate New York, but it faced competition for its market. One major competitor proved to be the Erie Railroad, whose name was synonymous with every kind of shady railroad dealing of the age.
The Eries tracks ran through the hilly regions of northern New Jersey and the less populated southern part of New York State. Because its rst eastern terminus was in tiny Piermont, on the west bank of the Hudson, some ten miles north of New York City, passengers and freight were transferred to a ferry to complete the trip down the Hudson River to the city.
Dunkirk proved to be a poor choice, given that the Erie Canal had already established Bualo as the major eastern terminus for Great Lakes shipping. The Erie eventually bought track rights into Buffalo but remained the weakest of the trunk lines between the East Coast and the Midwest. Drew, Fisk, Gould, and other Erie investors focused their energy on stock manipulation and raids on the railroads treasury rather than on the more mundane day-to-day world of railroading. They readily initiated rate wars to win a greater share of the lucrative through trac, even at the cost of further weakening the Erie by diverting revenue The line remained in precarious nancial shape, even after creeping closer to Manhattan by securing track rights to Jersey City, but that did not stop Drew and company from further scal machinations.
Despite its lesser status, the Erie created problems for the New York Central for decades. As business prospered in the s, the Centrals management faced a crucial decision: whether or not to expand westward to capture a share of the lucrative Great Lakes trac between Chicago and Bualo. While the managers were pondering this, the Centrals chief rival, the Pennsylvania, led by a true railroad builder and innovator, J. Edgar Thomson, continued track construction past Pittsburgh toward Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest.
For the eastern railroads, expansion to the Midwest proved crucial to nancial survival. Chicago, by the fastest-growing city on the face of the earth, emerged as the great metropolis of the American heartland. The railroad that established the most ecient rail link to Chicago and the other major cities beyond the Appalachians stood to prosper.
All four major trunk lines, the Central, the Pennsylvania, the. Baltimore and Ohio, and the Erie, sought to dominate this major transportation market. Despite the growing competition from the dynamic Pennsylvania, Corning and New York Central moved cautiously. Tentatively, the railroad began to purchase some stock in railroads to the west, including the Great Western Railroad, which ran from the Centrals bridge over the Niagara River at the falls, across the southern tip of the Province of Ontario, to Detroit.
The railroad also purchased stock in the Michigan Central Railroad, building across Michigan from Detroit toward Chicago. Even given these cautious expansion moves, under Cornings leadership the New York Central remained very much an upstate New York railroad. Further, the Central still did not oer service into New York City. At Albany, passengers and freight transferred to the Hudson River steamboat lines for the ninety-mile trip down the river to New York.
The New York Central would have to wait for the leadership of Cornelius Vanderbilt and his son William Henry Vanderbilt before it would possess the energy and imagination to go head to head with the Pennsylvania to dominate the rich Midwest market. Vanderbilts interest stemmed from his frustration as he watched Cornings New York Central send a growing volume of passengers and freight down the Hudson River by steamboat while the trains of his Hudson River Railroad stood waiting just across the river. To increase Vanderbilts anger further, the Central favored the steamships of the Peoples Line, owned by his archrival Daniel Drew.
If, instead, the Central were to construct a bridge across the Hudson to connect with Vanderbilts line, his Hudson River Railroad would enjoy a dramatic increase in year-round trac. The Commodores competitive nature demanded action, and with his purchase of a major share of the Centrals stock, he expected a seat on the board of directors.
Corning and the other upstate businessmen who dominated the board refused; they remained determined not to let Vanderbilt gain a foothold in their railroad. In time, a number of the directors of the Central expressed strong dissatisfaction with Cornings timid leadership, and in a group of Central shareholders, led by Thomas Olcott of Albany, mounted a challenge to Corning, with Vanderbilts tacit support. Corning realized that he lacked the support to keep Vanderbilt at bay and decided instead to cooperate. He agreed to step down from the presidency of the Central but remained on the board of directors.
Dean Richmond of Bualo became president and immediately obtained board approval to build a bridge over the Hudson, establishing a direct rail link with Vanderbilts Hudson River Railroad. With the completion of the bridge, the volume of trac over the Hudson River Railroad increased dramatically. Not satised, Commodore Vanderbilt and William Henry Vanderbilt, who by now had become a full partner in his fathers railroad interests, began discussions with the Central toward a formal merger with their Hudson River Railroad.
As talk of the merger spread, the stock of both companies rose. All seemed to be moving smoothly ahead when, once again, Daniel Drew entered the picture. Drews steamboat line stood to lose a great deal of business if the merger of the two railroads proceeded, and he itched to get back at the Commodore for outfoxing him in the two Harlem corners.
Daniel Drew and William Fargo, a founder of Wells, Fargo and Company and a board member and major stockholder in the Central, decided to mount another short-selling raid, this time against the stock of the Central. Lockwood and Keep, like Drew, held longstanding grudges against Vanderbilt from earlier railroad deals in which the crafty Commodore had gotten the best of them.
The conspirators hatched a simple plan. Fargo would use his power on the Central board to kill the merger with the Hudson River Railroad. Before the news became public Fargo, Keep, Lockwood, and Drew would Once again, Vanderbilt learned of the scheme and plotted a countermove. First, the Commodore quickly sold 60, shares of his Central stock before the price went down. His next move required the assistance of weather. January 15, , dawned cold and blustery; the frozen Hudson River prevented any shipments from Albany to New York City via the river.
Drews steamboats could oer no further assistance to the Central until the river thawed in the spring. Vanderbilt placed advertisements in the major Albany and New York City newspapers announcing that the Hudson River Railroad would no longer accept transfer passengers or freight from the New York Central. The advertisement closed with the statement: By the above notice passengers will observe that the erie railway is the only route by which they can reach new york from Bualo without change of coaches or rechecking of baggage.
For three days passengers and freight piled up at Albany; the alternative route proved much too complicated. In the state legislature calls rang out for action to force Vanderbilt to reopen the link between the two railroads. The stock of the Central plummeted before Drew, Fargo, Keep, and Lockwood could sell, and they all lost a great deal of money.
As soon as the stock bottomed out, Vanderbilt bought back the original 60, shares he had sold earlier. Public outcry, as well as pressure from the Centrals own stockholders, forced the directors of the Central to deal with Vanderbilt. The Commodore agreed to restore the free ow of trac between the Central and the Hudson railroads, Central stock shot back up, and Vanderbilt collected yet another fortune. By , he completed his conquest of the Central by assuming the oce of president. Fargo, Keep, and their supporters departed, replaced on the board of directors by Vanderbilt family members and close associates.
William H. In , the railroads were With track stretching from New York City to Bualo, it became the second largest railroad in the country; only the Pennsylvania rivaled the Central. An immensely complicated business emerged. Suddenly freight volume and ticket sales in Bualo became crucial pieces of information to the railroads senior management in New York City, hundreds of miles away. Elaborate schedules demanded standardized track maintenance so that a train dispatched from New York arrived on time in Bualo.
If a manufacturer in the Midwest shipped goods by train to Manhattan via the Central for loading onto a ship bound for Europe, the railroad needed proper paperwork to bill the manufacturer and, simultaneously, ensure that the goods reached the wharfs lining the Hudson River. A new system for managing routine activities like billing and routing guaranteed that they occurred regularlynot just at the station of origin, but at every stationnot just once, but every day.
Such a system demanded not just the eorts of one or two trained individuals but of thousands.
All of this routine repeated each day, each week, each year. The world of modern business arrived with the consolidation of Vanderbilts railroads. In the space of six brief years, beginning with the purchase of the Harlem Railroad in and concluding with the merger of the Central and Hudson in , Vanderbilt assembled a sprawling railroad empire. With this stunning achievement, he became one of the most powerful gures in American railroading.
His personal fortune reached a stupendous level, and all of this wealth and power had been accumulated by a man approaching seventy-ve years of age. To Chicago As Cornelius Vanderbilt neared the end of his life, the expansion of his railroad system to Chicago and the rest of the Midwest continued and involved the acquisition of the Michigan Central Railroad and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad.
In , he established a community of interest with the Michigan Central Rail By this community of interest agreement, the Michigan Central shipped all of its through trac to New York via the Great Western and the New York Central, guaranteeing the Central substantial trac from the Midwest. With this extension of rail service came innovations in passenger travel.
Modern rail passenger service began in when William H. For the rst time, one railroad oered through service from the East Coast to the Midwest. With comfortable sleeping cars, a passenger could ride on the Vanderbilt System the nine hundred miles from Manhattan to downtown Chicago, quickly and in relative comfort, without changing trains. In the meantime, the Vanderbilts moved to acquire another railroad that would strengthen ties to the Midwest.
Serving the booming industrial cities of northern Ohio, the Lake Shore, well built and crossing the at land of Ohio and Indiana, could be a money-making machine. Eventually extending to Chicago, the rails literally followed a water-level route; and with no serious grades to overcome, its speedy trains carried passengers and freight at low rates and yet generated strong prots.
The Lake Shore would add immeasurably to the Vanderbilt system, especially since the Pennsylvania Railroads trunk line, already past Pittsburgh, was marching on toward Chicago. That opportunity arose on Black Friday in September of , when Jim Fisk and Jay Gould attempted to corner the gold market and failed, ruining many speculators, including LeGrand Lockwood. Desperate to raise money, Lockwood, the principal shareholder, agreed to sell his shares in the Lake With the acquisition of the Lake Shore, the Vanderbilts completed their trunk line system to Chicago and other critical points in the Midwest.
As expansion of the Vanderbilt system continued over the next thirty years, New York Centrals organizational chart became increasingly complicated. The Central expanded by leasing railroads, as in the case of the Boston and Albany, or through majority stock ownership, as with the Lake Shore. All of the newly acquired railroads remained independent corporate entities with separate management. The Vanderbilts and their allies controlled these railroads through their positions on the boards of directors and through their choice of senior managers. On a day-to-day basis, the individual railroads did not coordinate operational eorts.
Each railroad in the Vanderbilt system managed its own operations and kept separate books. Contributions to the overall nances of the Central came through remission of revenue and payment of stock dividends. Revenue generated by the leased or controlled lines, recorded as nonoperating revenue, formed an important component of the Centrals overall nancial resources.
An alternative would have been to absorb the new railroads directly into the New York Central and operate them as additional divisions. The Pennsylvania Railroad proceeded in this fashion. As the Pennsylvania. Failure to consolidate remained a serious problem into the next century. At a meeting of the executive committee of the board of directors in December of , William K. He suggested that a committee of the board of directors be formed with a view of formulating a plan for the closer relations of the companies forming the New York Central System.
The task before the committee was a daunting one; the Vanderbilt system formed a complex and unruly monster. Next on the list, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Yet the New York Central itself and the lines it directly controlled accounted for only 3, miles of track, less than one-third of the systems total, by virtue of legal intricacies. For example, the Harlem Railroad retained a separate corporate identity after the New York Central leased the railroad, for a period of years, in The Vanderbilts completely controlled the Harlem and operated it as an integral part of the Centrals operations in New York.
The Commodores Grand Central While assembling his great railroad empire, Commodore Vanderbilt decided that the Vanderbilt system, among the largest business enterprises in the country, needed an appropriate passenger terminal in the heart of New York. He envisioned a terminal with style and panache, proclaiming to all New York the power and might of his vast rail empire. Vanderbilt chose to unify the passenger operations of his railroads in the city at the Harlem Railroads property on 42nd Street. Even Vanderbilts supporters cautioned him that the 42nd Street area was still well outside the city; in the s, 42nd Street lay north of the citys main commercial and residential areas.
Also, at the time, the spot did not seem the proper environment for a passenger station. On one side of 42nd Street the engine house, where the Harlem serviced its steam engines, sent up a pall of smoke; on the other, gangs of horses worked in treadmills cutting wood for hungry re boxes. Historian Edward Hungerford described the reaction to the Commodores plans: People would never come up to Forty-second Street. Vanderbilt ignored the warnings and, in his typical fashion, pushed forward.
He realized that his Hudson River Railroads passenger terminal on the west side of lower Manhattan at St. Johns Park occupied the wrong location. The west side of Manhattan had evolved as a more commercial than residential area and the Hudsons tracks on the west side primarily served the growing volume of freight carried to the businesses and piers lining the Hudson River. In , before Vanderbilt entered the picture, the Harlem had signed a four-hundred-year lease with the New Haven allowing joint use of the Harlems Fourth Avenue tracks and guaranteeing the New Havens passenger trains joint use of its station facilities in Manhattan.
Commodore Vanderbilts intentions for a new passenger terminal at 42nd Street ran to the palatial; he commissioned architect John Snook and engineer Isaac Buckhout to design a structure to celebrate his triumphs in assembling a railroad empire. The design they produced set out to awe the traveler and the casual visitor with the power and glory of the Vanderbilt railroad empire. Formally called Grand Central Depot, the structure included an imposing station building at the front and an arched train shed in the rear.
When completed in , Grand Central Depot was the largest rail facility in the world, larger even than Londons St. Pancras Station. Like the present Grand Central, it served as more than a terminal; it symbolized the power of Vanderbilts railroads and the role they played in the life of New York City, the state, and the country.
During the Age of Energy, architects and the powerful clients they served sought an architectural style to express the power and might of the new business enterprises, railroads foremost among them, that were reshaping American society. Vanderbilts vision for the rst Grand Central station began an association with the French Classical style which continued with the second Grand Central.
Lewis Mumford, the famed social critic, referred to the building sarcastically as an Imperial Facade. Forming an L shape, the classical terminal building, bearing a striking resemblance to the Louvre in Paris, ran along 42nd Street for feet, and then turned up Vanderbilt Avenue on the west side of the Harlems property for a depth of almost feet. The three railroads using the facility occupied separate sections of the building, each with its own ticket, baggage, and waiting rooms. Railroad oces occupied the second and third stories.
In the rear, the train shed comprised the most impressive part of the Inspired by Londons Crystal Palace, the train shed consisted of an immense arched structure constructed of iron trusses, imported from England, more than feet in width, creating the largest interior space in America. The arched roof rose to a height of feet above the tracks and the entire shed ran over feet in length. A lattice work of iron with glass panels, the roof enclosed seventeen tracks, twelve for outgoing trains and ve for incoming trains. Using the width of the train shed as a measure, the next largest train station in the country was the second La Salle Street Station in Chicago built , which spanned feet; Park Square Station in Boston had a train shed measuring feet across.
Not until did the Pennsylvania Railroads massive station in Jersey City eclipse Grand Central in size and scale, spanning feet. With an iron and glass train shed and classical station building, Grand Central Depot represented a tension inherent in the use of the classical style for railroad stations during the Age of Energy.
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Railroads embodied the modern, the mechanical, and the application of the newest technology to solve transportation problems. Fabricated in England, the soaring iron arches supporting the train shed constituted the largest arches erected in the United States to date. By contrast, the station building, with its stone and brick ornamentation and the mansard roof with ve domes, mirrored the classical tradition, particularly the classicism of the Second Empire of Napoleon III.
The juxtaposition of the classical and the machine age created a stark contrast. Approaching Grand Central Depot, the traveler confronted a classical building, in this case a building modeled after the Louvre in Paris, which provided no hint of the function hidden behind its Imperial Facade, to use Mumfords term. Passing through the waiting room to the train shed, the traveler entered a great space created without a trace of the classical. Inside it, the new machine age, lled with. The train shed in rear of the terminal building, looking south from 44th Street and Lexington Avenue.
This juxtaposition remains in the present Grand Central, but in order to view it one must descend to the platforms and peer into the darkness of the underground tracks and train yard supported by a massive steel structure enclosed in concrete. By contrast the Grand Concourse remains rmly anchored in the classical. In Europe, where train travel remains a major mode of transportation, a number of terminals retain the avor that was found in Grand Central Depot.
Pancras in London, and the Gare du Nord and the Gare de Lyon in Paris, all combine classical terminal buildings with iron and glass train sheds in the rear. Approaching these stations, the visitor views a classical building with a facade similar to a museum or government oce building. Behind the facade stands the great train shed covering the platforms. At the Gare du Nord the train shed soars overhead in a great arch as did the shed at Grand Central Depot. Today electric and diesel engines operate where steam engines once ruled, but the space, with cast-iron columns and soaring arches, still conveys a sense of the beginning of the machine age.
Grand Central Depot was a terminal, referred to as a head house, as opposed to a side station or through station where platforms lined the tracks and trains stopped briey to discharge or board passengers. The tracks literally ended there. Grand Central marked the end of the line, the nal destination. Once a train reached a head house terminal, train crews shunted the engine and cars to make up outgoing trains. This switching necessitated a great deal of moving cars and engines back and forth, and a head house terminal required a large train yard for the servicing engines and cars and the assembling of outgoing trains.
Beyond the train shed, the railroad built a vast rail yard, running north to 58th Street and stretching from Lexington almost to Madison Avenue, creating an impenetrable barrier in midtown Manhattan for almost twenty blocks. All of this activity contributed to making major terminals and train yards such as Grand Central immensely complicated to design and manage. Busy train yards needed numerous storage tracks, switches, and signals to control incoming and outgoing trains and switching operations, Signaling and control became a major science for the American railroads, and the New York Central established a separate division for the planning, construction, and operation of its signaling system at 42nd Street and throughout its entire system.
Massive new railroad facilities like Grand Central demanded precision, routine, and rigid operating procedures. Employees who worked the trains, signal, and switching systems found themselves part of an elaborate machine the work of which was governed by a strict set of rules and regulations. Individual initiative found little place in this new system of work. Adherence to the established procedures remained an absolute necessity, for reasons of safety and eciency.
With the railroads came the modern industrial world of work where the individual performed routine tasks day in and day out. In the case of the railroads, without strict procedures to control train operations, chaos would ensue. Such a complicated system could only have been the product of the modern world, At Grand Central the ying switch provides an example of the precision of the signal and control system.
Before development of the ying switch, trains arrived at the platforms in a head house terminal like Grand Central with their engines in the front of the train, a railroad worker uncoupled the emptied passenger cars, and a yard engine hauled them away. Then the engine backed away to a turntable in preparation for departure. All of this activity required numerous shunting movements and contributed to the overall complexity of a busy train yard.
To minimize the number of train movements, the railroads using Grand Central perfected the ying switch. As a train emerged from the Park Avenue tunnel at 56th Street, approaching Grand Central, it accelerated; and the brakeman, perched precariously over the coupler linking the engine to the rst passenger car, tripped the coupler and freed the engine, which continued to accelerate.
In the control tower, the switchman pulled the proper lever to send the engine onto a siding and then immediately threw the switch back so that the passenger cars continued on toward the. As the passenger cars moved under the train shed and alongside the platforms, now traveling on their own momentum, the brakemen scrambled to the hand brakes and, turning the brake wheels furiously, brought the passenger cars to a halt in their proper position next to the platform so that passengers could exit the train.
The ying switch saved a great deal of time and switching. Obviously, it required splitsecond timing and great skill on the part of the railroad employees, but the railroads used this procedure until work on the new Grand Central began, without a single mishap, a testimony to the elaborate system of signaling and control perfected by the railroad.
A Symbol of the Age Vanderbilts new 42nd Street terminal became a major tourist attraction, primarily because of the train shed; many New Yorkers could not understand how the arched structure stood, seemingly without support. New York opened its eyes and gasped, the New York Times later recalled. Nothing like it had ever before been seen. It had fteen tracks in its train shed. Some folks said that Commodore Vanderbilt was in his dotage.
Others explained the great depot by saying that the Commodore was simply building a terminal that would last for all time. On October 7, , the rst train departed from the new terminal and the facility proved to be an immediate success. During the rst year of operation, the three railroads ran an average of 88 scheduled trains a day and more than 4,, passengers passed through its gates.
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The new terminal consolidated, in one location, the passenger operations of the railroads serving New York. In addition to extensive commuter service to Westchester and Faireld counties, the lines provided long-distance service to New England, upstate New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and to thousands of points in between. As soon as the new depot opened, the New York Centrals timetable for through service highlighted the fact that the establishment of the Vanderbilt system eliminated the necessity to transfer trains at Bualo. A bold headline read: No More Transfer at Bualo!
In , the timetable listed six daily trains that provided service to upstate New Louis, and Chicago. In subsequent decades, the Central reduced the travel time to Chicago signicantly, especially after the introduction of its world-famous Twentieth Century Limited. Thirty-three and a half hours may seem an eternity today, but in the s to travel such a distance in so short a period of time seemed miraculous.
The New York Centrals schedule reminded the traveling public of the prime advantage the railroad oereddirect rail access to midtown Manhattan: This is the only line landing passengers in the city of New York within ten minutes of the principal hotels and is not impeded by Ferry transfers.
All of the Centrals competitors terminated at points across the Hudson in New Jersey. To complete the journey to Manhattan, their passengers had to board a ferry to cross the Hudson River. For good measure, the Central advertised that the absence of a ferry ride combined with the railroads luxury sleeping cars: renders a journey upon it a pleasant pastime rather than a distasteful necessity.
Grand Central followed logically from the growth of Vanderbilts huge railroad empire. The great rail terminals of the era stood literally at the end of the metropolitan corridor, the end of the journey between rural and urban America. An article published in Century Magazine portrayed the great urban terminal as the port of entry to the city: The gate-way of the city marks the beginning and end of many things. Here the traditional young man from the country is confronted by a confused view of the city he has come to conquer.
Here again, after conquering, or being conquered he slowly retraces his youthful steps, to retire upon his farmor the A powerful image in American letters depicts a youth moving from a rural farm or small town to the big city, seeking fame or fortune or just a change from the boredom and sheer hard work of life on the farm. This journey of adventure, or perhaps desperation, ends in the great terminal in the heart of the metropolis.
As the train arrives, the protagonist confronts the energy and chaos of the new urban society. In the end, the journey results in either great triumph or great tragedy, as the author of the Century article suggests. Great railroad terminals like Grand Central provided the stage for this unfolding drama, as a rural, agrarian society urbanized. In , as a new century dawned, the editor of the Commercial and Financial Chronicle summed it up: The fact is the railroad revolutionized everything.
No aspect of American life remained unaected by the railroads in the period after the Civil War; the railroad ushered in Americas modern age. Louis, the Commodore entered the twilight of life. His health deteriorated and his behavior at times seemed bizarre. His rst wife, Sophia, died in , in the midst of the battles for his railroad empire. After his wifes death, the old man became obsessed with the occult and consorted with a number of mediums in attempts to contact Sophia and his long-dead mother and father.
In his dealings with the occult he crossed paths with Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Clain, two mediums with questionable reputations and unlimited ambition, who set out to ensnare the Commodore and his fortune. Woodhull and Clain remain larger-than-life characters in the drama of the Gilded Age.
Born in Tennessee to a drunkard and wastrel father, they survived and even ourished on their beauty, wit, and charm. Woodhull, in addition to a career as a medium, became the rst woman to address a joint session of Congress, served as the editor of her own weekly newspaper, Woodhull and Clains Weekly, which championed womens rights, free love, and the suragette movement, and, with Vanderbilts help, opened a stock brokerage company. Woodhull ran for pres Grant and Horace Greeley and became involved in one of the most notorious scandals of the time Henry Ward Beechers aair with Elizabeth Tilton.
Finally, after a number of tumultuous years in New York, Victoria and Tennessee decamped to England, where they married into the British nobility and retired to the English countryside, rich and somewhat infamous. As Vanderbilts relationship with the sisters deepened, his family became alarmed. Victoria and Tennessee became part of the Commodores household; he called Tennessee my little sparrow. Sordid details of his relationship with Tennessee later emerged, during the bitter contest over Vanderbilts will.
Just a few short months after his wifes death, he had announced to his stunned family that his little sparrow would soon become his new wife. This William Henry and the Commodores daughters refused to accept. In late fall of they arranged for Vanderbilt to meet a much more suitable candidate, Miss Frank Crawford of Mobile, Alabama, a distant cousin.
With the familys approval, the two began a whirlwind courtship. Frank Crawford, twenty-nine years old, married the seventy-four-year-old Vanderbilt a year later and remained with him for the last seven years of his life. Commodore Vanderbilt died on January 4, , after a long illness.
At the time of his death, many assumed Vanderbilt to be the richest man in the country, and intense speculation swirled through society about his will and the division of the fortune between his two living sons, William Henry and Cornelius Jeremiah. His remaining children, all daughters, in an age when women were still excluded from business, could not expect to inherit the Commodores railroad empire.
Vanderbilt left almost his entire fortune to William. The elder Vanderbilt had believed in only one way to preserve his railroad empire: leave it all to his most promising heir. Cornelius, the other surviving son, had proved a great disappointment to his father. A gambler and wastrel, he had been exiled to a farm outside of Hartford, Connecticut, where the Commodore hoped he would reform. When Cornelius continued to