Current Exhibitions / Collections on Loan


  Back to list of portraits
  Back to Portraits of American Railroading introduction
grenville dodgeEnlarge Collis P. Huntington (1821-1900)

During the California Gold Rush of the mid-nineteenth century, Collis P. Huntington reaped substantial profits as a merchant in Sacramento. His success in merchandising, however, made him acutely aware of the potential for perhaps an even more lucrative enterprise-a transcontinental railroad linking the Pacific coast to the East. By the early 1860s he had joined Leland Stanford and others to organize the Central Pacific Railroad, in the hope that it could form the westernmost segment of that linkage. In May 1869, that ambition was realized when the Central Pacific connected up with the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah.

Huntington went on to join a small group of railway magnates who organized the Southern Pacific system, and eventually his rail interests stretched from Oregon to Newport News, Virginia. Among his most important contributions in assuring the prosperity of this empire were his lobbying efforts among members of Congress, and even in an age noted for its bribery and influence peddling, he ranked among the more uninhibited practitioners of such tactics.

Francis A. Lathrop (1849-1909), after William Keith
Oil on canvas, 1900
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of A. Hayatt Mayor