Railroaded by Richard White
The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America

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A new, incisive history of the transcontinental railroads and how they transformed America in the decades after the Civil War.

The transcontinental railroads of the late nineteenth century were the first corporate behemoths. Their attempts to generate profits from proliferating debt sparked devastating panics in the U.S. economy. Their dependence on public largess drew them into the corridors of power, initiating new forms of corruption. Their operations rearranged space and time, and remade the landscape of the West. As wheel and rail, car and coal, they opened new worlds of work and ways of life. Their discriminatory rates sparked broad opposition and a new antimonopoly politics.

With characteristic originality, range, and authority, Richard White shows the transcontinentals to be pivotal actors in the making of modern America. But the triumphal myths of the golden spike, robber barons larger than life, and an innovative capitalism all die here. Instead we have a new vision of the Gilded Age, often darkly funny, that shows history to be rooted in failure as well as success.

About Richard White

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Richard White, professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle, is the author of "The Middle Ground" and "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own" and the recipient of the Albert J. Beveridge and Western Heritage awards.
Published May 31, 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. 713 pages
Genres: History, Professional & Technical, Business & Economics. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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have united against us.” Huntington opposed Leland Stanford, too, but Stanford was a staunch Republican, and the Republican powers that be warned him that if Huntington’s opposition cost Stanford his Senate seat, “they would punish Huntington by punishing [his] railroad.” And so forth, one allian...

Apr 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Railroaded: The Transcontinen...

The New York Times

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Grover Cleveland, the Democrat who sat in the White House during the depression of the 1890s, intoned, “Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.” Yet, in 1894, Cleveland’s attorney general, Richard Olney, rushed to court to bust a national strike by ...

Jul 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Railroaded: The Transcontinen...

Publishers Weekly

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Experienced railway men weren't interested in investing in transcontinental routes, writes White (The Frontier in American Culture), so six Sacramento businessmen (who formed the Central Pacific) and a slapdash federally chartered corporation (the Union Pacific) took the bait of money and land of...

Mar 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Railroaded: The Transcontinen...

The Wall Street Journal

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After Congress in 1862 mandated the construction of railroads from the Missouri River to the Pacific, for instance, the men who ran the Union Pacific set up a construction company, gave it a fancy French name, Crédit Mobilier, and then hired it—wildly overpaying—to build the railroad.

Jun 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Railroaded: The Transcontinen...

Portland Book Review

Railroaded is the story of the Transcontinentals, the men and women who connected America’s two coasts.

Jan 16 2013 | Read Full Review of Railroaded: The Transcontinen...

Bookmarks Magazine

The Topic: Sweeping aside romantic legends of audacious visionaries and technological marvels, White sets out to rewrite a significant chapter in American history: the construction of the transcontinental railroads in the late 19th century.

Jun 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Railroaded: The Transcontinen...

Reviews in History

White’s research helped to undermine the traditional and heroic view of the western ‘frontier’ as a place of self-sufficient rugged individualists.(2) When it was announced that Richard White was working on a history of the transcontinental railways, there were high hopes that he would produce a...

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