Harriman is not only a railroad man but a financier. Above all, he is a strategist. In the latter respect Morgan is said to be his inferior by capable judges. And he is ambitious; ambitious to surpass Morgan in the railroad world and perhaps if the real truth were known jealous of Morgan's great supremacy…. Harriman has never let slip an opportunity to benefit the great systems he controls in the West, and has always been on the alert to prevent any rival from breaking into his field.
—New York World, May 12, 1901
The spectacular fight over the Northern Pacific earned Harriman another honor: his first extended profile in a New York daily. His name had drifted through the press with mounting frequency since 1899, but this was the first time a reporter bestowed on him the kind of personal portrait reserved for big newsmakers. The illustration accompanying the profile was an example of the bad generic art used by newspapers before the use of photographs became common. Its well-stuffed body looked more like Morgan than Harriman, and the fleshy face with its neatly trimmed mustache bore a mild resemblance to William Howard Taft. 1
If the artist missed the real Harriman, perhaps had never even seen him, the reporter captured his elusive subject well. His vivid account was echoed by later writers until it became the stuff of legend. The reporter admired Harriman for having the courage to challenge Morgan. Thousands of men might relish seeing Jupiter challenged, but not one in a thousand dared to lead the charge himself. Harriman was a battler with ability, supreme confidence, and a quick mind. And as the Northern Pacific fight demonstrated, he possessed the one quality reporters loved most: he made good copy.
Harriman's appearance left little impression except for an odd black derby that looked a size too large. He wore it two distinct ways: pulled forward, where the brim shielded his eyes, or jammed back on his head so that his ears stuck out. On the street he was as inconspicuous as the man with whom the reporter was the first to draw a comparison: Jay Gould. Both were small, slight, dark-skinned men with dark hair and eyes that glittered with hypnotic intensity. The reporter