Leland Stanford (1824-1893), American railroad builder and politician, was one of the founders of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads and served as California's governor and then U.S. senator.
Leland Stanford, born on March 9, 1824, in Watervliet, N.Y., was one of eight children of a prosperous farmer who also dabbled in various local bridge and road contracts. Leland received a formal education until the age of 12, had 3 years of tutoring at home, and then returned to school. He became an apprentice in an Albany law office and 3 years later gained admission to the bar.
In 1848 Stanford opened a law office at Port Washington, Wis.; meanwhile, his brothers sensed the lure of fortune in California and opened a mercantile business in Sacramento. In 1850 Stanford married Jane Elizabeth Lathrop. Two years later his law office burned down, and he decided to relocate in California. His brothers helped him establish a mining store in Cold Springs, but it did not do well so he opened a business at Michigan Bluff, which was successful. He also engaged in mining on a small scale.
In 1856 Stanford moved to Sacramento, where he started business with a brother and quickly entered politics. He met defeat in a race for Republican state treasurer in 1857, and 2 years later he lost the gubernatorial contest. His golden opportunity came in 1861, when the Civil War split the Democratic party, and he won the governor's office with less than the combined vote of his two Democratic opponents. Though he served only one term, he was able to keep California in the Union. His administration also encouraged the passage of several acts designed to aid the proposed transcontinental railroad, in which he had a large financial interest.
In 1861 Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins organized the Central Pacific Railroad, which built east to join the westward-progressing Union Pacific Railroad. The two joined at Promontory Point, Utah, in May 1869. Stanford became president of the Central Pacific, Huntington handled eastern financial and political arrangements, Crocker supervised construction, and Hopkins looked after company finances. Stanford's excellent reputation in California allowed the Central Pacific access to considerable sums of construction money. Also, as a stockholder in the construction companies, he enjoyed great personal profit.
Stanford remained president of the Central Pacific until his death. In 1870 the Southern Pacific was incorporated to build in southern California and eventually to reach New Orleans, La. Fourteen years later a holding company, the Southern Pacific Company, merged the Southern Pacific Railroad, Central Pacific, and others into one combine. Stanford was president of the combine from 1885 to 1890.
In 1890 Stanford and Huntington split over Stanford's renewed political ambitions. After he left the governor's office in 1863, he had remained active in influencing legislation in California. In 1885 he had declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate and had defeated A. A. Sargent on a strictly party vote. Sargent was a personal friend of Huntington, and in 1890 Huntington managed to have Stanford replaced as Southern Pacific president. Stanford's senatorial career was undistinguished.
Stanford endowed a new institution, the Leland Stanford Junior University, in 1885 in memory of his son, who had died at the age of 15. Stanford died in Palo Alto on June 21, 1893.
No recent work on Stanford has appeared. Two biographies are George T. Clark, Leland Stanford, War Governor of California, Railroad Builder and Founder of Stanford University (1931), and Hubert H. Bancroft, History of the Life of Leland Stanford (1952). Stanford's role in the Central Pacific is examined in Oscar Lewis, The Big Four (1938).
Lewis, Oscar, The big four: the story of Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins, and Crocker, and of the building of the Central Pacific, New York: Arno Press, 1981, 1938.
Regnery, Dorothy F., The Stanford House in Sacramento: an American treasure, Stanford, Calif. (P.O. Box 2328, Stanford University, Stanford 94305): Stanford Historical Society, 1987. □
"Leland Stanford." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/leland-stanford
"Leland Stanford." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/leland-stanford
Leland Stanford, 1824–93, American railroad builder, politician, and philanthropist, b. Watervliet, N.Y. After practicing law in Wisconsin, he went (1852) to California, where he became a successful merchant. He served as governor (1861–63) of California and was one of the four founders of the Central Pacific RR. He was its president until his death, and he personally served as superintendent during part of its construction. He was also president (1885–90) of the Southern Pacific RR. From 1885 to his death he was a U.S. Senator. He founded and endowed Stanford Univ. as a memorial to his son, Leland Stanford, Jr. His wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, 1825–1905, b. Albany, N.Y., shared in founding the university and continued to aid it after her husband's death.
"Stanford, Leland." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/stanford-leland
"Stanford, Leland." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/stanford-leland
Leland Stanford (1824–93) was an industrialist and politician who amassed a large fortune from the development of the railroad industry in the west. He was one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad Company that helped build the first transcontinental railroad. He also served as governor of California and as a United States Senator. He donated a large portion of his fortune to found Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Leland Stanford was born on March 9, 1824, in Watervliet, New York, the fifth of eight children. Stanford received a sound education; he first studied at the Clinton Liberal Institute and then at Cazenovia Seminary in New York. After finishing school he began working in a law office and he was admitted to the bar in 1848. He later established his own practice in Port Washington, Wisconsin but a fire destroyed it in 1852 and Stanford decided not to rebuild his practice. Instead he moved to California, where his brothers had already settled, to join their business of selling supplies to miners.
It was in California that Stanford first became involved in politics. He actively participated in the formation of the California Republican Party, and he ran unsuccessfully for State Treasurer in 1857. Despite this loss Stanford continued to pursue a career in politics and in 1859 he ran for governor of California but lost again. However, in 1861 Stanford won the gubernatorial election by a plurality, due to a split in the Democratic Party. His most important political act as governor was keeping California in the Union during the American Civil War (1861–65).
Around the time when Stanford was elected governor he also became interested in the possibility of building a transcontinental railroad. He joined forces with Collis P. Huntington (1821–1900), Charles Crocker (1822–88), and Mark Hopkins (1814–78) to form the Central Pacific Railroad Company in 1861. Stanford and his associates were referred to as the Big Four. They were eventually responsible for building the western half of the first transcontinental railroad. Stanford served as president of the company from its formation until his death.
The Big Four had little knowledge of the railroad industry and very little capital to invest in the venture so they relied on their political talents and connections to support the project. As governor of California Stanford approved several public grants for the railroad work done in his state. In addition he used his political contacts to acquire generous federal grants for the railroad, which included land grants for railroad construction and loans for financing the project. Stanford generated large sums of public money for a company in which he had a major personal interest as a stockholder.
When his term as governor ended in 1863 Stanford devoted all of his energy to the railroad industry. At that time the Central Pacific began building its part of the transcontinental railroad with construction of tracks eastward from Sacramento, California. The Union Pacific Railroad Company built the westward line from Omaha, Nebraska and the two lines met at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869. The Central Pacific laid 1,086 miles of track, while the Union Pacific had built 689, which was advantageous for Central Pacific, because government subsidies were based on mileage. The Big Four profited nicely from this venture, however, great hardships were encountered before the project was accomplished; many lives were lost. Construction crews consisting mainly of Chinese immigrants worked through two harsh winters in the high Sierras. The goal was to complete the project as quickly as possible.
Once that rail line was completed Stanford and his associates developed other rail and water transportation systems in California. They bought out competing lines such as the California Pacific Railroad Company and the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad. They organized the Southern Pacific Railroad, of which Stanford served as director from 1882 to 1893. This company built a second transcontinental railroad from California to New Orleans.
The Big Four believed that their business could remain profitable only if they maintained their rail monopoly in California. Their policy was one of aggressive defense by which they would prevent competitors from forming other entry points into the state. They also purchased major river and ocean shipping lines. The Big Four dominated the railroad industry in the 1890s; their company was frequently criticized for being a "monopolistic octopus." Nonetheless Stanford personally remained popular among the public.
After 1870 Stanford became less involved in the daily activities of the railroad company and he retreated to his ranch in Palo Alto, California. In 1885 he returned to political life and was elected to the United States Senate. As a U.S. Senator, Stanford advocated private rights in business. He opposed the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 because it allowed for government regulation of businesses. Stanford also served on minor congressional committees and supported popular legislation such as the exclusion of Chinese laborers, industrial co-operatives, and soft money. He represented California in the Senate until his death in 1893 at the age of 69.
Leland Stanford accumulated a fortune from his railroad interests. Stanford was not known for his philanthropy but he donated to particular charities to ensure his family name would become an institution. In 1885 Stanford's 15-year-old son died of typhoid fever while on vacation in Europe. Stanford was keenly interested in the boy's education and as a memorial to his son Stanford provided a 20 million-dollar endowment to found the Leland Stanford Junior University in Palo Alto. The school opened in 1891 and grew to become one of the country's most prestigious universities.
See also: California, Central Pacific Railroad, Monopolies, Railroad Industry, Transcontinental Railroad
Clark, George Thomas. Leland Stanford: War Governor of California, Railroad Builder and Founder of Stanford University. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1931.
Lewis, Oscar. The Big Four: The Story of Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins, and Crocker, and of the Building of the Central Pacific. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1938.
McGuire, William, and Leslie Wheeler. American Social Leaders. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1993.
Snow, Richard F. "Biggest of the Four." American Heritage, December 1987.
Tutorow, Norman E. Leland Stanford: Man of Many Careers. Menlo Park, California: Pacific Coast Publishers, 1971.
"Stanford, Leland." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 30, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/stanford-leland
"Stanford, Leland." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved April 30, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/stanford-leland