COLLIS P. HUNTINGTON Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Collis Potter Huntington                                                   
Born: Harwinton, Connecticut                                               
Place: October 22, 1821                                                     
Died: Lake Raquette, New York                                               
Place: August 13, 1900                                                     
Collis Potter Huntington was born in Harwinton, Connecticut on October     
22, 1821. His family had little money, and he grew up helping out on his   
father's farm. As he grew into his early teens, he did farm chores and odd 
jobs for neighbors, too, and he began to save some of his earnings. He     
used these small savings to buy and sell small items, and by the time he   
was 16 years old he had received $3000 in credit form a New York bank. He   
invested the $3000 in clocks, and he began traveling and peddling his       
goods. He paid off his obligation to the bank, and kept building his       
profits. In 1842 he and his brother established a business in Oneonta, New 
York, selling general merchandise. Their business was successful.           
When he saw opportunity blooming in America's West, he set out for         
California, and established himself as a merchant in Sacramento at the     
start of California's Gold Rush. Huntington succeeded in his California     
business, too, and it was here that he teamed up with Mark Hopkins selling 
miners' supplies and other hardware. He was becoming a wealthy man. In the 
late 1850's, he and Hopkins joined forces with two other successful         
businessmen, Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker, to pursue the idea of     
creating a rail line that would connect the America's East and West. In     
1861, these four businessmen (sometimes referred to as The Big Four)       
pooled their resources and business acumen, and formed the Central Pacific 
Railroad company to create the western link of America's transcontinental   
railway system. Their task was huge, but these four men were up to the     
challenge, and they overcame obstacles with mountains, politics, surveys,   
financing, legislation, labor, and materials to see their idea transform   
into reality. The actual construction of the railroad began in 1863. On     
May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah, the tracks of the Central Pacific       
Railroad joined with the tracks of the Union Pacific, and America had a     
transcontinental railroad.                                                 
Collis Potter Huntington and his partners completed other rail projects,   
too, and The Big Four all achieved wealth and status as railroad magnates. 
In 1865 they formed the Southern Pacific Railroad company, and created     
rail lines from New Orleans to the Southwest and into California. The       
Southern Pacific system grew to more than 9,000 miles of track, with an     
additional 5,000 miles of steamship lines as a complement. In 1869 C.P.     
Huntington acquired the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, upgraded it and       
linked it to the Southern Pacific system. His backing built up Newport     
News, Virginia, linking it via the extended Ohio and Chesapeake system to   
the Southern Pacific, which extended in the West to San Francisco. In       
1890, Huntington became president of Southern Pacific.                     
Estimates of Collis Potter Huntington's massive fortune put his worth at   
35 million dollars, and he was one of the country's largest landholders.   
He acquired a substantial collection of art, and was generally recognized   
as one of the country's foremost art collectors. He left most of his       
collection, valued at some 3 million dollars, to the New York Metropolitan 
Museum. Collis Potter Huntington died at his camp, Pine Knot, in the       
Adirondacks on August 13, 1900.                                             
Read more about Collis Potter Huntington and the creation of America's     
transcontinental rail system by clicking on one of these recommended books 
available through A highly recommended biography is The Great   
Persuader, by David Seivert Lavender. This is the best biography you will   
find on Huntington. If you are interested in the creation of the           
transcontinental railroad, purchase Empire Express: Building the First     
Transcontinental Railroad, by David Haward Bain. It is a very               
comprehensive account of the building of the transcontinental railroad,     
packed with well-researched accounts and photographs.