Across the Columbia Plain: Railroad Expansion in the by Peter J Lewty

By Peter J Lewty

In exactly many years of prosperity, among 1886 and 1891, a wave of railroad development broke around the moderately populated inland undeniable of the Pacific Northwest. Racing to safe strategic routes and assets of site visitors, the railway promoters equipped an intensive and bewildering community of competing traces. carrying on with the saga he started in To the Columbia Gateway: The Oregon Railway and the Northern Pacific, 1879-1884 (WSU Press, 1987), Peter Lewty describes the region's dramatic railroad increase within the years 1885 to 1893. Recreating the existing surroundings of optimism and pleasure, he lines the growth of the Northern Pacific and Union Pacific platforms within the inside Northwest, chronicles the development of the Pacific extension of the good Northern Railway, and provides a multi-faceted portrait of railway operations at the final frontier of yankee cost.

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On August 27, 1887 Elijah Smith approached him seeking a $5 million loan for the Oregon & Transcontinental. In return he offered Villard the presidencies of Page 6 the two Oregon companies and total control of the voting rights pertaining to the Oregon & Transcontinental holdings of Northern Pacific stock. Within 36 hours Villard obtained the money Smith required and stood every chance of regaining his former prominence in railroad circles. Remembering, however, that his current responsibility was primarily to European investors, he declined the positions.

Using borrowed money, Oregon & Transcontinental therefore set out to purchase greater representation on the Northern Pacific board. 23 Money quickly became tight, and the Oregon & Transcontinental Co. floating debt was called. Imminent failure of the Oregon & Transcontinental Co. in turn threatened to bring down the New York financial house of Chase Higginson & Co. and precipitate a more widespread financial collapse. 24 Henry Villard had returned to the United States from Germany in October 1886 bearing a commission to act as New York financial agent for the Deutsche Bank of Berlin.

He had been one of Thomas Edison's earliest backers and also knew the German electrical pioneer Werner Siemens. In March 1889 he set out to organize the Edison General Electric Company, a New Jersey corporation with a capital of $12 million, which was to merge all the Edison companies into a single entity and expand their activities. 72 Villard needed a financial coup to restore his ability to attract capital. Sale of the Oregon & Transcontinental holdings of OR&N stock to the Union Pacific at $90 per share promised to restore his stature in the financial world.

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