"Do not think of the Pennsylvania Railroad as a business
enterprise," Forbes magazine informed its readers in May
1936. "Think of it as a nation." At the end of the nineteenth
century, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest privately owned
business corporation in the world. In 1914, the PRR employed more
than two hundred thousand people-more than double the number of
soldiers in the United States Army. As the self-proclaimed
"Standard Railroad of the World," this colossal corporate body
underwrote American industrial expansion and shaped the economic,
political, and social environment of the United States. In turn,
the PRR was fundamentally shaped by the American landscape,
adapting to geography as well as shifts in competitive economics
and public policy. Albert J. Churella's masterful account, certain
to become the authoritative history of the Pennsylvania Railroad,
illuminates broad themes in American history, from the development
of managerial practices and labor relations to the relationship
between business and government to advances in technology and
Churella situates exhaustive archival research on the Pennsylvania
Railroad within the social, economic, and technological changes of
nineteenth- and twentieth-century America, chronicling the epic
history of the PRR intertwined with that of a developing nation.
This first volume opens with the development of the Main Line of
Public Works, devised by Pennsylvanians in the 1820s to compete
with the Erie Canal. Though a public rather than a private
enterprise, the Main Line foreshadowed the establishment of the
Pennsylvania Railroad in 1846. Over the next decades, as the nation
weathered the Civil War, industrial expansion, and labor unrest,
the PRR expanded despite competition with rival railroads and
disputes with such figures as Andrew Carnegie and John D.
Rockefeller. The dawn of the twentieth century brought a measure of
stability to the railroad industry, enabling the creation of such
architectural monuments as Pennsylvania Station in New York City.
The volume closes at the threshold of American involvement in World
War I, as the strategies that PRR executives had perfected in
previous decades proved less effective at guiding the company
through increasingly tumultuous economic and political waters.
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