The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire, Vol. 1: The Nineteenth Century

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9780962084416: The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire, Vol. 1: The Nineteenth Century
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This book is about more than just one pioneer regional railroad. In telling the story of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad-which found itself transformed from a modest local enterprise into the dominant carrier of anthracite just as that mineral became the essential fuel for the Industrial Revolution-the Reading history reflects the trials and triumphs that marked the young country's phenomenal industrial growth in the middle years of the last century. The story of this relatively small railroad company that became one of the nation's first conglomerates and the wealthiest corporation in the world will require two volumes. The books are divided, quite naturally, by the turn of this century. This first volume covers the painful beginning of the enterprise as the impoverished company wins dominance over the hard coal trade by overcoming the competition of the powerful Schuylkill Canal, through the years of spectacular expansion and the turbulent period of the 1870s when the company's management was embroiled in successive bitter and sometimes bloody battles with the militant Molly Maguire movement, newborn labor unions, the great Pennsylvania Railroad and other anthracite railroads, English investors and stubborn coal mine operators. In the final decades of the century, the Reading suffered three disastrous failures, but escaped absorption by the great trunk lines largely because of the protection of the greatest financier of the time, J. P. Morgan. There were other titans of that era who also were deeply involved in the Reading's affairs, some as allies, others as would-be suitors, and some as enemies: Andrew Carnegie, William K. Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, George B. Roberts, John D. Rockefeller, John Wanamaker and Chauncey Depew. The Reading also produced its own cast of colorful corporate characters, especially Franklin B. Gowen and A. A. McLeod, presidents who were responsible for some of the company's most spectacular excesses, as well as notable achievements.

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