From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne

By Valerie Knowles | Go to book overview

Chapter Sixteen
Dodging the Grim Reaper

In the spring of 1906, Van Horne took Scottish peer and CPR shareholder Lord Elphinstone and Bennie to dinner at Henri’s, a celebrated Parisian restaurant frequented by King Edward VII, who would dine there incognito, with Lord Elphinstone in attendance. When the Van Horne party arrived, the head waiter rushed forward to receive them, and the orchestra, to Van Horne’s great embarrassment, struck up “God Save the King.” Such was the price that the railway magnate occasionally paid for resembling, at this period in his life, the portly British monarch.

Although neither a crowned monarch nor a member of the British or European landed aristocracies, Van Horne, in 1906, was nevertheless a leading member of Canada’s financial aristocracy and one of this country’s most influential men. Such a lofty position resulted in his frequently being invited to accept honours. Because of his strange shyness in formal social situations and his dislike of public speaking, he just as frequently turned down these invitations. However, when it came to a less conspicuous form of recognition, such as serving on a committee charged with arrangements for a royal tour, Van Horne, despite his visceral dislike of pomp and ceremony, was not loath to become involved.

One such tour took place in the early autumn of 1901, when the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (the future King George V and Queen Mary) arrived in Canada. As a member of the general reception committee that helped to make arrangements for the royal couple’s visit to Montreal, Van Horne had a role to play in the two days of ceremonies and festivities that unfolded in that city. Since the “new imperialism,” with its stress on the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race and Great Britain’s civilizing mission in the world, was then in full swing, no effort was spared to cement still further Montrealers’ ties to Great Britain and the Empire.

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From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Table of Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgements 11
  • Prologue 13
  • Chapter One - Growing Up in Frontier Illinois 17
  • Chapter Two - Early Career 37
  • Chapter Three - Rapid Advancement 55
  • Chapter Four - New Challenges and Hobbies 83
  • Chapter Five - New Horizons 95
  • Chapter Six - Toward the Last Spike 117
  • Chapter Seven - Cutting Costs 147
  • Chapter Eight - The Final Push 175
  • Chapter Nine - All That Grant Was to the U.S.a 209
  • Chapter Ten - Van Horne at the Helm 239
  • Chapter Eleven - Art for Art’s Sake 283
  • Chapter Twelve - Family Matters 299
  • Chapter Thirteen - Cuba Beckons 325
  • Chapter Fourteen - Building the Cuba Railroad 339
  • Chapter Fifteen - Chasing the Money 367
  • Chapter Sixteen - Dodging the Grim Reaper 397
  • Afterword 429
  • Bibliography 433
  • Notes 443
  • Index 495
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