Farquhar, Percival (1864–1953)

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Farquhar, Percival (1864–1953)

Percival Farquhar (b. 19 October 1864; d. 4 August 1953), American entrepreneur and railroad magnate. Born in York, Pennsylvania, Farquhar graduated from Yale University in 1884 with a degree in mechanical engineering. His Latin American business ventures began in Cuba shortly after the end of the Spanish-American War. There he profited from connections with U.S. occupation officials, purchased the Havana tram system, and electrically equipped it at the turn of the century. Beginning in 1900 he organized, along with Sir William Van Horne (of Canadian Pacific fame), the construction of the Cuba Railroad across the eastern half of the island.

In 1904 Farquhar purchased a Guatemalan concession to build a railroad connecting United Fruit Company lands and the Caribbean port of Puerto Barrios. With Indian draft labor, the line was completed in 1908. In the meantime, Farquhar had moved to Brazil, where he resided for the rest of his life. He invested in public utility companies in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, managed the construction of port facilities in the north of the country, and directed the construction of the Madeira-Mamoré Railroad through the Amazon jungle. He also created and presided over the Brazil Railway Company, a syndicate that in 1912 controlled one-half of all Brazilian railroad mileage.

Farquhar spent the last decades of his life building and managing the steel plant at Itabira, Minas Gerais. From the start, this project faced fierce opposition from Brazilian nationalists. President Getúlio Vargas nationalized Itabira in 1942, making it part of the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce. Farquhar died in Rio de Janeiro.

See alsoRailroadsxml .


Charles Gauld, The Last Titan: Percival Farquhar: American Entrepreneur in Latin America (1964).

Steven Topik, The Political Economy of the Brazilian State, 1889–1930 (1987).

Todd A. Diacon, Millenarian Vision, Capitalist Reality: Brazil's Contestado Rebellion, 1912–1916 (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Zanetti, Oscar, and Alejandro García. Sugar and Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837–1959. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. See especially chapters 13 and 14.

                                               Todd Diacon