The Life & Legend of E.H. Harriman

By Maury Klein | Go to book overview

20
Seeking Relief

Any biography of Mr Harriman which omits his family life misses the point and loses the light of the whole story…. It was not unusual for him, in the midst of transactions of such importance as to make men dizzy from concentration, to stop in order to speak a word on the telephone, or send a message to Mrs Harriman about some engagement or matter of family interest. His attitude toward her was more than devotion. It was profound admiration, respect and unfailing attention and courtesy. Many times through the years business was interrupted or preceded by an order for flowers in commemoration of some anniversary. And as for the children, their education and welfare came before everything. Absolutely nothing was allowed to interfere with a visit to their schools, or the prosecution of any investigation or enterprise affecting their training or welfare.

—Judge Robert S. Lovett, letter to George Kennan

The more prominent Harriman became, the harder it was for him to live anything resembling a normal life. The upper class had always lived in a world apart, but American culture was undergoing a profound change by the 1880s. Industrialization had swollen the ranks of the wealthy and near wealthy just as immigration had increased the legion of the poor. There emerged a new material civilization in which business figures replaced politicians and soldiers as national heroes. The proliferation of cheap urban dailies fostered this process by splashing the exploits of tycoons across their pages and titillating readers with accounts of the lifestyles of the rich. By 1900 the yellow press had turned business titans and denizens of society alike into an early form of celebrity.

In this sense Harriman could measure his prominence by the growing amount of space he got in print. Some reporters made careers out of hounding the wealthy and depicting their antics in ways that were more vivid than accurate. The effect was to make the lives of the rich more accessible to the public while transforming their usual insularity into a siege mentality. For Harriman this posed a special problem. He had always belonged to the best social set, yet he also saw to it that his family shunned the worst excesses of the rich.

-292-

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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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