THE GENESIS OF REFORM
"It all amounts to this," declared Annixter, the proprietor of the Quien Sabe Rancho in Frank Norris' The Octopus, "You can't buck against the railroad. We've tried it and tried it, and we are stuck every time…." The railroad, he explained, had "the whole thing organized like an army corps"1 This was not merely a fictional exaggeration. For in addition to the political corruption that existed in many parts of the nation at the turn of the century, California had a special problem: domination by one large corporation -- the Southern Pacific Railroad, Frank Norris' "Octopus."
Organized in 1865 by the Big Four -- Huntington, Crocker, Stanford, and Hopkins -- the Southern Pacific had established a complete monopoly of rails in California by the 1870's. Then that corporation entered politics to preserve its monopoly and to extend its influence throughout the state. While it is impossible to gauge precisely the extent of the railroad's political power, it is clear that un