EDWARD H. HARRIMAN Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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EDWARD H. HARRIMAN (1848-1909): E. H. Harriman was born in Hempstead, New     
York, son of an Episcopal clergyman. At age 14, he began work as an office   
boy in a New York brokerage house: 8 years later he bought his own seat on   
the New York Stock Exchange. In 1879, Harriman married Mary Averell, the     
daughter of the president of the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad. In     
1881 Harriman bought control of the Sodus Bay and Southern Railroad, a       
short line running south from the shore of Lake Ontario. He improved the     
line, then set the New York Central and Pennsylvania bidding against each     
other for it. Pennsy bought it, and Harriman soon went after a larger         
railroad, the Illinois Central. By 1883 he was on the IC's board of           
directors and within a few years he had left the brokerage house he had       
established and became vice-president of the road. He launched an             
expansion program for the Illinois Central but looking ahead, was able to     
curtail it so the railroad could weather the Panic of 1893. In 1898           
Harriman took over the Union Pacific. In 1901 Harriman bought the Southern   
Pacific and shortly afterward bought the Central Pacific. He rounded out     
his system with the Chicago & Alton and the Central of Georgia. He           
attempted to buy first the Burlington and then the Northern Pacific but       
was thwarted by James J. Hill of the Great Northern. In 1908 he came to       
the rescue of the chronically troubled Erie and added that to his empire.     
Harriman was not one to buy a railroad for a quick profit. He believed       
that the financial yield would be considerably greater if the railroad's     
property was improved and its affairs well managed. Harriman established     
standards for locomotives, cars, bridges, structures, signals, and even       
such items as paint and stationery. Harriman's financial interest in the     
Union Pacific passed to his son, W. Averell Harriman, who was chairman of     
the Union Pacific's board from 1932 to 1946. The younger Harriman was also   
on the IC's Board until 1960, and was well known for his work in politics     
and international relations.