Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Northern Pacific Railway
The Northern Pacific Railway (AAR reporting mark: NP) was a railroad that operated in the north-central region of the United States. The railroad served a large area, including extensive trackage in the states of Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. The company was headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota.The Northern Pacific was chartered on July 2, 1864 as the first northern transcontinental railroad. It was granted some 47,000,000 acres (190,000 km²) of land. The stock of the railroad was acquired by the American financier Jay Cooke in 1869 at a price of 15 cents a share. Cooke proceded to sell bonds to raise cash to build the road. By a number of different favors, blandishments, sweet deals, and secret loans he secured endorsements from a number of politicians (including President Ulysses S. Grant) and newspapermen (including Horace Greeley). An international publicity campaign was launched to sell bonds. This campaign was adversely affected by the Union Pacific's Crédit Mobilier scandal. Cooke collected cash from cities anxious to secure a railroad station, and also attempted to obtain a $300,000,000 loan from Congress in 1873. Cooke's nemesis was J. Pierpont Morgan, a financial rival. Morgan's influence resulted in the rejection of the loan sought by Cooke. This and other developments, including the Great Chicago Fire and financial scandals, contributed to a spiraling loss of confidence on the part of European investors, and on September 17, 1873, Cooke's bank in Philadelphia closed its doors, triggering a financial panic. Thousands of banks closed, the stock market swooned, and construction of the Northern Pacific was abandoned, with the western terminus near Bismarck, Dakota Territory.
In 1880 effective control of the remaining assets of the Northern Pacific was taken by Morgan's banking group in Philadelphia, but the next year the line was purchased by Henry Villard and a group of investors. Villard successfully promoted migration into the Northwest, building his railroad traffic and creating a market for the line's huge inventory of land. The line was completed with great ceremony at Gold Creek, MT, on September 8, 1883. Villard's success would prove to be short-lived. The very trainload of celebrities and investors brought to Gold Creek by Villard saw a landscape which more resembled a wasteland than a garden of Eden. By 1884, Villard was forced out and the Northern Pacific was once again in financial turmoil, under intense competition from other railroads such as the Great Northern, headed by Jim Hill. By 1896 the Northern Pacific had come under the control of Hill and J. P. Morgan. These two men then acquired the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy line, in a maneuver which left that road a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific. E. H. Harriman and J. D. Rockefeller, owners of the mighty Union Pacific attempted a hostile takeover of the Northern Pacific-Burlington in the spring of 1901. In the scramble for shares that resulted, the stock price rose more than tenfold, and calls on short sellers caused a panic in the stock market, with other stocks and bonds falling by a third or more. When the dust cleared, Hill and Rockefeller were still in control of the Northern Pacific, and they decided to collaborate with Rockefeller and Harriman in the formation of a holding holding company, Northern Securities Corporation , which would in effect be a monopoly on Western railroads. Farmers, ranchers and other citizens of the West had long suffered under the monopoly pricing of the railroads, and in 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt initiated prosecution of the Northern Securities Corporation under the provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In 1904, the order of dissolution was made by the Surpreme Court .
In later years, as American railroading continued to decline, the Northern Pacific merged with the Burlington, Great Northern and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle railroads on March 2, 1970 to form the Burlington Northern Railroad.
- Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association
- Josephson, M. The Robber Barons. NY: Harcourt Brace (1934)
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