7.20. THE MICHIGAN SOUTHERN BEATS THE MICHIGAN CENTRAL INTO INDIANA

Sheffield had chartered the HRR as a response to Schuyler’s double-cross at about the exact same time that George Bliss had been removed as the president of the Western Railroad.  As Bliss calculated his campaign to launch the Michigan Southern, somehow he secured financing from Sheffield (either Bliss had already made Sheffield’s acquaintance through his construction of the Northampton Railroad or Ogden had brought these two men together), and with Sheffield’s money came Henry Farnum as Superintendent and John Jervis as Chief Engineer.  

An 1850 Map of the Michigan Southern and the various roads along the southern shore of Lake Erie. All roads shown are either constructed (alternating black and white) or planned (two parallel lines). Note there are only four “trunk lines” from the Atlantic. From north to south these are: New York Central (from Boston/Albany); New & Erie (New York); the Pittsburgh & Philadelphia, i.e., the Penn (Philadelphia); and the Baltimore & Ohio (Baltimore). Ogden’s G&CU’s route is shown. This map should give one pause at the scale of gamble that Ogden was taking in the summer of 1848. (Online)

With his route through Indiana already secured with his acquisition of the Northern Indiana, Bliss had only to effect a connection between the two routes at the Michigan/Indiana border.  The MS’s charter stated that the road was to terminate at Lake Michigan in New Buffalo, but as the MC was already there and making its way along the lake to the border, it made little business sense to construct a duplicate route.  Therefore, Bliss favored a more direct route straight to the tip of Lake Michigan, with the hope of beating the MC to that point and thereby, physically blocking its competitor from entering Indiana. The Michigan legislature approved the change with the proviso that the Southern’s route extend at least to the St. Joseph River before crossing the border.  On December 10, 1850, the MS reached Coldwater, MI, and headed for the Indiana border.  During this time, the MC had finally reached Michigan City only five weeks earlier on October 31, but with the loss of the Northern Indiana, it was stalled at the border, for it had no legal authority to construct tracks in Indiana.  Bliss (and Ogden), therefore, had completely outflanked the MC and owning the Northern Indiana, moved quickly to consolidate his route into Chicago by laying tracks straight to the tip of Lake Michigan.  Boston’s MC was left in a very compromised position, requiring some sophisticated action from its owners if the MC was to regain the initiative.

The Routes of the Michigan Central and Michigan Southern: 1846-1852.

FURTHER READING:.

Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947..

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago– v.2. New York: Knopf.  1940.

Stover, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University, 1978.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.19. A SALUTE TO JOHN JERVIS AND HIS CROTON AQUEDUCT

Jervis is one of the under-celebrated American civil engineers I referenced at the beginning of this blog. We first encountered him in Chap. 2.1 as the chief engineer for one of the country’s early railroads, Pennsylvania’s Delaware & Hudson Railroad, for which he designed The Stourbridge Lion that had made the first run of a steam-powered locomotive in the U.S on August 8, 1829.  Then in 1830 he was hired by New York’s Mohawk & Hudson, for which he designed the DeWitt Clinton whose first ride took place on August 13, 1831.  In October 1836 he was named the chief engineer to design the 41-mile-long Croton aqueduct, slated to bring fresh water to New York City from the Croton River, north of the city.  Among the structures erected for this project was the 140′ high, 1450′ long Aqueduct (later High) Bridge, needed to carry the aqueduct over the Harlem River and into Manhattan (at 174th Street).  It is comprised of 15 stone arches: the eight larger arches have a span of 80,’ while the seven shorter ones span 50.’ To compare, France’s Pont du Gard has a height of 160′ and a length of 900,’ with its largest span being 82;’ therefore, one can say that Jervis’ design is comparable to its Roman precedent.

Above: John B. Jervis, Croton Aqueduct, High Bridge Aqueduct over the Harlem River, New York City, 174th St., c. 1840. (Online); Below: Pont du Gard, Remoulins, France, 19 BC-50 AD. (Online)

The water was then directed to two reservoirs in Manhattan: the first. the York Hill Reservoir was located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 79th and 86th Streets (currently the site of the Great lawn in Central Park).

The water was then led to the distribution Murray Hill Reservoir, located on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets (the present location of the New York Public Library). This reservoir had 25′ thick granite walls that were 44′ high atop of which was a promenade that afforded grand vistas of the metropolis.  The Egyptian-influenced design of the walls can be credited to either Jervis, or the young James Renwick, Jr., who, having just completed his M.A. at Columbia in 1839, was hired as an assistant engineer, which was his first degree from Columbia in 1836.  I tend to favor Jervis as the designer simply because Renwick would not receive his first commission, that for New York’s Grace Church, until 1843, after the reservoir had been completed.  

John B. Jervis, Croton Aqueduct Distribution Reservoir, New York, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, c. 1838. (Online)

If this last photo reminds you of Root’s Monadnock Block, good, because that is exactly what I thought. Root spent over five years in New York (1866-1871), the last two he was John Snook’s supervisor of construction for the new Grand Central Depot, located only two blocks east of the reservoir. Root had to walk by this coped cornice every day.

Among the variety of out buildings needed for the aqueduct complex, the building that I find most interesting, however, is this gatehouse located at 113th and Amsterdam. I immediately thought this building had been designed by H.H. Richardson. He had spent a few years in New York prior to moving his practice to Boston in 1872. We will follow Jervis’s career as the railroads continue to build ever westward.

Above: John Jervis (?), Croton Aqueduct Gatehouse, 113th and Amsterdam, diagonally across from St. John the Divine. c.1840. (Online); Below: H.H. Richardson. Allegheny County Jail, Pittsburgh, 1884. (Online)

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.18. JOSEPH SHEFFIELD’S EARLIER INVESTMENTS IN RAILROADS

While the railroads from Boston had pushed west to join the New York “Central” lines that were being built from Albany to Lake Erie, New York City’s first experiment with an intrastate railroad, the New York & Erie, had met with stiff opposition from Albany in defending the Erie canal’s economic hegemony over the route to Buffalo.  It had taken the better part of ten years for railroad interests in New York City (which included Van Buren’s use of Ogden’s 1835 speech in the New York State Assembly) to overcome the upstate’s political antagonism, but by 1846 the monopoly to the West enjoyed by the Boston/Albany/Buffalo railroad was being threatened by the potential of a revitalized Erie Railroad that had finally emerged from New York City as a worthy competitor for the race to the West.  However, it would still take the better part of five and half years to complete the Erie to the shore of Lake Erie, that finally ended on May 14, 1851. 

Meanwhile, the mounting pressure to forge a direct rail link between New York City and Lake Erie was such that a second railroad out of New York City had been proposed.  The New York & Harlem Railroad, an enterprise originally incorporated in 1831 to be a Manhattan commuter line, had its charter amended by 1840 so that its tracks could be extended to Albany.  Rather than starting from scratch and building straight to Lake Erie from New York City as the Erie was attempting, however, the Harlem thought that it would be quicker to build a link from New York City along the east bank of the Hudson River to directly across from Albany, and thereby forge a through route to Buffalo via the “Central” route in upsate New York.  Similar to the Erie, unfortunately, the Harlem’s construction had been sporadic because of political interference, and had correspondingly not managed to lay much track during its sixteen-year existence to date.  A competing road that was planned to more closely follow the east bank of the river, the Hudson River Railroad, however, was chartered on March 4, 1847, by Joseph Sheffield and James Boorman, a New York banker and merchant who specialized in iron imports.  The genesis of the HRR seems to have been an attempt on Sheffield’s part to build a competing line to the Harlem because he had been forced off the Board of Directors of the NY&NH, a company that he initially had chartered and financed in 1844, by the very man he had appointed as its president, Robert Schuyler.

Map of the New York & Harlem RR and the Hudson River RR. The HRRR (black line) was built closer to the path of the Hudson River, while the NY&H (two parallel lines) was built farther to the East. (Online)

Sheffield was a very successful financier who eventually had settled in New Haven in 1835.  In 1840 he had purchased a controlling share of stock of the Farmington Canal (that ran from New Haven north into Massachusetts to connect with the Connecticut River at Northampton), in which he had made a lifelong relationship with the company’s engineer, Henry Farnam.  In 1844 Sheffield, along with Samuel J. Hitchcock, then the president of the Hartford & New Haven Railroad, chartered the NY&NH Railroad, intended as an extension of Hitchcock’s H&NH to New York City.  Sheffield had intended that Hitchcock would also be the president of the new company, but he unexpectedly died before the company’s organization was completed.  Hitchcock’s premature death in 1845 would have a significant impact on Chicago’s history and urban form.  Sheffield was forced to find a replacement for Hitchcock as president of both companies, and it seemed that Robert Schuyler, who along with his brother George, headed a well-respected Wall Street brokerage firm (and were from the highest stratum of New York City society, as they were grandsons of Revolutionary General Philip Schuyler, the hero of Saratoga, as well being nephews of Alexander Hamilton), seemed to fit the position perfectly.

Construction of the NY&NH went smoothly, once an agreement was signed with the Harlem that required the NY&NH to use the Harlem’s tracks to enter New York City.  During the period of constructing the NY&NH, Sheffield was forced to confront the unprofitability of the Farmington Canal, to which Farnam posed the solution of using the canal’s property as a right-of-way for a parallel railroad from New Haven to Springfield (with a connection to Bliss’ Western Railroad).  Sheffield provided most of the financing for the Northampton Railroad, that Farnam began construction in January 1847, that would, necessarily, compete with the H&NH’s route, Hitchcock’s original company now run by Schuyler.  Sheffield had leased the Northampton to Schuyler’s NY&NH in good faith with the understanding that Sheffield and Farnam would continue building the Northampton to Springfield, once Sheffield secured a charter in Massachusetts.  Schuyler then went back on his word and contracted with the H&NH as the sole carrier for the NY&NH to Springfield, completing blocking Sheffield’s plans for the Northampton and earning Sheffield’s personal and professional enmity.  While this move put Schuyler in sole control of not only the line from New York to Hartford and Springfield via New Haven, but also with the Harlem, the ability to forge a direct route between New York and Albany, it caused Sheffield to choose to compete directly with Schuyler’s Harlem by financing the Hudson River Railroad, a parallel route from New York City to Albany.  Sheffield and Boorman hired New York’s leading engineer, John B. Jervis, who by this time, had among his accomplishments the construction of New York’s first railroad, the Mohawk & Hudson, as well as New York City’s Croton Aqueduct and Reservoir as the road’s superintendent. Jervis began construction of the HRR in 1847, during which he set what was then a record: he averaged 36 miles per year.  Sheffield enjoined a modicum of satisfaction in that the HRR arrived in Albany ahead of the Harlem on October 1, 1851, by two and a half months.

FURTHER READING:

Beebe, Lucius and Charles Clegg. Hear the Train Blow: A Pictorial Epic of America in the Railroad Age. New York, 1952.

Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

McLellan, David and Bill Warrick, The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, Polo, IL: Transportation Trails, 1989.

Porter, Noah, A Discourse Commemorative of the Life and Character of Mr. Joseph Earl Sheffield, Delivered at the Battell Chapel, June 26, 1882.

Stover, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University, 1978.

Withington, Sidney, “The Strange Case of Robert Schuyler,” Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin, No. 98 (April 1958).

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.17. GEORGE BLISS AND JOSEPH SHEFFIELD TAKEOVER THE MICHIGAN SOUTHERN

By 1849, the railroad industry had matured to the point that the process of consolidating the original chartered short lines into longer, larger, and more efficient companies had begun. Inevitably, there would be individual winners and losers among the various corporate executives, as the merged companies began to shed redundant managers.  Human nature is such that not all those terminations were either voluntary or appreciated, especially among those who had pioneered the original company from which they had been terminated.  Competition or revenge would be the reaction engendered in some of these businessmen.  Two particular situations in the Northeast would have significant consequences on the development of Chicago.  One corporate battle involved the two companies that connected Boston with Albany.  The second conflict arose between two businessmen who had chartered and built the New York & New Haven in Connecticut.  These two aggrieved parties would eventually find each other and team up to build a competing company to the Bostonians’ Michigan Central.  

Some nine months after Forbes had taken over the more completed MC, the Southern Michigan was acquired from the state on December 23, 1846, by the Railroad Charter and Insolvent Railroad Purchasing Company, owned by Edwin C. Litchfield of New York, and financed by John Stryker of Rome, NY, who was also a Director of the Utica & Syracuse.  The name of the new company was changed to the Michigan Southern and to build the MS, as it was for any railroad, at least three things were necessary: motivation, financing, and expertise.  The Bostonians’ desire to make a profit and to extend the spokes of their burgeoning system ever westward had provided the motivation for the MC.  Financial interests from Boston, Albany, and other towns in upstate New York along the New York “Central’s” route had provided its financing.  John W. Brooks provided much of the railroad expertise.  

The Railroads from the East to Chicago: 1841-1856. While the New York Central chose to take the northern shore of Lake Erie through Canada, the Michigan Southern lines evolved a shorter route along the southern shore. (Johnson & Supple, Boston Capitalists)

With the MS, however, the motivation and expertise came about as the apparent result of an internal conflict within the ranks of the two original Massachusetts companies that had built the route from Boston to Albany: the Boston & Worcester and its president Nathan Hale from Boston, and the Western Railroad and its president George Bliss of Springfield.  Bliss had graduated from Yale and studied to become a lawyer.  He was a leader in Springfield’s politics, having served in the state legislature, before he moved into taking control of the Western Railroad. Although each road was dependent upon the other for their mutual success, the managements of the two companies could never reach an agreement upon the rates to be charged and how the resulting income was to be shared between the two companies.  This disagreement had come to a head in 1846 when Hale publicly criticized Bliss’ management of the Western.  BY the end of the year, Bliss, the man from Springfield, had been voted out of the presidency of the road he had helped to build from scratch by the Bostonians, creating an embittered rival whose name, within a year of his removal, was found among the ranks of the directors of Litchfield’s nascent MS, rising quickly to become its president on August 1, 1849.

Map of the Early Railraods in Massachusetts. (Kirkland, Men, Cities, and Transportation)

By this time there was a new impetus pushing the construction of these roads to the west as quickly as possible: the discovery of gold in California. At the peak of the goldrush during the summer of 1849, as Forbes was considering Brooks’ request to extend the MC from New Buffalo to the Indiana line at Michigan City, Bliss was finalizing his own financial support to build a competing line to Chicago. As Brooks had perceived two year earlier, the easiest and fastest way to Chicago was to obtain control over a company that was already chartered in Indiana to build a railroad, such as the B&M, whose name, coincidently, had been changed in early 1949 to the pragmatic, but more realistic-sounding Northern Indiana.  If we recall how insulting the MC’s William Weld had treated Ogden in early 1848 and again in early 1849, when Ogden had twice tried to obtain financing from the Bostonians for the G&CU, and that Ogden was the President of the B&M, the facts seem to suggest that somehow Bliss and Ogden had found each other at the right time, allowing Bliss, who had been President of the MS for less than three months, to buy the Northern Indiana in October 1849 right out from under the noses of Brooks and the MC, thereby allowing the MS to beat Forbes to the punch, and would, therefore, be the first to expand into Indiana. Ogden had changed allegiances from trying to cooperate with Brooks and the MC and was now doing all he could do to stimy the MC and assist Bliss and the MS.  It is not known whether or not Ogden did this openly or secretly so as not to alert Brooks, as not all of the G&CU’s Board would have gone along with this switch, for the G&CU was contractually obligated to allow Brooks’ and Wadsworth’s Aurora Branch use of the G&CU tracks into Chicago from Turner Junction.  Nonetheless, Ogden, indeed, had decided to assist the MS, that was proved by fact that not only was Charles Butler, Ogden’s brother-in-law, named to the new Board of Directors of the Northern Indiana, but also Scammon’s law partner, Norman Judd, was appointed to be the attorney for the Michigan Southern.  

The Routes of the Michigan Central and Michigan Southern: 1846-1852.

But Bliss still needed the third component, financing, for the MS, and once again Ogden would play a central role, albeit somewhat behind the scenes, in the eventual success of the MS, in that he seems to also have been involved in securing the long-tern financial backing of Connecticut financier Joseph E. Sheffield for the company.  Sheffield was a wealthy financier in New Haven CT, who in 1845, while being immersed in the construction of the NY&NH, had hired Ogden & Jones to be his Chicago real estate agent.  How Sheffield had become acquainted with Ogden has yet to be documented, but one plausible connection may have been the fact that Sheffield had married Maria St. John in 1822, who had hailed from Walton, NY, Ogden’s very small hometown. Ogden had already taken over running his father’s businesses in Walton by this date, so he would have, at least been aware of, if not actually at the wedding.  (It was possible that Ogden and Sheffield’s bride were related.)  An alternative connection could have been the wealthy businessman Samuel Russell, an Ogden client, who lived in Middletown, CT, only 15 miles to north of New Haven.   Either way, it is quite plausible to see Ogden as the one who was responsible for securing Sheffield’s financing of the MS at this critical point in time, but why had the Connecticut magnate become interested in building a railroad to Chicago in the first place?

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

McLellan, David and Bill Warrick, The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, Polo, IL: Transportation Trails, 1989.

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago- I,II. New York: Knopf.  1940.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.15. SCAMMON SAVES THE G&CU

With the G&CU enterprise commanding every minute of their attention during 1848 and into 1849, the plans Ogden and Scammon had for a parallel railroad to the East with the joint venture they had entered into with Brooks had to be shelved so the B&M continued to lay dormant, just as Forbes had assumed it would when he rejected Brooks’ initial offer to purchase it.  During the winter of 1848-49, Ogden had signed contracts for the rails and ties (with his other company, McCagg, Reed, and Company) needed for the upcoming spring construction campaign, assuming that the inherent investment potential of his now-proven railroad and the good faith agreement he had recently signed with Brooks’ Aurora Branch would more than suffice in bringing Boston investment capital to finish the G&CU.  Such was not to be the case, however, for when Ogden once again made the trip back to Boston accompanied this time not by Scammon but by another G&CU Director, former two-term Mayor Benjamin Raymond, he returned once again disheartened (and more than likely, quite disgusted) with the lack of support from those with whom he thought he had made the earlier arrangements for the westward continuation of the Boston road via the Aurora Branch.  Weld’s dire prophesy from his last trip now seemed to be coming true.  Facing imminent financial ruin from Ogden’s overcommitment in these contracts, an emergency meeting of the Board of Directors was called to discuss the dire situation.  To continue construction could endanger the stock while halting it at this point would bring certain bankruptcy and the curse of the Bostonians down upon them.  Thomas Dyer, owner of the Lake House and a close business partner of Elisha Wadsworth (see Chap. 6.10), who had wanted to extend the G&CU tracks east across the North Branch to make a connection with his property, had lost confidence in Ogden, after which Scammon referred to him in front of the Board as “a doubting Thomas.”  Having his manhood so challenged Dyer replied, “if Mr. Scammon has so much faith in the Road, I move that a committee of five be appointed, with full power to do anything which they deem expedient in regard to the Road, and that Mr. Scammon be chairman of that committee, and be authorized to appoint his associates.”  This was done and the committee gave Scammon free reign to do whatever it took to save the company.

Scammon, who had also been humbled by Weld the prior year, succeeded in saving the entire enterprise from falling into the hands of the waiting Bostonians by secretly cajoling a personal loan of $20,000 from the thrifty George Smith. Although Smith also sat on the G&CU Board of Directors, he was unwilling to loan Ogden the necessary funds to bridge the deficit, for he confided to Scammon that he did not think Ogden would be able to complete the road to Elgin.  Somehow Scammon convinced “Scotch George” to make a personal loan to himself that he then signed over to the company, allowing Ogden to continue the carefully-paced construction of the G&CU through 1849, enabling it to reach Elgin, some 40 miles to the west, on January 22, 1850.  More importantly, Scammon’s personal loan had kept the little company within the control of its local investors, financially and politically independent of the Boston company that had become by this time, locked in an all-out struggle with a new competitor to be the first railroad to enter Chicago.  Scammon’s loan would also allow Ogden to switch allegiances at this pivotal moment so that he would no longer be financially or politically dependent upon the Bostonians.  This was the second time “Scotch George” had saved Chicago’s bacon.

7.16. FORBES’ CONSERVATIVE BUSINESS PRACTICES COMES BACK TO BITE HIM

After the Michigan Central had reached New Buffalo in April 1849, Forbes eventually approved a modest proposal by Brooks to extend the line the nine and a half miles to the Indiana border at Michigan City, which it finally did on October 31, 1850, some eighteen months later.  The next logical leg for the route to Chicago would be the construction of a route through Indiana.  Since the B&M in Indiana was already chartered to do this, Brooks’ foresight in trying to persuade Forbes to purchase the company in the previous year exactly for this purpose had made perfect sense.  However, the Bostonians had grown accustomed over the decades to doing business, whether it was in China or “out west,” in a very methodical, conservative manner.  They had been successful heretofore with this mindset simply because they had enjoyed a relative monopoly over the financing of first, the China trade, and now with the early American railroads.  

Had their monopoly continued into the 1850s, they simply would have bided their time and eventually purchased the B&M in October 1850, once the MC’s tracks had reached the Indiana border, laid its tracks around the tip of Lake Michigan, found a bankrupt Illinois railroad, (hence, their refusal to fund Ogden’s G&CU) and use it to complete their route into Chicago, planned to parallel the west bank of the South Branch in order to make a direct connection with Brooks’ Aurora Branch to the west that was already using Ogden’s G&CU tracks and station at Canal and Kinzie (that they had naturally assumed they would take control of once Ogden had gone bankrupt).  However, Scammon’s private loan from George Smith had prevented the G&CU from going bankrupt at a critical moment in the life of the fledgling company.  More importantly, however, was the fact that by the time the MC’s tracks had reached the Indiana border, Forbes’ caution was to prove to be pennywise, but pound foolish, for a newly-formed competing company, the Michigan Southern Railroad that had recently bought the dormant Southern Michigan, had arisen to challenge the MC and proceeded to buy the B&M in October 1849 for exactly the purpose that Brooks had originally proposed some two years earlier. 

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Scammon, J. Young. “William B. Ogden,” Fergus Historical Series, No, 17. Chicago: Fergus, 1882.

Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946..

McLellan, David and Bill Warrick, The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, Polo, IL: Transportation Trails, 1989.

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago- I,II. New York: Knopf.  1940.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.14. THE MICHIGAN CENTRAL ARRIVES IN NEW BUFFALO

As the debate in Congress over the transcontinental project began to heat up, the Michigan Central tracks had finally reached New Buffalo, MI, on April 23, 1849.  Similar to the operation during their construction of the various lines that ran from Albany to Buffalo (that would be consolidated as the New York Central Railroad in 1853), until the MC tracks reached New Buffalo, a brisk carriage trade had filled in the gaps along the incomplete route from its current railhead to New Buffalo, where a lake steamer could then be boarded for Chicago. Once completed, the MC reduced the three-day steamboat trip from Detroit around the Great Lakes to Chicago to a fifteen-hour ride on the railroad and steamer.  A direct route from Boston to Chicago was now in operation that took from thirty-three to thirty-six hours: the Boston & Worcester, Western, and New York “Central” roads to Buffalo, the MC’s new lake steamer, The Mayflower, across Lake Erie to Detroit, the MC to New Buffalo, and another steamer across Lake Michigan to Chicago.  A New Yorker could make the same trip by taking a Hudson River boat to Albany, and then boarding a train. 

The Railroads from the East to Chicago: 1841-1856. While the New York Central originally chose to take the northern shore of Lake Erie through Canada, the Michigan Southern lines evolved a shorter route along the southern shore. (Johnson & Supple, Boston Capitalists)

All that remained to achieve a continuous direct rail route from Boston to Chicago was to fill in the two routes around the Lakes Erie and Michigan.  A magazine confidently stated:

“In a few years we may expect a railroad to be made from New Buffalo, around the lake, to Chicago, and from thence to the Mississippi river, at Galena, thus completing the iron chain of communication between Detroit and the Mississippi river.”

Undaunted by Forbes’ hesitancy over the purchase of the Buffalo & Mississippi, however, John W. Brooks unilaterally, apparently, had secured the financial backing of Elisha Wadsworth, owner of Chicago’s largest drygoods company, Wadsworth & Phelps, (see Chap. 6.10) that allowed Brooks, Wadsworth, and eight other Chicago investors, along with a group of businessmen from Aurora, Illinois, 20 miles west of Chicago, to charter the Aurora Branch Railroad on February 12, 1849. This was planned by Brooks to run to the southwest and eventually become the next link in Boston’s system to run west from Chicago. By this date, the G&CU had begun operations to the west, so Brooks negotiated a deal with Ogden (who had hoped that such a sign of goodwill might change the hearts of the Bostonians) that would let the trains of this new company use the Galena’s tracks to enter Chicago from a point that would become known as Turner Junction (named after John Turner, the superintendent of the Galena), some 16 miles west of Chicago, thereby saving Brooks the cost and time of building a separate line into Chicago from that point.  He also succeeded in enticing John Van Nortwick, the G&CU’s Chief Engineer to move to the Aurora to supervise its construction, whom Ogden then replaced with William McAlpine.  Such was the continuous route of lines that Brooks had planned to get the Michigan Central around Lake Michigan and through Chicago on its way to the west (what would eventually become the Forbes group’s Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad), as its tracks were on the verge of entering New Buffalo in the spring of 1849.  However, events would soon foil Brooks’ ambition for a quick and easy entry into Chicago from the East.

The Route of the Aurora Branch. (Johnson & Supple, Boston Capitalists)

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge:     Harvard University Press, 1967.

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago- I,II. New York: Knopf.  1940.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.13. THE GEOPOLITICS OF THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD – PART 2

Following the later Memphis convention that called for a southern route from San Diego along the Gila River to El Paso before terminating at Memphis, the advocates of a northern route met one more time as a called continuation of the St. Louis Convention the following year in Philadelphia on April 1-2, 1850, to continue to keep the pressure on Congress for a transcontinental railroad.  William Ogden was made the President of this meeting, at which no route other than an ambiguously worded route from the “Valley of the Mississippi” to the Pacific Ocean was identified to maintain Sectional political unanimity over the project.  So while St. Louis and Memphis, that were both already located on the Mississippi River, hosted conventions in 1849 where great plans for the transcontinental railroad were debated over and over, Ogden and Scammon continued to doggedly lay tracks due west from Chicago to the Mississippi.  Therefore, both St. Louis and Memphis were already too late, or maybe it is more accurate to say that Ogden was already ahead of the game for by the time of the two conventions in October 1849, the G&CU was making its daily run to the end of the construction of its ever-lengthening roadbed to the Mississippi. 

The Route of the Ohio & Mississippi/Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Note that Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and St. Louis are in a straight line to the West through the center of the country. New York and Philadelphia are easliy connected by an extension, thereby providing an excellent route for the Transcontinental Railroad that would have completely bypassed Chicago. (Online)

The larger of the two threats to Chicago’s own northern route seemed to be Sen. Benton’s compromise route between North and South that ran through the country’s midsection along the 39° parallel from Baltimore through Cincinnati and on to St. Louis, that the B&O had slowly been building at the same time the Boston Concern had been constructing its route to Chicago.  This compromise route would have completely bypassed Chicago by some 200 miles to the south, condemning Chicago to exist as an economic satellite of the two powerful river cities.  Once the B&O would reach the Ohio River at Wheeling, the way seemed to be open to continue the railroad, as the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, through Ohio to Cincinnati and then on to St. Louis.  Planning for the O&M had actually begun in 1848, about the same time as Ogden started construction on the G&CU.  Fortunately for the economic future of Chicago (and unfortunately, for Cincinnati and St. Louis), the State of Pennsylvania as well as the Allegheny Mountains stood between Baltimore and the Ohio River.  Pennsylvania was now attempting to build its own railroad from Philadelphia to the Ohio River, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and would not permit the chartering of the B&O’s extension from Cumberland, MD, on the Potomac, through Pennsylvania to Wheeling on the Ohio, which forced the B&O to build a route through Virginia, around the southeast corner of Pennsylvania to Wheeling. There was no geologic equivalent in Virginia, however, to the Mohawk River Valley that had made the Erie Canal and the subsequent chain of parallel railroads possible.  It took the better part of ten years, eleven tunnels and 13 bridges, for the B&O to build its rails from Cumberland to Wheeling, that was located geographically as far west as only Erie, PA.  The B&O was just too late when it finally made it to Wheeling on January 1, 1853, and once it had reached Wheeling, it still had to cross the entire state of Ohio to reach Cincinnati, and then cross Indiana before it could even start laying tracks in Illinois.

Map of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, c. 1859. (Online)

But St. Louis lay some 125 miles farther west than Chicago and could have easily beaten its northern competitor to the Missouri River (say at St. Joseph, MO, midway between Omaha and Kansas City) and up to the Platte River at Council Bluffs and then west to the South Pass, if someone in St. Louis had the same acumen and tenacity that Ogden had and had just started laying tracks to the west rather than waiting for an eastern railroad to build to St. Louis.  An obvious advantage to this strategy would have been no need to build a bridge over the Mississippi but to simply rely on a ferry across the river once the eastern tracks had reached St. Louis.  In fact, although the Hannibal & St. Joseph railroad, planned to link Hannibal, MO, some 120 miles upriver from St. Louis, with St. Joseph had been chartered in 1845, before Ogden took over the G&CU in January 1846, its construction didn’t begin until 1851. The fact was that there was no equivalent of a William Ogden in St. Louis at this moment who dared take the needed financial risk to begin the enterprise. And even if there would have been an equivalent to Ogden in St. Louis, his attempt would have been severely opposed by the local riverboat owners for St. Louis was, most assuredly, a river city.  Cincinnati (Dr. Drake’s earlier attempt with the LC&C notwithstanding) and St. Louis didn’t do themselves any favors by not taking advantage of every opportunity to help their long-term interests in this battle.  Instead of recognizing the reality that the steam locomotive represented and offered, there were vested interests in both cities founded in the late eighteenth century, that fought hard to maintain the primacy of the steamboat on the river over the underappreciated effects that the steam railroad was imposing on the nineteenth century.  On the other hand, Chicago was a true nineteenth century city, and was not as easily held back by the inertia of the past. 

Last but not least, any such effort to directly link Cincinnati with St. Louis was easily thwarted by the geography of the NorthWest for the State of Illinois extended from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River.  As the B&O had experienced with the Pennsylvania legislature, to do any construction of a railroad at this time in any state required the approval by that state’s legislature of a state charter and of the right-of-way.  Illinois’ legislature would be no less chauvinistic than any other antebellum legislature in protecting their own local interests. There was no way around the fact that St. Louis’ economic future was completely in the hands of the Illinois State legislature, that, consequently, could also control the future economic development of the entire Midwest. (An earlier example of this geographical roadblock that St. Louis faced had been the fact that the National Road had never reached St. Louis, having been stopped in 1837 at Vandalia, IL, some 60 miles east of the Mississippi.) If the Illinois legislature could stall the O&M long enough to permit the construction of a system of railroads that radiated from Chicago, all rail traffic, whether from the East to the West, or from the West bound for the East, would have to pass through Chicago.  Furthermore, if no through routes in the state of Illinois were allowed in the charters that did manage to be approved by the legislature, all passenger and freight traffic would have to transfer from one railroad to another in Chicago.  There was no logical reason to require passengers or freight to transfer from one train to another in Chicago.  It would have been more efficient to build a through route to the southern tip of Lake Michigan (at the Calumet River) and just keep going due west (as the MC would eventually threaten to do), instead of having to swing north for the extra 20 miles to Chicago, where Ogden had had the foresight to lay the first western tracks to the Mississippi River and where trains coming from the East and the West were now forced to prematurely end their tracks.  It was simply pure greed on the part of the city and its representatives in the state legislature that made this expensive non-necessity a physical reality.  Thanks to the ceaseless efforts of William Ogden, Chicago had grabbed the momentum of the project by unilaterally beginning construction of the G&CU to the West, a quest Ogden would not surrender for the next twenty years, until his Chicago & North Western (that eventually absorbed the G&CU) would be the first line to make it to Council Bluffs in February 1867, allowing it to provide the necessary construction materials to the Union Pacific Railroad, that Ogden would personally help to organize during the Civil War as the company to build the next link in the chain from Omaha to the Pacific.  Chicago, and the State of Illinois would, correspondingly reap the economic windfall from such traffic, and the city’s dominance in the region as the hub of the nation’s (if not the world’s) largest railroad network would be secured, not merely through any preordained geographic advantage but with sheer political muscle (“I will”).

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Borneman, Walter R. Iron Horses: America’s Race to Bring the Railroad West.  New York: Back Bay, 2010.

Cotterill, R.S., “Memphis Railroad Convention, 1849,” Tennessee Historical Magazine, Vol. 4, June 1918.

Howe, Daniel Walker.  What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas, New York: Oxford, 1973.

Stover, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University, 1978.

Young, David M. The Iron Horse and the Windy City. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.12. THE GEOPOLITICS OF THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD – PART 1

Map of the U.S., c. 1844. At this time there was no “Southern” landbridge to the Pacific Ocean: Mexico owned the land that was needed to build a Southern Transcontinental Railroad. (Online)

While the nation’s interest had been focused in 1846 and 1847 on the Mexican-American War, all discussions of the transcontinental railroad had, for all practical purposes, been pushed to the backburner.  One of the reasons behind Pres. Polk’s decision to go to war with Mexico had been to conquer as much of the Mexican provinces of Nuevo México and Alta California as possible to create a contiguous land route in the South through American-controlled land to the Pacific so that just such a route could be built.    The war would, indeed, result in the physical unification of the East with the West, but it would also cause the division of both political parties along North and South factions over the possible extension of slavery into the lands ceded by Mexico.  

The issue of whether this new land would be free of slavery or not had not been determined by the Missouri Compromise of 1820, that drew the line of demarcation between free and slave territory west of Missouri, that was admitted as a slave state, by extending the 36° 30’ line of Missouri’s southern border to the west, but this pertained only to lands within the boundaries of the Louisiana Territory.  This had left the status of slavery in the future states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California in limbo.  Once Polk’s duplicity over the resolution of the Oregon boundary became public, Pennsylvania’s Van Buren Democratic Congressman David Wilmot, unafraid to debate the slavery issue, had added a proviso to a war appropriation bill on August 8, 1846, that would have denied the extension of slavery to all territory that was anticipated to be ceded by Mexico.  

Map of the U.S., 1846, showing the impact of the Wilmot Proviso. (Online)

The Wilmot Proviso hardened the Sectional lines regarding slavery and, thereby, doomed any coordinated Federal attempt to build a transcontinental railroad until the start of the Civil War.  While the economic and demographic forces continued to reinforce the logic and need of such a connection between the East and West coasts, antebellum Sectional jealousies succeeded in thwarting competing plans to build such a federally subsidized route. Douglas would eventually achieve in linking the North and South with the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad, but an East/West route had to wait until the start of the Civil War finally broke the political logjam.  Instead of a centralized effort on the part of the Federal government to build a transcontinental route, what emerged in the U.S. as the economy rebounded during the late 1840s and early 1850s, was an epic laissez-faire struggle of continental proportions among local governments and private companies, straight out of Herbert Spenser’s contemporary theory of social Darwinism, with each entity trying to outwit the other in the placement of two parallel ribbons of iron, inching their way ever westward.  This uncontrolled competition would be to antebellum Chicago’s advantage for Ogden had grabbed the momentum of the project with his own hands by unilaterally beginning construction of the G&CU to the West.  While the supporters of the other routes bickered over Federal support in Congress during the thirteen years between Ogden’s laying the first rail in 1848 and the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, Chicago’s businesses and population would catch up with Cincinnati and St. Louis.  The momentum of this expansion would result in Chicago becoming a “black hole,” sucking anything and everything (such as McCormick’s factory) into its ever-expanding vortex.

Map of the U.S., c. 1849. (Online)

Once the Mexican War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, the issue of where to build the federally subsidized transcontinental railroad had returned to the halls of Congress.  With Mexico ceding the vast lands of Nuevo México and Alta California to the U.S. as one of the requirements of the Treaty, a transcontinental route completely within the legal borders of the U.S. was finally available.  As of then, there was not yet a comparable contiguous route in the north (for “Nebraska,” that stretched from the Red River in Texas to the Canadian border, was still unorganized as a territory and “legally” still belonged to the Native tribes).  No Federal support for a transcontinental proposal in the North through land not formally controlled by the Federal government would ever be approved by the South’s representatives as long as comparable routes to the Pacific existed that could extend from Charleston and Atlanta to Memphis along the 35° parallel, or from New Orleans and Houston along the 32° (New Orleans also argued for a road across the Isthmus of Panama), that were not only feasible but also completely within the borders of the U.S.   

The Route of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad. Note that Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and St. Louis are in a straight line to the West through the center of the country. New York and Philadelphia are easliy connected by an extension, thereby providing an excellent route for the Transcontinental Railroad that would have completely bypassed Chicago. (Online)

Following the signing of the treaty that formally brought these lands under U.S. political control, Missouri’s ever-vigilant Sen. Benton once again proposed that Congress approve his “compromise route” for a transcontinental railroad from St. Louis to San Francisco Bay (as the logical continuation of the B&O’s planned Ohio & Mississippi).  After the Senate rejected this, he attempted to have Congress finance a fourth expedition by his son-in-law, Frémont, (who during the War had completed a third expedition from St. Louis to California, under secret orders from Pres. Polk in anticipation of the coming war with Mexico to reinforce the American presence in Alta California, that also allowed Frémont to explore for a potential transcontinental route along the 38° parallel) to continue to search for the best transcontinental route along the 38° parallel, but this, too, was rejected along Sectional lines.  Not so easily deterred in their mutual expansionist visions, the Senator and his son-in-law eventually secured private funding and Frémont set off from St. Louis in October 1848 on an ill-fated expedition into the Central Rockies, that, nonetheless, still provided valuable information on the region’s geography.

On January 6, 1849, (already more than a month after The Pioneer’s initial run), the South joined the political debate when interests in Little Rock, AK, with an eye out for a transcontinental railroad through its territory, proposed to convene a convention in Memphis on July 4, 1849, to discuss a possible railroad between Memphis and Monterey (100 miles south of San Francisco).  In response to the proposed Memphis convention, St. Louis scheduled its own transcontinental railroad convention for October 15, 1849.  The outbreak of cholera along the Mississippi River in the summer, however, forced Memphis to postpone its convention until October 23, 1849, that followed not only the St. Louis convention, but also an earlier convention in Mississippi on October 1, 1849, called by Calhoun to discuss a possible southern response (Secession) to the threatened passage of the Wilmot Proviso.  Stephen Douglas, not one to shy away from a debate, not only attended the 1849 St. Louis convention, but was elected its president.  He resigned after his presentation of his proposed northern route that was, for all practical purposes, a direct Chicago trunkline to the South Pass, with only connecting lines from Council Bluffs to St. Louis and to Memphis, was jeered in the local press.  Benton followed with a plea to Congress encouraging it to approve a route that had “the Bay of San Francisco at one end, St. Louis in the middle, and the national metropolis and great commercial emporium at the other end.”  The convention ultimately voted in favor of “a grand trunk railroad” centered on St. Louis, “with branches to Memphis and Chicago,” even though Douglas would hear of no such idea of a railroad between St. Louis and California, coyly arguing that endorsing a single terminus in the east would be politically impossible in the highly fractionalized atmosphere of the antebellum era.

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Borneman, Walter R. Iron Horses: America’s Race to Bring the Railroad West.  New York: Back Bay, 2010.

Cotterill, R.S., “Memphis Railroad Convention, 1849,” Tennessee Historical Magazine, Vol. 4, June 1918.

Howe, Daniel Walker.  What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas, New York: Oxford, 1973.

Stover, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University, 1978.

Young, David M. The Iron Horse and the Windy City. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.11. THE FIRST LINK OF THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD

While Ogden was negotiating between McCormick and Gray, The Alert, an old locomotive purchased from Brooks’ Michigan Central had been refitted and shipped overwater to Chicago.  The locomotive arrived at the Chicago River on October 10, was carefully unloaded, and placed on temporary tracks that had been laid from Halsted and Kinzie to the riverbank.  In the meanwhile, Ogden and Turner had funded a local mechanic and foundry operator, Hiram H. Scoville, to start a new company to manufacture the freight and passenger cars for the nascent railroad.  Ogden had sold him a lot on the corner of Canal and Adams, upon which Scoville moved a frame building from the corner of Randolph and Clinton, in which H.H. Scoville & Sons would become the city’s first company to manufacture railroad cars.  Turner had shipped a prototype of a car on a schooner from Michigan and Scoville was in business, and by October 25, 1848, he had made two cars that were hitched to the locomotive, renamed The Pioneer, and Chicago’s first locomotive made a successful five-mile experimental run.  (As the railroad business grew, the owners of the Galena funded the expansion of Scoville into the manufacture of locomotives as well, with the incorporation of the Chicago Locomotive Company in 1854.  William H. Brown, a G&CU Director, was elected the company’s president, while Ogden and Thomas Dyer were major investors.)

“The Pioneer,” the first locomotive of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. (Online)

Little did Ogden know at that time how valuable his unilateral decision to begin construction of the railroad was to be, as gold had been discovered in California on January 24, 1848, but the first news of the discovery didn’t make it back to the East Coast until August 19, some two months after he had started laying track.  The Gold Rush to California was on and Ogden’s little train had a serendipitous head start. Meanwhile, construction of the G&CU’s tracks had continued west throughout the fall until the Des Plaines River was reached in mid-November.  With an eye out for some desperately needed public relations, Ogden invited about 100 stockholders and newspaper reporters to take the first passenger ride to the end of the line on November 20.  They reported to the railroad’s hastily constructed shed at Canal and Kinzie.  A couple of baggage cars fitted with benches waited behind The Pioneer as the guests made their way to the tracks.  At around 4:00 p.m., history was made as Chicago’s first passenger train began the eight-mile trek over the prairie to the end of the line.  On the return trip home, the party came across three wagons loaded with hides and wheat that were stuck up to their wheel hubs in mud.  The owners were easily induced to be relieved on the spot of their commodities, that were loaded on the train for the ride into the city.  After this inaugural run, The Pioneer made the run each day carrying workers and supplies to the end of the line.  Word quickly spread throughout the surrounding farming community and within a week, there were over thirty wagons of wheat waiting at the Des Plaines depot.

Map of G&CU as of December 1848. Note the location of the G&CU terminal on the west bank of the North Branch of the river. (Online)

Ogden’s vision of a grain cycle was becoming a reality.  By December the route’s length had been extended to ten miles and with such an auspicious response by the farmers, Ogden began making plans for the upcoming spring’s construction.  Within a year, Ogden had replaced the shed at the start of the line with a permanent depot, the first of a new kind building in Chicago. 

The First Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Station, Canal and Kinzie, 1848. Looking northwest. The second story and cupola were added in 1849. Ogden and Scammon used the cupola to watch their trains’ arrivals and departures with a telescope. (Wade and Meyer, Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis)

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Harpster, Jack. A Biography of William B. Ogden. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 2009.

Heise, Kenan and Michael Edgerton, Chicago: Center for Enterprise. Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, 1982.

Mayer, Harold  M., and Richard C. Wade. Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis. Chicago: University   of Chicago Press, 1969.

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago- I,II. New York: Knopf.  1940.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

7.10. OGDEN SAVES McCORMICK’S FACTORY AND BECOMES AN EQUAL PARTNER

Cyrus McCormick returned to Chicago on June 1, 1848, after spending the spring in Washington defending his patents, to find a very impressive factory along the bank of the north branch in which his partner Charles Gray was busy at work with his part of the bargain, producing the 500 machines for the imminent harvest.  A few days later, Ogden began to lay his tracks to the west.  McCormick’s factory had already become the rave of Chicago, best described by the Chicago Weekly Democrat:

“This is truly a mechanical age, and probably nothing so distinctively marks the civilization of the present day as the state of perfection to which machinery is being brought… These remarks were suggested by a visit yesterday to the Reaping Machine Factory of Messrs. McCormick and Gray.  It is situated on the north side of the river near the piers; and is a well finished brick building, 100 feet by 30 or over and three stories high.  Attached to the main building is a building containing the steam engine, lathes for turning iron, and also a building containing six forges.  There are 33 hands employed in the factory, ten of whom are blacksmiths.

The steam engine [10 hp.] particularly attracted our attention… This engine drives some fourteen or fifteen machines; viz. a planing machine, two circular saws, a tenent saw, a lathe for turning handles for rakes, pitch forks, etc.; also two lathes for turning iron, a gage’s patent die, two morticing machines and two grind stones.  Machines are being set up for various other uses in several branches of carpenter’s work. The smithy contains 10 forges in all… We understand the proprietors design enlargening this portion of the establishment as it is at present too contracted for the wants of the factory.”

All was not, however, what it at first appeared to be upon McCormick’s arrival.  Gray was supposed to have mailed McCormick monthly financial statements, who upon receiving these was to have forwarded any necessary additional cash needed to help Gray with the manufacturing.  McCormick apparently had received no communications whatsoever from his partner and had assumed that the $2500 in patent fees that Gray had still owed him from the 1847 season had been sufficient to cover any additional costs incurred by Gray during McCormick’s absence.  Meanwhile, Gray apparently had second thoughts about his involvement in such a large business undertaking, especially as the early winter of 1847-8 had progressed in a markedly disadvantageous way for the promise of the upcoming wheat season.  Fearing a potential financial debacle if the harvest proved to be a bust, Gray had approached Ogden in January in “great need of capital” to continue the fledgling operation, misrepresenting the situation by stating that McCormick was not holding up his part of the contract by forwarding the necessary funds already expended by Gray in the construction of the factory.  Instead of securing a loan sufficient to continue the operation, however, Gray apparently chose to hedge his bet by reducing his potential liability from a poor harvest by selling half of his interest in the company to Ogden for $7000 (netting a $6,000 profit), without ever consulting McCormick. 

As McCormick arrived in Chicago in June 1848, he not only had a new factory, but also a new partner, although as he stepped off the boat, he was apparently unaware of this fact.  Even as production of the reapers continued apace into the summer in order to meet demand, both Gray and McCormick lined up their arguments in anticipation of legal action.  At the end of the very successful season (McCormick had netted over $30,000 from the Chicago operation alone), the two partners agreed on September 25, 1848, to submit their differences to arbitration, and assigned to Ogden the responsibility of collecting the outstanding debts.  On the same day, Gray also shed himself of McCormick’s iron will by selling his remaining quarter interest in the factory to Ogden, who now owned half of the reaper operation.

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Harpster, Jack. A Biography of William B. Ogden. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 2009.

Hutchinson, William T. Cyrus Hall McCormick- Harvest: 1856-1884, New York: The Century Co., 1930.

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago- I,II. New York: Knopf.  1940.

Young, David M., The Iron Horse and the Windy City, DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)