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Minneapolis and the Age of Railways

Minneapolis and the Age of Railways

Don L. Hofsommer
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Minneapolis and the Age of Railways
    Book Description:

    In Minneapolis and the Age of Railways, Don L. Hofsommer presents Minneapolis from the 1860s into the 1950s, when railroads served as a unique link between city and countryside. Illustrated with more than 200 period photographs and maps, this comprehensive book reflects a time when the locomotive dominated the landscape and set the tempo for the nation: the age of railways.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9685-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations and Acronyms
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  6. 1 Steamcars at Last
    (pp. 1-15)

    They gathered at the American House—“one of the largest hotels north of St. Louis,” thePioneerenthused in praise of the three-story frame structure at the corner of St. Anthony and Washington Streets not far from steamboat landings along the Mississippi River in the raw but fully confident village of St. Paul.¹ The setting was absolutely fitting. After all, the Minnesota Territorial legislature had chosen the American House for its assemblage in 1851. Now, two years later, on November 26,1853, eight earnest stalwarts of the territory met in this same hotel to draw plans for the essential transportation requirements...

  7. 2 Late to the Party
    (pp. 17-27)

    It was between the presidential administrations of William Henry Harrison and Warren G. Harding, roughly 1840 to 1920, that the United States was transformed from a decentralized agrarian republic into an urban and industrial nation. During those short eight decades a precipitous change occurred in the process of production and distribution. Moreover, value added by manufacture rose 76 percent from 1849 to 1859, and 25 percent from 1859 to 1869, and leaped an astonishing 82 percent between 1869 and 1879. These dramatic changes were driven, in large part, by the availability of coal as an inexpensive and flexible source of...

  8. 3 Of Champagne and Panic
    (pp. 29-41)

    There was not a railroader in the lot. Membership on Minneapolis & St. Louis’s initial board of directors—all local men—included two lawyers (Isaac Atwater and William W. McNair), four bankers (Rufus B. Baldwin, Richard J. Mendenhall, Jacob K. Sidle, and W. P. Westfall), two land dealers (Roswell P. Russell and Henry Titus Welles), one physician (Levi Butler), and six involved in lumber or flour milling (W P. Ankeny, William W. Eastman, Paris Gibson, John Martin, John S. Pillsbury, and William Drew Washburn). Many were active in more than one line of endeavor, lumber milling and flour milling, for...

  9. 4 The St. Louis Road
    (pp. 43-53)

    The short lines of road making up both Minneapolis & St. Louis and Minneapolis & Duluth had not been built ahead of need as had been the case with so many other lines in Minnesota. If anything they lagged behind demand. Their supporters were left to shake their heads and mutter of lost opportunities. Indeed, if M& StL had been completed to hook up with Central Railroad Company of Iowa and/or Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota, traffic expansion to and from St. Louis as well as intermediate points could only have strengthened all constituent roads against vicissitudes resulting from the...

  10. 5 Pulling and Hauling
    (pp. 55-67)

    Three days after the joyous excursion to Albert Lea, the Washburn brothers made their own personal inspection of the new line. They must have taken pride in their accomplishment. Certainly those who were partial to them or to Minneapolis were proud as well as pleased. Said a special correspondent for the Minneapolis Tribune, “These long years of doubt and discouragement... have now passed away, and General W. D. Washburn and his public spirited associates, after their untiring labors and great sacrifices, have now the proud satisfaction of witnessing the full realization of their most enthusiastic and sanguine expectations.” Nevertheless, as...

  11. 6 Optimism and Realism
    (pp. 69-89)

    A spirit of optimism swirled with winds of change as the decade of the 1880s unfurled. The country’s population stood at 50 million, New York was first among states with over 5 million residents, and the center of population had moved to a few miles west by south of Cincinnati. Rutherford B. Hayes chose not to seek a second term as president, and the Republicans picked James A. Garfield, who won over Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock in the general election that fall. In the area of technology, Thomas Edison took patent on the incandescent light bulb and shortly would design...

  12. 7 New Players
    (pp. 91-103)

    Railroads were, at once, America’s first big business and the first modern business enterprises. These twin verities were dramatically magnified in the 1880s—the golden age of railroad expansion in the United States. It was during the same explosive decade that huge interregional systems developed, many of them in the trans-Chicago West.¹

    The breathtaking expansion of route miles and the emergence of giant operations were understandably traumatic. In an earlier era, railroad owners and managers had made alliances and established cartels as means of maintaining at least a semblance of stability. But in the aftermath of the Panic of 1873,...

  13. 8 Dancing with the Giants
    (pp. 105-119)

    Ransom R. Cable burst like a comet over the railroad landscape of Minnesota and then the Northwest. He and Rock Island would prove to be agents of precipitous change.

    Rock Island in the 1860s and 1870s had been slow in extension of lines— main arteries and feeders alike. Its management had chosen to err on the side of caution. As other roads moved to solidify service areas against “invasion,” however, Rock Island was forced to reassess what it saw as its “natural territory.” But again Rock Island chose a conservative path. Its alliance with Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy in the...

  14. 9 Falling Rates and Encroachment
    (pp. 121-141)

    M& StL’s life under the great protective shield of Ransom Cable and Rock Island during the remainder of the 1880s proved a mixed blessing—much like the relationship of a younger sibling with a “big brother,” There were times when M&StL was sheltered and nurtured by the arrangement; there were times when the road suffered from inattention and from an inability to act unilaterally on its own merit. In any event, it was often heady business being an integral part of CRI& P’s well-known and well-respected railroad empire.¹

    Samuel F. Boyd, in charge of passenger sales at M&StL, missed no...

  15. 10 Adrift
    (pp. 143-159)

    William Haynes Truesdale was one of the most able managers M&StL ever had. Bright, sagacious, and a born leader, Truesdale was well on his way to a distinguished career in the railroad industry. But at M&StL his considerable talent was constantly under test. No longer the local favorite in its home city, merely a part of the “Great Rock Island Route,” M&StL was rather viewed as a poor stepchild of one of the oft-despised Chicago roads. Moreover, its principal owners were distant and distracted. Truesdale and M&StL usually had to fend for themselves. Growing government regulation was a constant vexation...

  16. 11 Three Cents per Mile
    (pp. 161-181)

    For persons living in the Minneapolis & St. Louis service area during the mid-1890s there was nervousness as to purposes and intentions of the road’s new owners and management. Every member of the directorate was from New York, as was William L. Bull, president, and Edwin Hawley, vice president. Albert L. Mohler, already a seasoned and respected railroader and destined to be president of Union Pacific some years later, remained as general manager; Joseph Gaskell of Minneapolis, secretary and treasurer since 1883, and William Crooks, chief engineer and long associated with Minnesota railroads, each provided links to the past and...

  17. 12 Rumors and Reality
    (pp. 183-201)

    America was patently vibrant at the turn of the century. Average per capita income led all other nations, and the country enjoyed virtually full employment. Census takers counted 75,994,575 persons and determined that the national center of population was a bit southeast of Columbus, Indiana. Minnesota was home for 2,805,346. Railroads, the country’s first big business, remained dominant with 195,526 miles of track—6,942 in Minnesota—and railroad assets made up about $14.5 billion of the nation’s $90 billion estimated total wealth. Only agriculture exceeded railroads in the amount of invested capital and in the value of annual business.¹


  18. 13 Shifting Winds
    (pp. 203-215)

    The United States underwent significant growth during the first decade of the twentieth century. The national population expanded from 76 million to 92 million—half of the increase represented by newly arrived immigrants—and the center of population shifted westward to near Bloomington, Indiana. Minnesota grew nicely, from 1.75 to 2.75 million. And Minneapolis swelled to 301,408 by 1910. Except for a significant downturn in 1907 that lasted into 1908, the economy was vibrant; capital investment grew by 76 percent during the decade, and unemployment was negligible. The national outlook was generally optimistic, the average citizen had faith in government...

  19. 14 The Struggling Giant
    (pp. 217-237)

    The new decade, the second of the twentieth century, seemed auspicious enough. The national economy was strong, the Dow Jones Industrial Average remained steady, and emigration to the United States continued apace. The Victrola and the vacuum sweeper were part of the domestic landscape, as were hamburgers and hot dogs. Arizona and New Mexico soon would complete the “continental 48 states,” and national politics provided both entertainment and excitement. In 1912 the electorate would put Woodrow Wilson in the White House, the first victorious Democrat since Grover Cleveland. And the railroad industry remained dominant across the broad landscape of America.¹...

  20. 15 Mixed Blessings
    (pp. 239-263)

    The United States was greatly changed during the five decades following its Civil War. At the end of that awful conflict there was no transcontinental railway; by the end of the century there were multiple options, and the nation’s rail net was fully integrated. In I860 whale oil was the chief illuminant, and it was in scarce supply; kerosene was its replacement, and by 1879 Standard Oil held 95 percent of American refining capacity and controlled the bulk of the world market in refined petroleum. In 1867 total domestic production of steel was a paltry 2,600 tons; in 1901 United...

  21. 16 An Uncertain Future
    (pp. 265-293)

    As the United States moved into the third decade of the twentieth century it became apparent that the age of railways had slipped away. The nation's rail carriers remained critical to the nation's life and time, true enough, but they did not dominate the landscape as they had for a half century.

    What of the future? Managers and owners of roads serving Minneapolis were typical of the industry at the time—shaken and nervous. As they gazed into a rather foggy crystal ball, they likely recalled an especially glorious time, 1897-1907—the belle époque of the steamcar civilization—and may...

  22. Epilogue
    (pp. 295-300)

    There is a weary old story that has one fellow soon joined by another on the platform of a railway station at some mythical location. “Has the train gone?” asked the new arrival of the first. “Yes,” was the instant reply. “How do you know?” wondered the second. “Because it left its tracks,”smiled the first. This yarn, in a homely way, sums up the experience of Minneapolis and its railways. They grew up together— each influencing and nurturing the other. The needs of one were the needs of the other; the prosperity of one was the prosperity of the other;...

  23. Notes
    (pp. 301-330)
  24. Index
    (pp. 331-337)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)