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tv   Transcontinental Railroad and the Big Four  CSPAN  June 1, 2021 4:53pm-5:40pm EDT

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mark the linking of the pacific central railroad from the east and a summit in the utah tertour. territory. the railroad was complete. next stanford university professor tells the story of the four key investors in the project nicknamed and often as satirized as the big four. mr. white is the author of "railroaded." >> good morning, everyone. 150 years ago, tracks of the central pacific railroad from the west and the union pacific railroad from the east met a promitory summit in utah territory. it was here on may 10th, 1869 that leyland stanford drove the last spike, also known as the gold spike, joining the rails of the transcontinental railroad
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and forever linking stanford university to this transformation event and the changes it brought to california and the nation. the completion of the transcontinental railroad connected the vast expanse of the united states with safe and convenient transport, reducing coast-to-coast travel from six months down to one week. in addition, the railroad provoked social change through migration, economic growth in the introduction of chinese labor to the west. while at the same time delivering a death blow to the way of life of the plains indians. another of its consequences was great wealth for the big four builders of the railroad. among them california senator leland stanford. this mansion and the land he purchased with it was later to become stanford university where we gather here today.
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in partnership with the stanford continuing studies program, the stanford historical society is pleased to bring you today's symposium, reflecting on the completion of the railroad and its legacy. today you will hear from some of stanford's most distinguished historians. from tales of robber barrens to daily toils, to stories of the nation's expansion and the birth of a pioneering university, we hope that you'll enjoy this multi facetted reflection. to begin our program, whether you call them robber barrens or entrepreneurs, venture capitalists or crooks, four influential men of the 1800s were behind the building of the transcontinental railroad. professor white will begin our story with a view of these men
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who came to be known as the big four. richard white is a historian of the united states specializing in the american west, the history of capitalism, environmental history, history in memory and the native american story. he's a mcarthur fellow. and recipient of the melon distinguished professor award. his work has won numerous academic prizes and he's twice been a finalist for the pulitzer prize. he is the past president of the organization of american historians and the author of influential books on the american west, native americans, railroads, and environmental history, including the republic for which it stands, the united states during reconstruction in the gilded age, and the middle ground, indians and the pirates of the great lakes region. his study of capitalism and the development of capitalism in it
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the late 19th century is viewed through the lens of examining the construction of the transcontinental railroad. chronicled in his book "railroaded, the transcontinentals and the making of america," which was a finalist for a pulitzer prize and won the los angeles time book prize for history. richard is the professor of american history at stanford university having previously taught at the university of washington, university of utah and michigan state university. please welcome professor richard white. [ applause ] >> i have to position things up here. this will take a second. okay.
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i'm often accused of having a cynical 21st century view of the associates as the big four called themselves in the 19th century. but actually, that's not true. i have a cynical 19th century view of the associates. and i'm pretty much in line with this with charles francis adams, who is president of the union pacific, worked intimately with the big railroad men of the era, including the associates. the easiest way to characterize them is simply to quote adams. i have known and known tolerably well a good many successful men, big, financially. men famous during the last half century. in a less interesting crowd, i do not care to meet again. either in this world or the next. nor is one of them disassociated in my mind with the idea of
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thought or refinement. a set of mere money getters and traders, they were essential lu unattractive and uninteresting. the evaluation of individual associates was much the same. ambrose of san francisco, famous writer in the 19th century who probably had the sharpest tongue in california at the end of the century he wrote that, of our modern 40 thieves, mr. huntington is a surviving 36. huntington was a thief, but he was a very, very good one, a more fuddable one. the one i came to like the best was mark hopkins, who is the most competent of the associates. and here i'll have to start showing you who they are. that's colis huntington. this is mark hopkins. this is, as i said before, the golden age of facial hair. and hopkins had a metaphorical
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touch, which i really admire. when he's sick with his last illness, he took his doctor, who is a chinese herbalist and put him on his private car on the railroad train. when they reached the end of the line, hopkins died. i have never really warmed to the other associates. charles b. crocker, who you'll hear about -- charles crocker, who you'll hear about in other instances was really a large, lucky thug who a.a. cohen, who is sometimes his partner, sometimes his enemy, memorialized in one of the classics of the 19th century. the 19th century was much better than the 21st century. he called crocker, quote, a living, breathing, waddling monument of the triumph of viciousness and dishonesty. leyland stanford's whole career inspired a litany of dismay,
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exasperation, and disdain and it came from his own associates. the associates came to hate each other. huntington once wrote to stanford, quote, i wish you would tell me who to correspond with in california when i want anything done. i have become convinced there's no use in writing to you. it was not huntington noted, safe to do business with him or in other words, trust him to do anything. the other associates shared his disdain. the stanford is a chronicle of amazement, dismay, and irritation at his laziness, ignorance and ineptitude. mark hopkins thought stanford's key quality was to compound stupidity with laziness. i'm not making this up. i'm just quoting. he could do it of some necessary task, but not without more mental effort than is agreeable. they were not railroad men. they came to own the railroads because experienced railroad men
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would not touch the transcontinentals. nor did they have much money at risk. initially they didn't have much money at risk because they didn't have very much. the total net worth when they started investing in railroads was only about $350,000. their initial investment was $7,500. their total investment probably at the beginning of the building of the central pacific was around $20,000. and this isn't a railroad that would cost $100,000 a mile. they make their money by financial speculation, financial maneuvers and construction. they did not have a lot of money initially at risk in these railroads. and the result is they are going to become the most hated men in california. i can just leaf through some cartoons here because this gives you a sense of what goes on. this is going to be the central pacific. this is the guardian of california, which pretty much is exploiting it, keeping out people.
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this is crocker and stanford milking california dry. that's -- california is the cow. this is the ruin of california here. these are the railroads, as the caption says, sucking her dry. this is three of the big four. the three are still living at the time riding the railroads, keeping on the railroad commission in one hand and the legislature in the other hand and corrupting california. my interest is in this part. how these railroads worked, how they made their money and less in this part, which you'll hear about later, because most of the accounts end with the driving of the golden spike. the railroad is constructed, the job is done and it's time to move on. but i'm less interested in the blig building of it than how it actually operated. how it worked in california in the 19th century. now this is where usually the
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culmination of the story is. it's the meeting of promitory summit. you have all seen these pictures. you'll see them over and over again for the next year during centennial. and i'll just skip over them to get more to this. which is the railroad actually in operation. now the best way to think of the central pacific railroad in 1869 is as an equivalent of modern california high speed rail. i don't mean this as a good thing. its route went from nowhere to almost nowhere and it had very little traffic. its original route is from sacramento, as you can see here. it ends in sacramento. it doesn't end in san francisco. it doesn't reach the bay. it doesn't even reach out to ogden or any place else.
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it reaches promitory summit. promote is what you just saw. the major thing about promitory summit is, once these people celebrating the railroad go away, there's nothing out there. there is a sacramento, but sacramento is a minor outpost of the bay area because three quarters of california's population at the time lives in the bay area. it also has this problem. this is central pacific train at auburn junction. it's not great resolution. but what you can see, these are very small engines. you can also see they are running on wood. they don't have a good coal supply. and they cannot haul much over the sierra nevada. this is not a very good technique for moving goods back and forth, but that doesn't make a whole lot of difference, because there's no goods to move back and forth. collis p. huntington writes, it is a great country west of the rocky mountains in acreage and very few people on
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this side, he's talking about the east, know how little business there is there. even in california, the original route from sacramento to the state line is about the worst that you can imagine in terms of traffic. you can drive it today. go up through donors pass. there's not a lot to haul. this isn't through major agricultural areas. there's mining areas but certainly mining doesn't generate a lot of traffic. certainly, not enough for a railroad built at this kind of expense. but the associates did not build for freight. the associates built for government land grants and guaranteed bonds. mostly for guaranteed bonds and for the subsidy they will get from the federal government. the railroad exists during its early years as a vehicle to sell bonds and if possible to sell land. not to carry freight. they initially sell, and it's important i'm emphasizing they are selling bonds, because nobody will buy the stock. they are the stockholders and
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their initial stock sales are very, very small, because it turns out that this is who is going to invest in a railroad which has the problems i just described. but it turns out this works in their advantage. because the problem with selling stock is stockholders get to see the books. and once the big four realize their money is going to come in by selling bonds to easterns and europeans, then in fact they don't want anybody to see the books. they're dangerous from a man like sam brannon. early in 1870, sam brannon, who is a mormon, who sparked the gold rush by walking through san francisco waving his hat, holding a vile of gold and shouting, gold, gold, gold from the american river. he invested in the railroad.
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he goes to stanford realizing he's not going to get much of a return. and asked to buy the stock back. and stanford made one of his many mistakes. he brushed brannon off. and brannon walked through the streets of san francisco crying, fraud, fraud, fraud in the central pacific. and he sued demanding a full financial accounting of the central pacific. it terrified the associates. what they had to do was suppress the brannon suit and any other suits that would follow. here it turned out their greatest ally was mrs. brannon, who was divorcing sam brannon. and she got sam brannon's stock in the divorce settlement. associates bought it back from her not at par, but at $850 a share. eight and a half times what brannon had paid for it and many, many, many times what it was worth, except something that could be assumed. the associates called this a blackmail suit. they referred to anything as
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blackmail which was going to force them to give an accounting of what they were doing in the central pacific. the suit damaged them a great deal even though it didn't go through because it alarmed bondholders and torpedos bond sales they are trying to make. in the early 1870s with the associates are left with is an indebted railroad. badly built. much of it will have to be rebuilt and with very little traffic. it's not something that brings a boom to california. california's growth slows after the completion of the transcontinental. it doesn't quicken. minnesota, kansas, iowa, all grow much more quickly. then california and nevada the other state that it goes through actually loses population after the completion of the railroad. so the answer is -- the question is why didn't this road just go bankrupt like so many other transcontinentals? the short answer it nearly did. the first plan was to sell this,
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to build this thing, explain to construction contracts and then sell it out. the problem is nobody will buy it. those with money in san francisco loaned money to the associates and had some idea what was up for sale and would not touch it. in 1873, things get worse them because congress is going to investigate the company designed -- an insider company which works with the union pacific. it was also going to take the company from the central pacific, which was the contract and finance companies. both are insider construction companies designed to build railroads at inflated prices and siphon the money into builders' pockets, which would be the associates, and the other one is to sell bonds and to pocket much of the funds. the standle is going to drive the union pacific into bankruptcy. congress is also after the contract and finance company, but the associates have a very
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simple but effective strategy. they destroy the books. with the depression of 1873, congress turns to other things. but they're not out of danger. depressions are not a good thing for people who are deeply in debt, which is what happened to the central pacific and more than once it's going to teeter on the edge of defaulting on a note or a loan, which would bring the whole period of debt tumbling down on them. the best notation of what was going on was a description in september of 1893, he was overwhelmed by work and worry and i stay in my office, not knowing just what to do. they survive because they throw their bankers to the wolves. the wolves are bigger bankers. when the wolves close in on them, many of them find out they hold stock, meaning when they took out a loan they give stocks
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or bonds to their bankers as collateral, but then when you hypothecate it, the bankers get a loan of their own and give it to another banker who give it is to another banker and another banker all the way up. all the loans resting on the same worthless piece of paper. the bankers realize they drive it down, they are going to lose a ton. what they will do is make an accommodation. into the 1870s, they have shown a talent for survival and fraud, but not much else. and they will be the first to admit they know nothing about running a railroad. the difference between them is that huntington admitted it. he tells a general manager in 1880, when the central pacific was well into its second decade that, quote, i have very little knowledge of the details of operating railroads. this was not false modesty. stanford knew even less. this is the place they are talking about where, in fact,
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there's no traffic. and colton i'll come to in a second, but i'll have to go there first, because this creates a mystery. stanford, hopkins and crocker, built knob hill mansions. they created an uproar. you can look at these. they look like small villages perched on top of the hill. so how in the world did people with a money-losing railroad manage to get enough wealth to build houses like this. huntington thought this was a huge mistake building these things. he was very angry at the other societies, but he tried to justify it with what seemed to be another huntington lie. he said he and his associates made no money from the central pacific railroad. this was true. when huntington told the truth, it's always best to investigate carefully. they made money from the contract and finance company, which was why they destroyed the books. the contracts and finance
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company was the insider instruction company, that one that paid extravagantly for construction, the one that allowed bonds and stock and other collateral to siphon off into the associates' pockets for which they use for taking out loans. but they are vulnerable because most assets remain in bonds and stocks. at some point, all of this is going to have to give. they're going to have to get something that will get them out of their trouble. and they will get a railroad to help them meet their debts. they're always going to be in danger in the 19th century. but it's not the central pacific railroad. by the 1890s, the central pacific railroad is going to be derided as two streaks of rust running from east to west. when the federal government threats to repossess it because they have never paid back their
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loans, the associates can say, fine, take it, it's worthless. what they have is this southern pacific railroad. it will come to control the central pacific railroad. the southern pacific railroad is, in fact, going to be a southern california monopoly. when the cartoons you have here, this is going to be the southern pacific, not the central pacific. what it does is takes the weakness of the transcontinentals and turns them into a strength. the weakness is the transcontinental cannot compete. this is the thing people don't understand about the railroads. they cannot compete with sea traffic. the cheapest way to get goods from california back to the east to europe or to australia is going to be by sea. it's two routes to do it. this one is the most important. it's the pacific steam ship company. you put them on these ships and take them to panama and there's going to be a railroad and you unload it and you get it into the gulf port or the east coast ports. there's no way in the world that the railroads can compete with
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this for carrying freight. and freight is what they are. all these railroads are freight railroads. they are not passenger railroads. he says it's outrageous. this is j. gould, a partner in trying to compete with the steamship companies. he says it's outrageous we have to carry our california business at such low rates. very little had changed by the late 1880s. charles francis adams testifies before the pacific railroad commission that the pacific railroad steamship company could reduce the rate until it makes the business worthless to us and yet makes something itself untrafficked to the east coast. any time the pacific steamship company wished to do so, they could have bankrupt the central pacific and later the southern pacific railroad. why didn't they do so? the first part of the answer was the pacific mail was a lazy and corrupt corporation that spended on federal subsidy to carry
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mail. the second part is that what the associates did is pay them the sub subsidy. the government has subsidized the union pacific railroad in order to carry freight across the united states. that railroad then takes part of that subsidy and other revenue to pay subsidy to the pacific steamship company to raise rates to make carrying freight across the united states more expensive so they can make some money. that is the business model of the central pacific and southern pacific in the 1870s and 1880s. and this doesn't even come into the major source of traffic in 19th century california. it's wheat. california grows wheat. that's the bulk of the traffic that comes out and many of the things that come in are because of sales of wheat. they do not put wheat on these ships. they put them on sailing ships. sailing ships is what the southern pacific works on and the southern pacific gets to be
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this monopoly because of its control of san francisco. pretty much what the southern pacific does until the 1890s is take goods from california, bring them to california, put them on ships, take goods off ships and distribute them throughout california. they are a monopoly. of traffic moving into california and it will move transcontinentals but it's going to move through ships. these are the routes by which most of the goods move. you can see the united states is pretty much a blank there. this is where bulk of goods coming in california will move in the 1870s. there's another way showing the distances. so this is the way the railroads work. they are a monopoly because they are a monopoly. working out of san francisco. now, their other tactics don't change.
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the contract and finance company is going to be replaced by the western development company, which is going to be replaced by the pacific improvement company. whose nickname among the railroad men is personal interest company. both of them operate on the same model. they allow insider dealing to funnel profits out of the southern pacific and put them into their own pockets. my favorite tactic about how you do this is a company invests in all kinds of things. railroads that don't make it, south american railroads, central american railroads, all kinds of feeder roads to their main road and they get stocks and bonds which are unmarketable. nobody will buy this stuff. so what they do is, they have this marketable paper. you put it up as collateral for a loan. who do you borrow from? the southern pacific railroad. the southern pacific railroad loans the insiders money, gets this collateral in return and guess what, the associates don't pay their loans. the railroad gets to keep the worthless stock and bonds. the associates get to keep the
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money. that's how you funnel money out of one corporation into another corporation and you keep the southern pacific in a much weaker state than it otherwise would have been. now, the problem with being a crook is other crooks. in the early 1870s, huntington had heard from his associates that john miller, the secretary of the contract and finance company was, quote, a great man and an honest one. but he grew suspicious. huntington was suspicious of everyone. since he stole, he suspected everyone was stealing from him. before closing down the contract and finance company and forming a new company, huntington sent someone to examine the books. the associates knew what they did not want congress to find in those books. they were surprised what was found. it took them only a few hours to find, quote, where miller had stolen $300,000. it took somewhat longer to find
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that he had actually taken from $750,000 to $900,000. because the books were so corrupt they were never sure how much he exactly he stole. by then miller was also missing. he had, as the associates' lawyer later put it, quote, left the employ of the defendants entirely. whereas he testified he went away and was brought back to, explain his defalcations. he had even more to explain than missing money. john miller turned out was not really john miller. he was ambrose woodrough. the associates god back roughly $400,000, but the rest was gone for good. they never prosecuted, he knew too many. too much. the contract and finance company was, quote, as rotten a corporation as ever lived. and huntington would know. the books needed to convict
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miller were the same books that had the potential to convict the associates if congress had ever got to inspect them. so they go into the 1880s rich men who have increasingly grown to hate and distrust each other, but because their interests have merged in these companies, they cannot get them out. everything is split up between them. they can never, ever be rid of each other, though they will try at various times. because they don't trust each other, what they do is staff the railroads in part with relatives because they think sometimes wrongly that their relatives are the only ones they could trust. what they become is a corporation which is not a modern corporation or maybe it is a modern corporation. it's a victorian stew of acrimony, recrimination and blackmail. this man is going to bring out the dirty laundry.
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wait, that's the wrong man. so i don't have charles colton here. he's going to bring out the dirty laundry. colton is the last of the associates he comes in later. and he learns well. colton steals from the contract and finance company. when they discover what he's done after his death, he drops dead, they steal it back from his widow. his widow then steals them to get the money back again, and that's the colton trial which then leaks huntington's private correspondence all over the press. and reveals much of what they have been doing the subsidy of congress, the insider dealing, all of this comes out in the press and creates a great scam. the dirty laundry is widely known by the 1880s. meanwhile, they never do pay back their government loans. and that's nearly going to destroy stanford university. they age, hopkins dies.
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his wife marries her interior decorator. her adopted son -- their adopted son, timothy hopkins, whose name is still in various things on this campus, is disinherited. he blackmails his mother and stepfather. so he blackmails his new stepfather for being gay and gets back part of his inheritance. huntington's wife dies. he marries his interior decorator. later when huntington dies, his nephew henry, who has become his right hand man, divorces his wife and marries his widow and henry creates the huntington library, which much of the stuff i'm talking about comes from, in los angeles. seems to bring reconciliation until huntington buys the senate seat and kicks out the candidate who huntington preferred.
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as huntington saw it, he had taken a very good, if corrupt, senator, and replaced him with a very bad, but corrupt senator, and they will be bitter enemies until the end of their lives. the southern pacific is going to face bankruptcy again in the 1890s. eventually it will become solvent, but really its prosperity comes when it's controlled as a transcontinentals. that's the short story of the big four. what they dodo is create some of the institutions and modern california. we're sitting in stanford university, but there's a long tangled story there. the huntington library. these institutions survive, but what's interesting, and i'm always puzzled about this by most, their family lines die out.
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now there's no direct line -- there's no direct lines in the standfords, that ends with leland jr. there's no direct line of the huntingtons so there's rumors about that. there's no direct line of the hopkins, there's only timothy hopkins, the adopted son. the crockers do have children, but they all die young. which leaves probably that some cynical way to end a talk, but that might have been their greatest gift to the state of california. because if their children had livid, the institutions they endowed probably would not exist. so thank you.eid, the instituti endowed probably would not exist. so thank you.d, the institution endowed probably would not exist. so thank you. >> we'll take some questions. there's some microphones here on the side if someone would like to take the opportunity. >> thank you very much, professor.
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that's not quite the lecture i expected this morning. can you speak to the role of theodore juda in all of this? >> theodore juda is the engineer. there's now for the first time the original map, which is like 80 or 90 feet long. it's now been scanned. and you can see it -- i think we have it up online. and it was exhibited in the map collection. but juda is the first one to take out a -- a map what will be a practical line for the railroad to get over the sierra-nevada. it's a practical line so that you can get a train up over it. it's not a practical line for making any money. he comes to distrust the other associates and the rumor is and it's unclear whether, in fact, it's true, he went back to new york to negotiate with the vanderbilts, who are railroad people, to buy out the central pacific, because he thought, in fact, these guys were going to make a mess of it.
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he also catches yellow fever on the way back and dies. so he is going to be, in terms of technical skill, one of the few who knew something about building a railroad, but he dies very, very quickly and from everything we can see, he was attempting to get out when he died. and you will still see a great deal of begging letters. some of which from his widow, because she's poor in her old age is constantly asking for money. and huntington will give her money. but she has to ask. >> i grew up in california, and this is not the history we learned in the fourth grade. how did the reputations get so rehabilitated? >> that's a much more complicated question than you think it is. there's going to be two things. there's going to be an active attempt partly coming out of this university to rehabilitate their reputations.
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because jane stanford does two things, she destroys all of her husband's papers. she has good reason to destroy her husband's papers, but the bad news is, you never destroy your own papers, because he wrote letters to other people. so stanford is beginning to try to become the great donor for the state of california. you hook him up to a tragic story and the second thing is by the 1930s, there's going to be a change away from what are called robber barrens to these inventive entrepreneurs. the problem is i never call them robber barrens. because robber barrens means they are manipulative and know what they're doing. my guys do not know what they are doing. that's not what's going on here. but once you have this model, you begin to put them into this. the second thing is that nobody looked at the books. it's one of the things about
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historians. we don't like to do the hard stuff. who wants to go through these kind of financial records and try to put them back together. it's there when you look, when i started doing railroad, economists had looked at it. but by and large, historians had not paid a lot of attention. it's much easier to do the building. end the story there. and we also know that any good story depends on its ending. the ending is always going to be what happens with the central pacific. point we span the continent, story ends, triumph, we move on. keep going and, in fact, the train runs over a cliff, nobody looks at that part. >> it sounds to me like what happened in the 1870s and '80s with all the insider trading and different corporations and siphoning money out, but nobody knew what they had. very similar to what happened 2008 when lehman brothers crashed and all the banks
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didn't know what the hell they had. i heard your talk before. >> you haven't heard this one, because i rarely do all the dirt on the big four. >> and how the central -- i understand your -- everything you're saying about the central pacific, but in the early '50s, our family moved to roseville, that's a railroad town. at the time they had the largest ice plant. the reason for that was when they were shipping california produce to chicago, you put ice in each end of the car and the breeze over the ice kept stuff cool because it was before they could afford air-conditioning. it also had a huge switching yard. when did traffic start going other the central pacific route? >> most won't go over the central pacific, but some will. you have identified exactly what it does. it makes the railroad profitable is going to be the ability to move fruit to the east coast. you can't put that on a
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steamship and send it through the tropics. it rots. so once you have california orchards, that becomes the most lucrative traffic. and that's why, if you go back to the earliest 20th century, you'll see these wonderful posters of southern pacific trains running through orange orchards. what you're describing is the infrastructure that's been set us. up. that's what make this is a profitable railroad. you have built the railroad in the 1860s. it's like building a house and deciding not to move into it for 35 years before you figure out something to do with it. >> just a curiosity question. how did the government adjudicate between the 200 miles of parallel track that central and union pacific built before they finally agreed to a meeting point? >> so how did the government decide to give the subsidy for that track? >> yes. since they were 200 miles of
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parallel tracks. >> i think you could probably guess. there's two sets of parallel tracks. one with the union pacific, which is never fully built. and the government is going to give that one to the union pacific, if i recall. they are also going to subsidize some of the tracks in the central pacific is going to build before it gets a charter, but that congress decides to do it, moving out of sacramento. >> thank you. >> hi, i'm a retired fourth grade teacher. [ laughter ] >> and i do, in fact, teach more like steven ambrose's description and, of course, your descriptions. history repeats itself. and your description of the bonds and stocks being worthless is so reminiscent of our nation in 2008, 2007, it's frightening. my question for you, sir, is simple. i understand collis huntington
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was not very honest when came to setting freight rates, specifically with the southern pacific and farmers to move things. could you address that? >> if you want to look at this there's a visualization we put up in the spatial history lab. you can look at spatial history lab in stanford. and what you'll see is the way they set freight rates is clever. the first thing you have to do is destroy steamship companies which move up and down the rivers. that's the first thing that they do. they buy them out or set rates low enough to drive them out of business. they can always move that wheat much cheaper. once you have controlled that, what you do is set a set of rates that we visualize how they do it, which took the rate books and put them down, it is going to make it relatively cheap for wheat growers to move wheat into san francisco because they have to compete with steam ships. they have to keep the rates down there. but all of those wheat growers need all the supplies and everything else for their farms coming out of san francisco. you look at the rates, they are
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extraordinarily high. so what they do is they draw people into wheat growing with low wheat rates and take the money back with high rates, which will go to supply goods coming out of san francisco. once you can control rates, you control space. we all know this. we know that, in fact, it's time, it's money. going into san francisco from here is going to take longer at some times of days than others, in terms of gas and frustration, it's going to be more expensive. the central pacific and southern pacific arrange their rates to make places closer to san francisco going one way, further away going another way. they become masters at it, but they are not alone. this is what 19th century railroads do, this is why farmers hate them, why merchants hate them. this is why everybody hates them. >> i think 21st century airlines learned from the 19th century railroads. two questions, number one, why
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didn't they extend the railroad from sacramento to san francisco? and second question, what were the actual routes of the southern pacific? >> the reason they don't do it initially is mark hopkins is right. he looks at steamship rates, there's good steamship traffic between san francisco and the bay, and it's really difficult to build a railroad through there because you have to go through the edge of the delta and there's flooding and other issues. so he says, we're going to put it on steamships here, but that cuts them off. he realizes that's a mistake and they have to do some ebs pensive buyouts of other railroads because everybody else realizes their mistakes and they have to buy out. the route of the southern pacific is really simple. people look at it and if you go through deserts in arizona down to mexico and texas, all that is true, but it's pretty flat. it's going to terminate new orleans where it begin to compete with the steamship
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traffic coming up. once they get fruit, that's what they are going to do. so the southern pacific is going to take a while to be built. it's really a california monopoly before it becomes a transcontinentals, but mostly this is going to be the best way to get around the sierras is to get around the sierras. you don't go over them. >> another round of applause. [ applause ] weeknights we're featuring "american history tv" programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. tonight a look at the relationship between president abraham lincoln and abolitionist, frederick douglass, who escaped slavery and rose to become one of the most influential leaders of the 19th century. watch "american history tv" tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and every weekend on c-span 3.
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on sunday military historian and journalist max hastings will be our guest on in depth. >> the 1975 fall of saigon inflicted humiliation. revolutionaries prevailed. the stairway of which on the evening of the 29th of april, fugitives ascended to a rooftop helicopter, secured a place among the symbolic images of that era. for me, as for all my generation, the struggle was among the foremost experiences of our careers. i was one of those who flew out of the u.s. embassy on that you the -- tumultuous, terrified
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day. >> his most recent book is the "operation pedestal." others include "chastize", and "overlord." join in the conversation with join in the conversation with your phone calls, facebook comments, texts and tweets on in-depth live at noon eastern, sunday with max hastings on book tv on c-span 2. and be sure to visit c-span shop to get your copies of books from our featured authors. cspan's landmark cases explores the drama behind significant supreme court decisions. sunday, the 1919 case schenck v. united states, that allows the government particularly in times


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