The Associates by Richard Rayner
Four Capitalists Who Created California
If you have ever wondered where “The Big Four”, Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, got the money and fame, The Associates is a brief way to delve into it. Growing up in California, I was raised hearing about Stanford University, Huntington Museum and had a savings account at the now defunct, Crocker Bank. However, I didn’t know much about the men behind them.
For the most part, all four just found themselves at the right place, at the right time and also had the guts to try and follow through with other people’s ideas. Huntington and Stanford were basically responsible for the west coast portion of the Transcontinental Railroad; they got the government approval and financial backing while Hopkins and Crocker kept things moving in California with the actual construction and the books.
I mentioned that the book was brief and it really was at 198 pages. Therefore, it was a great way to learn a bit about four men that had a huge part in creating California without getting bored off of my rear like the usual chunksters that are out there. It was also a peek into how the railroad was built (with Irish, but mostly Chinese labor) which led ultimately the Chinese Exclusionary Act. That being said, none of the men came out smelling squeaky clean and it didn’t really leave me wanting to know more about them.
Description of Huntington
He expected to live to be a hundred, he would say. For some he was almost the devil incarnate. The railroads- the way there were run and the power they had-were by then regarded as corrupt, cruel, implacable, and fiendish, in stark contrast to the gratitude and excitement with which they’d been greeted thirty years before. Not that Huntington cared. By his own admission he didn’t much mind whether he was honest or not.”
These men weren’t angels and while they never claimed to be, one of them did spend a good bit of his golden years trying to give something back to the country that gave him so much. We wouldn’t have Stanford University if Leland Stanford hadn’t wanted to build something as a tribute to the son that he lost. Huntington’s nephew is the man we have to thank for the beautiful Museum and Hospital near Pasadena. Would California be the great state that it is today without their backhanded deals complete with bribes, the monopolies they created, and their undying thirst to line their pockets? Probably not so I guess I should thank them.
Good, quick read about some not so likeable but important men and a real eye opener regarding the politics of what many call the Gilded Age.
The Associates: Four Capitalists Who Created California by Richard Rayner
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton/Atlas & Company; illustrated edition edition (January 1, 2007)