The Life & Legend of E.H. Harriman

By Maury Klein | Go to book overview

1
Sources of Pride and Strength

The circumstances and conditions that have a determining influence upon a man's life and character often antedate, by many years, his own conscious existence….

When he first becomes conscious of himself and his environment, he is already caught

in a web of external relations, conditions and circumstances from which he seldom

afterward escapes.

—George Kennan, Autobiography

For a time early in the nineteenth century the Harriman family seemed destined to an inglorious end in a watery grave. Three of William Harriman's sons met with death at sea in very different ways. The eldest, William, died in a naval clash between English and French ships. Alphonso drowned in the waters off the Battery after the family moved to New York, and Edward simply vanished. His father had made him master of cargo on one of the vessels he fitted out for the West Indies, but the ship never reached port and was never heard from again. Three other sons had died in childhood, leaving only one to carry on the family name. Orlando did not need his mother's fervent pleas to spurn adventure at sea in favor of joining his father in business. Upon that frail reed rose the Harriman dynasty. 1

From the first it was shrouded in mystery. No one knows what induced William to leave his comfortable life as a stationer in London. He was said to be in sympathy with the colonial cause, yet he did not sail for America until April 1795, long after the issues of war and peace had been decided. He was not a poor man; some of his neighbors in New Haven, where he first resided, liked to refer to him as “the rich Englishman.” Nor was it a move to be lightly considered. William brought with him the baggage of a full life: a wife, six children, and his wife's sister, Rosamond Holmes. Whatever pushed or pulled him across the sea had to be of more than ordinary force.

Once settled in New Haven, William tried his luck at the West Indies trade until the treacherous currents of commerce swallowed most of the money he had brought from England. After a few years he took his family to New York City, where he gradually shifted from shipping to a general commission business. There William prospered in a modest way, and young Orlando did well

-27-

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The Life & Legend of E.H. Harriman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • The Life & Legend of E. H. Harriman *
  • Prologue - Mr. Kennan Writes a Biography 1
  • Part I - 1848–1898 *
  • 1 - Sources of Pride and Strength 27
  • 2 - Sources of Advancement 36
  • 3 - Sources of Growth 48
  • 4 - Sources of Education 61
  • 5 - Sources of Revelation 71
  • 6 - Sources of Opportunity 88
  • Part II - 1898–1900 *
  • 7 - Going West 105
  • 8 - Going for Broke 118
  • 9 - Going Modern 130
  • 10 - Going Back Together 148
  • 11 - Going Elsewhere 162
  • 12 - Going North 181
  • Part III - 1900–1904 *
  • 13 - Seeking Order 203
  • 14 - Seeking an Advantage 214
  • 15 - Seeking Trump 225
  • 16 - Seeking Hegemony 240
  • 17 - Seeking the Perfect Machine 254
  • 18 - Seeking the Perfect Organization 272
  • 19 - Seeking the World 283
  • 20 - Seeking Relief 292
  • Part IV - 1904–1909 *
  • 21 - Fighting the Tide 307
  • 22 - Fighting Formidable Foes 317
  • 23 - Fighting Others' Fights 329
  • 24 - Fighting a Former Friend 344
  • 25 - Fighting a Formidable Friend 356
  • 26 - Fighting Nature 372
  • 27 - Fighting for Survival 386
  • 28 - Fighting Back 403
  • 29 - Fighting the Inevitable 420
  • Epilogue - The Good That Men Do 443
  • Notes 449
  • Index 505
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