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Chapter 13

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Road of the Century

by
Alvin F. Harlow

Creative Age Press, Inc.,
New York, 1947

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 15
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p319 Chapter XIV
The Tragedy of the Nine Tunnels

For years men could not rid themselves of the notion that the New York Central's course from New York to Buffalo around two sides of a rectangle should, despite its almost total absence of grades and few curves, make it vulnerable to a competitor which drew a hypotenuse across the angle, even though the hypotenuse, tortured by hills and gorges, must be anything but a straight and level line. The catch in this is that there can be no real short cut through mountainous terrain. Of the three other lines between New York and Buffalo, only two are shorter than the Central, and they by only a few miles — which the Central more than counteracts with its gentle curves and low grades.

One of these short-cut ideas was launched in January, 1866, when the New York & Oswego Midland was organized as a sort of appendage of the Erie. Diverging at Middletown on the Erie, it was to run to Oswego, at the southeast corner of Lake Ontario, the nearest Great Lakes port to New York City. As its first president, DeWitt C. Littlejohn of Oswego, boasted in a flamboyant speech, it ran "athwart the rivers and valleys, at right angles to the mountains." He meant it as a boast, a defiance of nature, but it was more nearly the voicing of a curse. Worse still, in the hilly country that it traversed, there were no important towns and few industries. Its original engineering was bad, it was cheaply built and it earned so little money that after a few years there was talk of turning in the charter and dismantling the line. But the little towns along its course fought to keep it alive. Finally in 1879, after six years of receivership, it was sold under foreclosure and reorganized as the New York, Ontario & Western; and in 1880 its net earnings were about $17,500! Thomas P. Fowler, who was elected president in 1884, said afterward that he wondered why p320the road had been built at all, and why, when it went into bankruptcy, it wasn't allowed to stay there. It is recalled that trains sometimes went out and returned in winter months practically empty.

Hoping to make itself independent of the Erie, the company had tried to find a rail connection with New York on its own side of the Hudson. It had considered for a time a little road best known as the New Jersey Midland, which from Jersey City wandered northwestward through Paterson into the north Jersey mountains. When the reorganization of the New York, Ontario & Western took place, the new directors rejected this route and fixed their eyes on another possible course to New York — i.e., from Middletown eastward to the Hudson and thence down the west bank of that stream. The rejected line, another weakling, was later known as the New York, Susquehanna & Western.

Beginnings at the lower end of the proposed new route had already been made. On September 18, 1867 the Hudson River West Shore Railroad Companya had been incorporated, with intent to build northward from Jersey City. Forty days later the West Shore Hudson River was incorporated with the same object, and in the following March the last-named absorbed the first. As neither of them did anything, the ingestion did not appear to mean much. In 1870, the New York, West Shore & Chicago Railroad was chartered, made a survey up the west bank and so to Buffalo, but that was about as far as it went.

In the meantime several little amoebae came into being in the tidal marsh region just west of the Palisades ridge. The Ridgefield Park Railroad was chartered in New Jersey in 1869 by an act giving it all rights, powers and franchises of the Hackensack & New York Railroad, which had been incorporated but somnolent for the past thirteen years. A little farther to northward, just over the line in New York, were two more short railroads, the Rockland Central and the Rockland Central Extension, the first of which absorbed the second in 1872. In the following year the Rockland Central was authorized to consolidate with the Ridgefield Park under the name of Jersey City & Albany. But the financial nose-dive of '73 was naturally discouraging to any actual work on the proposed line, and in '78 the company was reft into two parts by foreclosure, the Jersey City & Albany of New York and the same of New Jersey. But after the manner of the fabulous glass snake, the two parts came together again in the following year, though there was little life in the re-created body.

p321 But greater moves on the chessboard were impending. Early in 1880, the North River Railroad Company was organized, with Edward F. Winslow, of the New York banking house of Winslow, Lanier & Company, as president. And almost simultaneously, taking over the old rights of the New York, West Shore & Chicago charter, the New York, West Shore & Buffalo came into being. Read the list of its incorporators and you will find the name of scarcely anyone who is remembered today, with the possible exception of John B. Page of Rutland, Vermont, manufacturer of the Howe Scale and for some time president of the Rutland Railroad. Among the directors were another man from Vermont, two from Springfield and several from New York who were not of any great financial or industrial prominence. Joseph Pool was the first president.

Who was or were back of them? It is not possible now to follow all the moves that were made behind the scenes that year, but William H. Vanderbilt, leaning back in his office chair and twiddling the ends of his "Piccadilly weepers," reddened with anger and his blood pressure rose as he thought he saw through the whole scheme. President Winslow of the North River was one of the banking firm of Winslow, Lanier & Company, who became the chief financiers of the West Shore. Here were intermeshing gear wheels, to begin with. One of the North River directors was General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Horace Porter, vice-president of the Pullman Company. Another was Charles F. Woerishoeffer, the "Great Bear." George M. Pullman was furious because Vanderbilt had shoved his cars off the Fitchburg, the Michigan Central and the Chicago & Northwestern and replaced them with Wagner cars, in which the New York Central was interested. Pullman was now out for revenge.

As the plot unfolded, Mr. Vanderbilt was confident that he saw a still more powerful hand in the background, that of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It angered him as nothing else had done. In an interview with a New York Tribune reporter in August, 1884, he said, "The West Shore was built as a blackmailing scheme, just as the Nickel Plate was." With a track sticking like its own shadow to the New York Central up the Hudson and Mohawk, through Utica and Syracuse to Buffalo, the palpable object was to cut so heavily into the Central's business as either to cripple it or to force it to buy out the interloper.

One thing is certain; the West Shore directors were determined to get theirs while the getting was still good. On September 2, less p322than six and a half months after their first meeting, on motion of Page they voted to pay themselves $4,000 each for their past services, while President Pool was to receive $3,000 as his wage up to the past July 1, and $6,000 per year thereafter.

Their minutes for 1880‑81 are full of strange moves — contracts, agreements, what not, which are a bit difficult to make clear now. In November, the West Shore conveyed to the North River its right of way up to Cornwall (where the New York, Ontario and Western was to join it), the North River agreeing to build and equip the line, and to give the West Shore trackage rights over it. North of Cornwall the West Shore track was to be built by the North River Construction Company, another device for making hay while the sun shone. Next there was even a fiction that the Ontario & Western was to build the line between Cornwall and Weehawken, plus its own extension from Middletown to Cornwall. Some of the hokum was squeezed out of the operation when on June 14, 1881, the West Shore "absorbed" the North River, and a new New York, West Shore & Buffalo emerged, with General Porter as president. Now, more important names began to appear in the boardroom — Frederick Billings, head of the Northern Pacific, Henry Villard, H. Victor Newcomb and others. The company had a capital of $40,000,000 — which, it was supposed, would build the track to Buffalo; a serious underestimate — and proposed to issue $50,000,000 in fifty-year 5 percent bonds.

Construction began that year, and the job was a costly one. The company had acquired the old, established ferry between Weehawken and Forty-second Street in New York, and located its passenger and freight terminals and its yard on the flat at the foot of the Weehawken cliffs, a short distance north of the spot where Burr shot Hamilton on that melancholy July morning in 1804. From there they must drill a 4,225‑foot tunnel through Bergen Hill, as the Palisades ridge is called at that point, to reach the Ridgefield right of way, west of the hill. Thence the course leads up a long valley until it nears Haverstraw, when it tunnels through the ridge again and emerges on the river front. Thence it clings to the water's very edge until it reaches a point between Newburgh and Kingston, where it swings away from the river once more and remains from one to two miles west of it until it turns westward just below Albany. From Kingston north for some distance it utilized right of way of the Wallkill Valley Railroad, which had built a line up to Kingston from a connection with the Ontario and Erie, but could not get any farther.

p323 Just south of Albany, the survey veered northwestward, bypassing the capital (but sending a branch into it), using a part of the old White Elephant track towards Schenectady, then following the never-used Mohawk Valley right of way up the south bank of that stream, touching Utica and Syracuse, but cutting across south of Rome, then hugging the Central track to Fairport, leaving it there to pass south of Rochester and head straight for Buffalo. At Syracuse it had a brush with a little road known as the Syracuse, Ontario & New York, which refused to allow it a grade crossing. So the West Shore sprang one of those coups which relieve the dull routine of railroad building. It laid the crossing at dawn on a Sunday morning and kept a locomotive standing on it until Monday morning, when it completed the legalizing of the job as soon as the court house opened its doors. Later, the smaller road became a branch of the West Shore.

Between Haverstraw and Kingston was the costliest section. There the builders had in places even steeper mountainside than the Central had, across the river, with correspondingly steep, almost perpendicular plunges into the vast depths of the stream. Men had to be swung in slings from above to drill into the rock. To notch a shelf for a double track was in two or three places too precarious a job, and as the water alongside was too deep to fill or to found piers in, the track was literally tied to the cliff with steel. In addition to the two tunnels already mentioned, there was another, half a mile long, directly under the grounds of the Military Academy at West Point; and there were six other, shorter ones — nine in all. Remember the number.

Late in the autumn of 1882, the two longest tunnels were not yet completed; there were 20,000 men at work on the line, which was costing far more than expected, and money was being poured out like water. Stedman says with blunt conciseness, "The West Shore was built extravagantly." The Railroad Gazette at the time feared that the company "is likely to have a hard time of it, in view of the state of the money market, to obtain capital to finish its line to Buffalo." The paper went on to report that the company had been trying to sell through bankers, both in Europe and America, $20,000,000 worth of its 5 percent first mortgage bonds at the low price of 74 and interest. It hoped that the sale of these would complete the main line, buy $2,000,000 worth of equipment and start a little nest egg of cash reserve. In February, the bonds were listed for the first time by the New York Stock Exchange. The promoters announced that $30,000,000 had p324been expended, including $6,000,000 for equipment. The bonds for a time were active at 78 to 82, but there is no record of quotations or sales of the stock.

The first passenger service began — between Jersey City and Newburgh — on June 4, 1883. As the passenger station at Weehawken was not yet quite complete, the trains just ambled on down to Jersey City and used the station and ferries of the Pennsylvania Railroad, with whom, clearly, it was on the best of terms. Within three weeks, passenger service was extended to Kingston, 88 miles, and on July 9 to Albany. On October 1 trains began running to Syracuse. Freight service was not yet ready. The first freight to pass over any West Shore track consisted of dairy products and hops which came in from the Ontario & Western at Cornwall. It was evident that that line and the West Shore were closely allied. They even had their vice-president, secretary, treasurer and all their top operating officials in common.

[image ALT: zzz.]

Weehawken yards of the West Shore in 1885, and West Shore locomotive No. 1.

Among the numerous worries of New York Central heads had been various schemes for railroads from the Hoosac Tunnel westward either to Oswego or Buffalo, giving New England — now that it had lost its chance to control the New York Central — an outlet of its own to the West. From the tunnel two rival projects headed westward — the Troy & Boston and General William L. Burt's ambitious Boston, Hoosac Tunnel & Western, which was to divide as it neared the Hudson River, one fork going to Buffalo and one to Oswego. But the General had all he could do to reach the Mohawk River with his rails, touching the West Shore at a point west of Schenectady which came to be known as Rotterdam Junction. He told the Massachusetts Legislature in 1877, when he was pleading for the right to consolidate a line from Boston to Lake Ontario, beginning with the Fitchburg, that as matters stood, the New York Central controlled the destinies of the Hoosac Tunnel. The Central, he said, "can deprive the Troy & Boston of every pound of freight, just as the Troy & Boston in their turn can deprive the tunnel of every pound of freight and every passenger, just as she is depriving it of a through line today, and you have no redress." He declared that William H. Vanderbilt had told the heads of the Fitchburg and the Troy & Boston that Pullman cars, which they wished to use, could not be run from their tracks over the New York Central, so they had to use the Central-controlled Wagner sleepers. Now the situation was changed; the Hoosac Tunnel had a through line via Rotterdam p325Junction and the West Shore, the Nickel Plate and the Wabash to Chicago and the West.

The West Shore had what the movies now call "production value." It was well balanced, laid with sixty‑seven-pound rail, the heaviest then used, and it was nearly a dead level throughout its course, its steepest grade being thirty feet to the mile at one place for a short distance. It started out with a fleet of 175 fine locomotives, all burning anthracite, something which almost no other railroad could claim in toto. When it opened its service to Buffalo, it could truly boast that it had a New York-Chicago line only 954 miles long, as against 961 miles by the New York Central-Michigan Central. But it labored under the handicap — which could never be overcome — of having to transfer both passengers and freight into and out of New York City by ferry.

For several reasons it was doomed from the very beginning; it was born with the germs of death in its blood. On the last day of 1883 its bonds dropped to 68, and the stock of the North River Construction Company — which had taken pay for $29,000,000 worth of work in West Shore bonds with a face value of $79,500,000 — fell to 26. The West Shore proclaimed the opening of its service to Buffalo on the following day, but it was known that hardly half the distance was double-tracked, and that a fine passenger station which it had planned to build in Buffalo had been given up because there was no money with which to do the job. Its speed over the new, green track could not compare with that of the Central, and nearly two days were required to travel from New York to Chicago on one of its best trains.

On January 18, 1884, the New York, Ontario & Western went into bankruptcy, with Judge Ashbel Green as receiver — the first major incident of a year of woe and disaster. Another calamity was a rate war; the Central slashed freight rates between New York and Albany from twenty-five cents a hundred to ten cents; New York to Utica, from thirty-two cents down to fifteen cents; New York and Rochester, from thirty-two cents to twenty. The West Shore matched these cuts, though it meant letting its own life-blood. On January 7, West Shore bonds were at 65% and declining. In February some worried New York bankers appointed a committee to draw up a plan for the relief of the railroad and its construction company; but the plan they worked out involved such a sacrifice on the part of the bondholders — as well as a second-mortgage bond issue — that it was rejected. It came p326too late, anyhow. The road's income was not sufficient to pay the interest on the bonds; it had fallen behind with its pay to its employees, and the still unpaid builders of shops, depots and piers were filing attachments and mechanics' liens.

The next failure was that of the North River Construction Company. A minor panic came on in May, as we have related in the previous chapter; and on June 9, the Supreme Court declared the West Shore in bankruptcy and appointed two receivers, one of them its own vice-president. These men were empowered to issue $500,000 in receivers' certificates, with the proceeds of which they settled some of the most pressing debts, including the employees' wages; but they were severely restricted in the matter of new building or equipment. They promptly began, however, a campaign of passenger rate-cutting against the Central that was little short of insane. They reasoned that for every dollar they lost, the NYC would lose three or more, and they would presently bring the proud corporation to its knees, ready to agree to a compromise.

As a starter, they announced a passenger rate between New York and Albany of one cent a mile. This brought on something of a storm in financial circles, Russell Sage and Cyrus W. Field, both bondholders, protesting most loudly. The New York Central and Pennsylvania were already locked in a New York-Chicago rate war, a one-way ride being quoted at $12. The West Shore receivers cut the figure to $10.50. The Central met this, and the West Shore then dropped to $9. The Central named $8, and the West Shore, staggered at last, wavered at $8.30. Meanwhile, its operating losses were appalling; it was as if the bottom had dropped out of the treasury.

Early in 1885, there were snow blockades and a falling off in travel to add to the gloom. Then one day the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia, with which it was sharing a makeshift depot at Buffalo, ordered it out because of non-payment of rent and tore up some rods of its track. The receivers made hurried promises by wire, scraped up some money, the tracks were replaced overnight, and the road still had a place to hang its hat, though precariously. The end was in sight; and only a few weeks before the end, the Railroad Gazette remarked in an editorial (May 8, 1885) that "There are indications that the West Shore's struggle for existence is becoming desperate." Reviewing the rate war, the editor added, "By sinking a million a year, it might perhaps reduce the profits of the Central three or four millions a year. p327But the Central has the advantage that it could lose much more than this and still meet its fixed charges, while the West Shore must be borrowing money to meet its working expenses. . . ."

To explain the finale, the last scene in the drama, it is necessary to go back and pick up another thread.

There can be no doubt that those two blackmailing schemes, as he called them, added to his other cares and concerns, greatly shortened the life of William H. Vanderbilt. His rage over the building of the West Shore, coming right upon the heels of the Nickel Plate provocation, stung him into committing the only act of his life which seemed to border upon madness. He had once toyed with the idea of controlling the Baltimore & Ohio, but gave it up. Now he decided to invade the Pennsylvania's territory, to parallel it with a line shorter and of lower grades, and therefore a fatal competitor. He owned already a majority interest in the Philadelphia & Reading, which carried with it control of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, leading into New York; and beyond Harrisburg he had discovered another blueprint ready to his hand.

In 1837, when the Pennsylvania Railroad was still in its swaddling clothes, an engineer named Hether Hage made a railroad survey on his own from Pittsburgh to Chambersburg (then a comparatively important town), which he considered worthy of note, though his course was so devious that he made the distance between the two places 240 miles. He succeeded in arousing the state's interest to the extent that in 1844 they sent out a surveying party of their own, who became quite enthusiastic over the idea. They extended the survey to Harrisburg, and an effort was made to interest the Pennsylvania Railroad in it, but it had become intrigued by the idea of crossing the Allegheny summit by inclined planes and refused to listen. Another decade passed, and in 1854 there was a company incorporated which seemed timidly to consider only a part of the route, as indicated by its name, Duncannon, Landisburg and Broad Top, from two towns and a mountain, all not so far west of Harrisburg. In the following year its name was changed to Sherman's Valley & Broadtop, and in 1859, there was talk of calling it the Pennsylvania-Pacific, though we have seen a circular of it, issued in 1860, in which it is called the "Sherman's Valley or South Pennsylvania Railroad." It really didn't seem to be quite sure what its name was. In 1863 it became definitely the South Pennsylvania — all this time without a stroke of work being done on it.

p328 For years thereafter it remained in a state of suspended animation. There were stockholders in England — good old England! how many a railroad project that never blossomed was kept alive and in bud for years with her money! — who did not let the charter lapse. It happened that they were also largely interested in the Reading; and thus it was natural that William H. Vanderbilt should hear about the South Pennsylvania dream, and suddenly see a great light.

In 1882, seething within over the second flagrant move to muscle in on his territory, the railroad king bought the franchise and all rights of the sleeping company for what was a mere song to him. He then laid before Andrew Carnegie — whose Homestead steel works had developed into one of the nation's great industries and would be right in the path of the proposed railroad — his plan for a line to the seaboard which, according to the latest survey, would be from forty-six to forty-nine miles shorter than the Pennsylvania between New York and Pittsburgh, and would avoid many of that road's heavy mountain grades and curves. East of Harrisburg, it would use the Reading and the Jersey Central. At its west end, it would join, near McKeesport, the Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny, then nearing completion, which Vanderbilt had aided to the extent of $4,500,000, and which was destined almost immediately to become a part of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, which both Vanderbilt and Carnegie had helped to finance. The P. McK. & Y. track ran right through the yard of the Homestead plant.

"What do you think of it?" asked Vanderbilt of Carnegie.

"I think so well of it," replied the latter, "that I and my friends will put five million into it."

"All right, then I will put in five million," rejoined the railroad magnate. He signed up the Rockefeller brothers for another million, and yet other millions came from New York and Pittsburgh. He sent 300 engineers and helpers into the territory that autumn of 1883 for a complete resurvey. Contracts were quickly let, and thousands of workmen began grading and drilling the tunnels. So strong had the emphasis become on directness and low grades that the line was going to pierce the Appalachian ranges instead of going over them or wriggling along stream-beds. There were to be nine great tunnels — count them; nine — by a curious coincidence, precisely the same number as on the West Shore. But what tunnels these were! That through Sideling p329Hill was to be 6,662 feet long; through the main Allegheny summit, 5,919 feet; through Laurel Hill, 5,389 feet; through Tuscarora Mountain, 5,225 feet. There were two, of 4,620 feet and 4,240 feet respectively, on each side of a narrow gulch, with only 600 feet of open air between them. The two shortest ones were 700 feet and 1,100 feet long. Fancy riding through all those tunnels behind an engine burning soft coal! Another notable feature was a stretch in the Cumberland Valley of 26 miles without a curve.

Announcement of the project threw the Pennsylvania offices in Philadelphia into turmoil, and they began buying West Shore bonds in order to weight the club with which to clout the audacious interloper. Here also is a partial explanation of the sanguinary rate-cutting into which the West Shore launched itself at the time. It all exerted a deadly wear and tear on the body of William Vanderbilt, and undoubtedly had its meed of influence in bringing about the episode by which he, or rather his family is best remembered: the one which has supplied a favorite left-wing quotation as an indictment of the whole capitalistic system. There are at least half a dozen versions of the story, but the two which should be nearest the truth — and even they differ widely — are those of the two reporters who first published the item.

Mr. Vanderbilt had been at Detroit, giving attention to the taking over of the Canada Southern by the Michigan Central, and was on his way from there to Chicago. Two reporters, John D. Sherman of the Chicago Tribune and Clarence P. Dresser of the City News, a Chicago news organization, rode on a freight train out to Michigan City on Saturday night, October 7, 1882, to meet him. When the Vanderbilt special came along next morning, they boarded it and succeeded in pushing their way into his private car. The tired magnate, possibly wrestling with the usual masculine early-morning grouch, may not have been in any too good humor over the intrusion, but he seems to have done his best to reply affably to the nagging questions they put to him regarding his road's relations with the public — questions in the genre of that early muckraking age; for muckraking the millionaires and industrialists began more than a score of years before McClure, Steffens, Sinclair, Baker, Tarbell and others stepped up its voltage around the turn of the century. At last they came to a question by Sherman — and here we give first, Sherman's version of the dialogue; there are several others in which both question p330and answer are quite differently stated. As Sherman tells it, he asked, "Do your limited express trains pay, or do you run them for the benefit of the public?"

"The public be damned!" exploded Vanderbilt. "We run them because we have to. They don't pay. We have tried again and again to get the other roads to give them up, but they won't do it, and of course, as long as they run them, we must do the same."

Now note the vast difference in Dresser's account of the Vanderbilt reply. He agrees with Sherman that the executive burst out with "The public be damned!" but thereafter he goes on, "What does the public care for the railroads, except to get as much out of 'em for as little as possible;" and then went on to say in effect that the railroads were not philanthropists; they had to consider their own interests. "Of course we like to do everything possible for the benefit of humanity in general, but when we do, we must first se that we are benefiting ourselves. Railroads are not run on sentiment, but on business principles."

How much dependence is to be put in the statements of two reporters, both presumably adept in shorthand, who give such widely different versions of a man's remarks? They agree on only one thing — the fatal four words which were promptly trumpeted to the four quarters of the earth, not as the mere petulant exclamation of a tired, ill, choleric man, already with the shadow of death upon him, and harassed by more or less impertinent questions, but as a statement of considered policy, an attitude, not only of the Vanderbilts, but of bigness in general. When you hear the whole story, you can better understand the truth of it. Suppose someone is in an argument with you which becomes heated, and he keeps quoting someone else in rebuttal: "Joe says —" "But Joe says —" until finally you exclaim peevishly, "Oh, damn Joe!" though you don't really mean it at all. Joe may be your very good friend. It is ill-temper speaking, not yourself. But from that day to this, critics of capitalism have wielded that phrase with telling effect. Almost invariably it is ascribed to Commodore Vanderbilt, for few Americans today are aware that William H. Vanderbilt ever existed. Present-day pictures of him are usually labeled "Commodore Vanderbilt."

Bitterness over current events had precipitated another New York Central-Pennsylvania rate war, which continued through most of 1881. More and more the head of the House of Vanderbilt was showing the strain of his work and his worries. His blood pressure was abnormal, and he suffered a slight paralytic p331stroke during the South Pennsylvania excitement, which left his lower lip twitching at times during the few remaining years of his life. He was losing the sight of one eye; it became entirely blind before he died. He had, in 1880‑81, bought a sumptuous mansion for himself at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-first Street, a brownstone affair presenting to the world an exterior as plain as a packing case, but with magnificence within, including the favorite vaunt of the millionaire of those days, a $1,500,000 collection of paintings. His bodily ills warned him, however, that he must be preparing to move into another sort of mansion. He had only just turned sixty, but he had not the herculean frame of his father, and his life had been one of high tension. He called in the architect, Richard H. Hunt, and asked him to design a Vanderbilt family mausoleum, to be erected in the Dutch church cemetery on Staten Island, where his father lay buried. When you see it today, simple yet beautiful, among the trees far up the slope at the back of the cemetery at New Dorp, you will find that it has not even the family name upon it to identify it.

William H. was continually harassed by the bedevilments of the neurotic, epileptic brother, Cornelius Jeremiah, who brought suit against him now and then, an event which was always played up strongly in the newspapers. He saw to it that the brother was well provided for, gave him a million for spending money in 1879 and paid to the daughters of Horace Greeley $61,000 which that somewhat addlepated old gentleman had lent to Jeremiah during the Commodore's lifetime; yet the brother brought suit again and again. And that was only one of the harassments. When a Vanderbilt daughter was married to Hamilton McK. Twombly in 1877, the article in the New York Times describing the wedding was deliberately offensive, practically every sentence being a sneer.b

William had added substantially to the dowry of each of his sisters; he gave half a million to the College of Physicians and Surgeons and hundreds of thousands to other philanthropies; he shouldered the cost, $101,732, of moving that obelisk nicknamed Cleopatra's Needle from Egypt to Central Park, where it now stands; he gave $100 tips to college student waiters after a stay at his favorite White Mountain hotel. He was doing what he could think of to exorcise the curse, but it was not enough. Cornelius Jeremiah brought more odium upon the family by committing suicide in 1882.

William H., a sensitive man and probably well aware of his bodily condition, now decided to rid himself of some of the business p332burden and the disfavor. He owned 87 percent of the stock of the New York Central, which was the chief indictment against him. He called into consultation any-pierpont Morgan and asked that wizard if he could dispose of, say 250,000 of his 400,000 shares of Central stock without breaking the market and perhaps starting another panic. Morgan undertook to make the sale in Europe, but stipulated that Vanderbilt must guarantee 8 percent dividends for a five-year period, and that Morgan or his nominee must be on the board of directors. He also demanded a commission which has been guessed at as anywhere from one to three millions. Vanderbilt assented to everything, and early in 1880 Morgan sold the stock mostly in England. As fiscal agent and then as director of the Central, he rapidly became a power in the railroad world.

[image ALT: A railroad map of New York, although showing most of the State of Pennsylvania south of it if with no railroad line: the railroad line illustrated runs from New York City due north up the Hudson River Valley then west to Buffalo.]

New York Central & Hudson River Railroad in 1890

[A larger, fully readable version opens here (2.4 MB).]

On May 3, 1883, William H. Vanderbilt resigned his presidencies of the New York Central & Hudson River and allied companies, retaining only his place as a director. He ordered that his son, Cornelius II, was to be chairman of the boards of directors of the New York Central and Michigan Central, while William K. was to be chairman of the Lake Shore. James H. Rutter became president of the New York Central, but he died early in '85, and p333was succeeded by Chauncey M. Depew, long attorney and lobbyist for the company, with no practical experience in railroading, but who, behind a deceptive façade of oratory, wit and story-telling, concealed a genius for diplomacy, jurisprudence and administration.

That year, 1883, Mr. Vanderbilt, upon the advice of his physician, even gave up driving his dearly-beloved trotter, Maud S., upon the St. Nicholas Avenue speedway with whiskers flying back over his shoulders, in competition with other fast-steppers. In the following year he sold her to Robert Bonner, the publisher, for whom she proceeded to break records.

But the dying capitalist still retained his personal interest in the South Pennsylvania Railroad, and was pushing it. Piers for the bridge across the Susquehanna near Pittsburgh were being built and the nine tunnels were all well under way. The rate war, however, was playing hob with both West Shore and Central. West Shore bonds had fallen to 57 in June, 1884, and were down to 28½ in April, '85, while NYC & HR stock, for the first time since its organization, slipped below par, as the result of the halving of the dividend. In April it touched 81¾.

Morgan was in England when he heard of it, the stockholders there grousing bitterly to him about the situation. He hurried home, and in July, 1885, with something of the air of a schoolmaster, summoned Depew, George B. Roberts and Frank Thomson of the Pennsylvania to a conference on his yacht, the Corsair. There, during a considerable part of a day, while the boat cruised slowly in the East River and the Sound, the new dictator of Wall Street demanded in effect that the West Shore and South Pennsylvania nonsense be halted and matters restored to normality. He simply threw the problem into the laps of his guests and told them to get together. While they wrangled, he disposed his six-foot frame comfortably in a deck chair, smoking one of his huge, battle, deadly cigars, listening and now and then putting in a biting sentence to keep them on the track. The NYC didn't want the decadent West Shore, and the Pennsylvania wasn't keen on buying off the South Pennsylvania. Roberts was the most difficult to handle, and Morgan practically refused to let him go ashore until he was willing to compromise. Finally, near nightfall, he yielded.

Under the agreement then made, the Pennsylvania was to take over the South Pennsylvania, with its capital written down to $3,500,000, and the New York Central was to lease the West p334Shore after it had gone through the wringer. On July 27, Morgan made public announcement of the plan. But the Pennsylvania was not to gain control of the many-tunnelled competitor so easily. On August 25, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania brought suit, asking for an order to prevent the absorption, as contrary to state law forbidding the buying by a railroad of a parallel or competing line. The testimony in the case, which was quickly tried, fills a thick volume. Morgan was a prominent witness, and he was strenuously grilled as to that conference on the Corsair, and why it was so secret. In the end, the court blocked the Pennsylvania's taking possession. Whereupon, on September 12, work ceased forever on the South Pennsylvania Railroad. About 62 percent of the tunneling had been bored, and the piers and abutments of the Susquehanna bridge were ready for the superstructure.

On December 5, 1885, the New York, West Shore & Buffalo was sold under foreclosure to J. Pierpont Morgan, Chauncey M. Depew and Ashbel Green as joint tenants. Papers were all ready, and as quick as a wink they had organized a new corporation, the West Shore Railroad Company, with a capital of only $10,000,000 — all owned by the New York Central — and had leased it to the Central for 475 years. If there is any vestige of mankind left at the end of that time, the NYC has the privilege of renewing the lease for another 500 years.

The new corporation, now with solid backing, issued $50,000,000 in new 4 percent bonds, of which half went to the holders of the $50,000,000 of old bonds, thus paying them only fifty cents on the dollar. But at least, they now had bonds on which the interest would be paid and whose market price would not go to pot — which was not true of their old bonds. The other $25,000,000 in bonds would be used to pay off the lien and attachments which were plastered all over the road from end to end, and to start a little reserve fund. The Central had thereby acquired at a bargain price — only $2,000,000 in interest charges per year — an additional low grade line to Buffalo, which began a valuable freight carrier as the years went on. To it at Kingston the Central has appended two little roads that lacked strength to sustain themselves in the more strenuous twentieth century world — the Wallkill Valley, already mentioned, and the Ulster and Delaware, primarily a resort line leading up through the Catskills.

They had little trouble in obtaining Mr. Vanderbilt's consent to the arrangement. His rage at the Pennsylvania had evaporated, possibly in the light of a subconscious monition that nothing p335would matter greatly to him for cm longer. What he most wanted now was peace and rest. Three days after the reorganization, on December 8, he arose and breakfasted with his wife and youngest son, George, apparently feeling well and in good spirits. But there had been ominous signs lately. Ten days ago, when he took a Turkish bath at his favorite establishment of that sort, it was noticed that he was flushed, his veins swollen, his breathing stertorous. Afterwards it was gossiped that an attendant had predicted that this would be his last visit to the baths.

He was still attending to some business — he would have been lost without it — and on that bright December morning, he sent word to President Depew, asking him to call in the afternoon. But just after lunch Robert Garrett, who had recently succeeded his father, John W. Garrett, as head of the B. & O., came unannounced, and the two went into the master's study for a discussion of various matters, including the B. & O.'s entrance into Staten Island and that road's contract to operate the telegraph service on the West Shore. Depew came, heard that his chief was in conference and went on to his office. But suddenly, while the two railroad kings were talking, Mr. Vanderbilt's voice ceased, his face flushed to a dark red, almost purple, and he fell forward heavily on the floor, while Garrett rushed wildly from the room, calling for help. A physician was summoned, but there was nothing he could do.

It was feared by those who heard the news that evening that the stock market would break next morning, but it held fairly steady. The newspapers, some of which had for years past found the capitalist and his family a vulnerable and favorite target for their sarcasm, now — when it was too late for him to hear it — spoke of him with high praise. His tremendous ability, his fairness, kindness and geniality were all stressed. There was none of his father's frequent bluster in William Henry. He carefully avoided even the appearance of evil in his dealings with city and state, and was a leading figure in the trend away from railroad participation in politics. When Henry R. Pierson, an official and director of the Central, was unanimously nominated by the Republicans for State Senator, he wrote to Mr. Vanderbilt, asking for his views. The president promptly replied:

You are well aware that the policy of this Company is against officers becoming candidates for political positions. . . . Your official duties would naturally be supposed to occupy all your time and attention, if we conduct our business as closely and p336economically as we claim, and to absent yourself from those duties while serving as Senator, would probably embarrass, and could in no sense help the Company.

Mr. Pierson declined the nomination.

And so died, at the age of sixty-four years and seven months, the man whose place among all our great railroad builders and potentates must be very near the top. In less than nine years he had increased the fortune left him from $75,000,000 to $200,000,000. His will divided it not unfairly among his widow, his four sons and four daughters, for several of whom he had already built homes. Cornelius II and William K., the two sons destined to succeed him as railroad executives, received the largest portions; and there were large bequests to churches, missions, the Y. M. C. A., etc.1


[image ALT: Individual photographs of four men in late‑19c dress. The man at the top left is probably past 60, and the man at the top right is about 50: both wear long bushy sideburns but no beard or mustache. The two men in the second row are both in their thirties and clean-shaven. ]

The Vanderbilt Dynasty

"Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt

William H. Vanderbilt

William K. Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt II

Morgan had also persuaded William Vanderbilt to relinquish his holdings in the Reading, but this was not done until after his death, when his sons disposed of his interest. As for the forsaken South Pennsylvania Railroad, the large Pittsburgh stockholders tried unsuccessfully to revive it in 1887; in 1890 it was reported that George F. Baer, president of the Reading, had taken it over, but nothing happened; and in 1899, when the railroads raised rates to the seaboard, Carnegie sent surveyors over the route again at considerable cost to himself, but once more the plan was dropped. For almost another forty years the bridge piers, grade and tunnels lay sleeping, with Nature chipping away at them, trying to restore her ancient landscape. Meanwhile came the automobile, and in 1938 the idea of constructing a motor highway over the course and using six of the nine tunnels was adopted. And so, after fifty-five years of slow decay, they were bored through, and the great paved speedway was opened in 1940.

Cornelius Vanderbilt the younger toiled hard at his job as long p337as he lived, which was only fourteen years more.2 His brother William K. worked not quite so hard, varying his program with yachting and tooling four-in‑hands (later automobiles), and lived twenty-one years longer. As chairmen of the boards of the Central and Lake Shore, the brothers appear to have had more power than the presidents. In the Cleveland files one finds several notes from William K. to John Newell, who succeeded William H. Vanderbilt as president of the Lake Shore and held that position eleven years, until his death in 1894. These brief missives are written in longhand on a particularly small size of note paper which was socially popular then. The sheets sometimes bear the engraved heading of a Fifth Avenue club, and sometimes none at all. A typical terse one on a tiny blank sheet is as follows:

Newport R. I.

31 Aug 92

John Newell, Esq

Dear Sir

You can proceed with freight house, Cleveland; also the grading for second track Pettisville to Stryker and Kennelsville to Goshen.

Yours truly

W K Vanderbilt

It is clear that the secretary who wrote all of the letter but the signature was not acquainted with the bright little city of Kendallville, Indiana.

"Uncle John" Newell, as he was affectionately called by most railroad men, was a great executive whose road was his ruling passion. A civil engineer by trade, his chief aim was the reduction of grades and the straightening of curves. He would ride over the road at the tail of a train for hours, watching the track, envisioning it as it would be when he had remolded it to his heart's desire.3 It is largely through the farsightedness of Newell p338and his engineer, Collins, that the New York Central today owns a dominant interest in the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, the "Little Giant," one of the best money-makers over a long period of time among all American railroads. The original company of that name was incorporated in 1875 to build from Pittsburgh down the Ohio and up the Mahoning River to the Ohio state line near Youngstown. It was organized by men in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Sharon and New Castle, and a circular of December 21, 1876, urged more Pittsburghers to invest, saying that the road would cost probably $4,000,000, of which probably one-half would come from outsiders. Andrew Carnegie was among the early promoters.

Newell, then general manager of the Lake Shore, saw the importance of the proposed road immediately, and it was upon his insistence that his company put $200,000 into the project in 1877. The P. & L. E. absorbed the Youngstown & Pittsburgh and another small concern in 1878, and was opened for use in '79. The Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny, incorporated in 1881, virtually an extension of the other road from Pittsburgh to Connellsville, was opened in '83 and was promptly taken over by the P. & L. E. on one of those " 'til-the‑end-of‑time" leases. It was built largely by William H. Vanderbilt upon Newell's advice, and it had such good prospects that it turned up its nose at an offer of 105 for its first bond issue.

The Lake Shore and the Vanderbilts had by this time acquired such a position in the P. & L. E.'s affairs that Newell was president of it from 1884 until 1894, being also general manager during the last four years of the time. General Thomas W. Sanderson, historian of Youngstown, wrote in 1907 that "he poured money into it and made it the perfect system that it is today." The 123‑mile main line from Connellsville through Pittsburgh to Youngstown, especially in and near the two last-named cities, runs almost continuously out of one factory yard into another, most of them huge steel and ironworking plants, such as the Carnegie works at Homestead, National Tube, Jones & Laughlin and others. On no other road is there such a close-packed concentration of heavy industry. The result has been that for long periods of time the road earned $100,000 per mile or more. In 1906 its gross earnings were $14,481,495.48, its net $3,287, 507.32. A 12 percent dividend was declared in December of that year. In March, 1907, its capital was increased from $10,000,000 to $30,000,000, to enable it to enlarge its main line to four tracks, to p339build some and make other improvements. A number of other small roads have been leased or taken over. Since Newell's time its presidents have customarily been the same as those of the New York Central. In recent years the high costs of labor and materials, taxes, etc., have cut its once princely income, as they have that of all other railroads.

The acquisition of the enormously valuable coal properties of the New York Central in northern and central Pennsylvania was accomplished largely during the chairmanship of the two third-generation Vanderbilts. The Central, having no mines directly upon its lines, was always anxious about its coal supply. When, during W. H. Vanderbilt's last days, coal operators tacked another 50 cents per ton to coal prices, an alarmed NYC vice-president consulted Mr. Vanderbilt, and they agreed that the Central must look for its own coal supply, preferably in north central Pennsylvania, the nearest field to the Central lines. Just as a matter of insurance and a threat, Vanderbilt and a friend had bought control of the Philadelphia & Reading, a great network pretty thoroughly covering the Schuylkill coal field, and a major nuisance and menace to the Pennsylvania Railroad. But the Central engines burned soft coal, and the real safety measure, the nucleus of all that followed, was the acquisition of the Beech Creek Railroad property in the rich bituminous field west of Williamsport.

This property was far distant from the NYC's New York lines, but possible connections lay between. Away back in 1828, the Tioga Coal, Iron Mining and Manufacturing Company was incorporated with permission to canalize the little Tioga River from the Pennsylvania-New York state line about nine miles to the Chemung, a tributary of the Susquehanna, with a hope of flatboating products by that route to market. Then talk was heard of that new device, the railroad; the charter was altered in 1833, and while railroads elsewhere were still in their infancy, a little strap-rail affair was built there in the back-country hills, with no rail connection to the outer world. Then extensions were built to the new town of Corning, N. Y. and to Blossburg, Pa., and in 1851 the name was changed to Corning & Blossburg. Little notices in the Albany and other papers prove its isolation:

Corning and Blossburg Rail Road — Daily Line — A Locomotive Engine with a train of Passenger and Freight cars will leave Corning at 5 o'clock A.M. of each day for Blossburg and the intermediate places, connecting with a splendid line of Post p340Coaches running to the Williamsport and Elmira Rail Road at Trout Run, returning in the afternoon of the same day.

Passengers from Geneva by steamboat will arrive at Corning the same day by a line of stages direct from Jefferson to Corning.

Various other little railroads, including the Corning, Cowanesque & Antrim and the Pine Creek carried the tracks down to Jersey Shore, just west of Williamsport, and in 1883 a larger concern, the Fall Brook Coal Company, took over the whole chain by lease or otherwise. In 1881, it had leased the Syracuse, Geneva & Corning, which gave it a connection with the New York Central main line.

The first firm foothold of the Vanderbilts in that section was obtained when the younger Cornelius and William K. bought into the McIntyre Coal Company, which had very nearly worked out a coal area north of Williamsport. They reorganized the company, taking in, among other stockholders, a fellow named Samuel L. Clemens — who, under the pen name of Mark Twain, had begun to own some folding money as the result of his writing — and emerged as the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Company, with intent to build track from Jersey Shore into the heart of one of the richest of Pennsylvania coal fields, one hitherto regarded by the Pennsylvania Railroad as its own private domain. The railroad — which, after two renamings, finally appeared as the Beech Creek — was built in quickstep time, despite Pennsylvania attempts to delay it by legal process and among other things, by playfully dropping an old locomotive into one of its cuts.

But when the deal was made by which the Southern Pennsylvania project was handed over to the Pennsylvania, it demanded the Beech Creek, too, and seemed about to get it. But at news of this, coal operators in the Clearfield district, who had been getting better service than ever before, uttered a roar of protest and appealed to Harrisburg. The governor at that time had no love for the Pennsylvania, which had fought against his election. He summoned his attorney-general, who invoked a statute of 1874, forbidding railroads to take over rival or competing lines. The Beech Creek, said the state, was such a line. The courts sustained it and the Clearfield country rejoiced. Meanwhile, the NYC was acquiring a continuously greater interest in the Fall Brook Company. In 1890 the Beech Creek, now grown to a system of 153 miles, was taken over by the Central under a long lease, and in 1899 the Fall Brook lines followed it into the fold.


The Author's Notes:

1 Two of the sons had no inclination towards any active part in railroading. Frederick W., however, though a bookish man, nevertheless increased his patrimony, and sat faithfully on boards of directors. When he died in 1937, he had been sixty-two years a director of the New York Central and fifty-seven years a director of the Chicago & Northwestern.

George, the youngest, shunned even the railroad boardroom. It was he who went down into North Carolina and built a home in the woods to which he gave the now famous name of Biltmore; who assembled and turned over to the United States government the Pisgah National Forest, that magnificent mountain park for the benefit of the American people in the ages to come.

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2 He was always concerned for the welfare of the employees. In 1875 a locomotive engineer suggested to him a sort of clubhouse for railroad men which would tend to keep them out of saloons; which led the young official (only 33 then, but already an important cog in the machine) to install the Railroad YMCA in the old Grand Central in '76. Ten years later he erected for it with his own funds a handsome building adjacent to the station.

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3 How many people have ever heard of the Silver Plate Railroad? It is just a nickname for a little piece of track that has no official name — an outlet for a new factory district built in the 1880's and long owned by the heirs of William Case, once a Lake Shore president. The Lake Shore under Newell joined the Pennsylvania in a lease of it in 1887, and the two roads have operated it ever since.


Thayer's Note:

a An altogether different view of the West Shore Railroad is given by W. H. Baumer in a biographical sketch of one of its principals (General Horace Porter), Not All Warriors, pp281‑284.

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b A grossly unfair characterization of the article in the Times (Nov. 22, 1877). Crowd control at the event was poor, and a reporter's feathers were ruffled; but even then the bulk of the article is neutral or laudatory. I reproduce the article in its entirety here; the gentle reader will judge for herself:

A Vanderbilt Married.

Great Crush in St. Bartholomew's

Union of Miss Florence Adele, third daughter of William H. Vanderbilt, to Mr. Hamiltonº M'.K Twombly, of Boston — the most costly wedding dress ever worn on this continent — The guests and their toilets — A reception after the ceremony — Scenes and incidents.

St. Bartholomew's Church, at Madison-avenue and Forty-fourth-street, was besieged last evening by an immense and exceedingly unruly crowd, intent on catching a glimpse of Miss Florence Adele Vanderbilt, third daughter of William H. Vanderbilt, and her intended husband, Mr. Hamilton McK. Twombly, late of Boston, as they passed in to have the marriage ceremony performed. A striped canopy extended from the main entrance of the church to the avenue curb; all the other doors were closed. Several thousand invitations on oblong tinted paper, similar to the following, had been issued:

"Mr. and Mrs. William H. Vanderbilt request your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Florence Adele, to Hamilton McK. Twombly, Wednesday evening, Nov. 21, at 8 o'clock, St. Bartholomew's Church, Madison-avenue and Forty-fourth-street."

These were accompanied by a small card, which read: "Please present this card at the door of the church." Just inside the outer edge of the canopy stood two rough individuals shouting "Tickets," like at a circus. Gentlemen who were in the least dilatory in producing the pasteboards were roughly hustled back out of the way. One gentleman, a personal friend of Mr. Vanderbilt, was caught by the neck and flung backward over the curb. The uninvited crowd, composed of several thousand persons, the majority of them women, pressed against the canopy on both sides, and defied the efforts of the Police to keep them in order. Several times rushes were made which tilted the canopy up on one side and then on the other, so that it was almost thrown over. In these rushes guests were roughly handled. Men and women in evening attire were squeezed and jostled, their costumes disarranged, and their persons bruised. One lady in a low-necked dress was thrown under the feet of a pair of carriage horses that had just driven up, and placed in imminent concerning of her life. Once the ticket-takers and Police were fairly overborne, and several hundred of the rabble succeeded in forcing their way past them into the church. The conduct of these persons was simply awful.

Inside the church was brilliantly lighted. A large portion of the central aisle had been reserved by stretching white silk across it. One cord marked the portion set apart for the family. This included about half a dozen pews on each side. Another was within half a dozen pews of the other end of the aisle, the intervening space being for the immediate friends and relatives. Long before the hour set down for the ceremony the entire remainder of the body of the church was packed almost to suffocation — pews and aisles, — by a rather miscellaneous assemblage, in which a large number of Wall-Street brokers and members of German banking-houses were prominent. There were also many women of a class that would not be expected to receive invitations. The special guests as they arrived were seated by eight ushers, three of whom were Frederick Vanderbilt, brother of the bride; Henry Sloane, brother of the husband of another of Mr. Vanderbilt's daughters, and Arthur Twombly, brother of the groom. The other five were Boston men whom nobody seemed to know. These young gentlemen were in full evening dress, with white wedding favors tied in their button-holes. The vestibule of the church was also crowded, and so were the stairs to the organ-loft, and the loft itself by persons who found it impossible to squeeze their way in. The ushers had their hands full keeping a space sufficiently wide for the entrance of the bridal party. Several times they were obliged to drive the mob back. There must have been at least 2,500 persons inside the church and hundreds more had invitations who were obliged to remain out. This part of the ceremony was terribly mismanaged. During the interval of waiting the organist of the church, Carl Walter, performed the following musical selections:

1. Overture, "Jubel;" 2. Grande Marche, "L'Africaine;" 3. Overture, "William Tell;" 4. Menuet, Mozart; 5. Overture, Oberon; 6. Saltarello, Gounod; 7. Fantasie Marche, Walter; 8. Selections, "Lohengrin;" 9. Marche, "Tannhauser;"º 10. Overture, "Siege de Corinthe."

Meantime, Dr. Cooke, the Rector of the church, and Dr. Tyng, Jr., of the Holy Trinity, had entered and taken seats at either side of the chancel. At 8:10 o'clock the notes of the "Marche" from "Le Prophete" struck up, and all heads were turned toward the entrance, whence soon appeared six ushers, walking two abreast. These were followed by Mrs. William H. Vanderbilt, leaning on the arm of the groom, and they by Mr. William H. Vanderbilt, escorting the bride. Two other ushers brought up the rear. The bride was a graceful young lady, rather slim, with sharp, prominent features, and dark complexion, eyes, and hair. Her toilet was exquisite. The material was of brocaded white satin, the design being specially woven in Lyons from drawings made by Mrs. Connelly, who furnished Nellie Grant's trousseau. It consists of a grouping of primroses, buds, and leaves, and cannot be duplicated. The corsage was cut square in front, with inner Vandyked points. Under these was laid, from shoulder to shoulder, a pointed silk trimming about four inches wide, covered with seed pearls in diamond designs, and pearl pendants, which served as a heading to deep rose point, and point de Venise lace. This completely covered the opening. A bouquet of orange flowers was festooned below so as to hide the buttons and meet a plaited half belt of white brocaded satin, which was fastened by a buckle in front. The sleeves were of point lace, made close fitting to the elbow, whence from bouquets of orange blossoms two falls of the lace spread widely out, leaving the forearm bare. The ground of the front of the skirt was of plain white satin.º From the right side three bunched folds of white satin crossed diagonally downward to the left. Beneath these were broad strips of the pearl and silk trimming before described, and these served as headings for three falls of lace, each nine inches deep, of a unique and beautiful design. The lace was scalloped at intervals of four inches. Alternate scallops were of round point at the edges, the filling being of point de Venise. The other scallops were of point applique. On each scallop, suspended by an abundance of ribbons, was represented an overturned basket spilling out a variety of choice flowers. Lace flowers and leaves divided the scallops. The bottom of the front skirt was composed of box-pleats of white satin with bunches of orange blossoms alternating, and below a row of pearl trimming. This was widest at the sides and narrowed gradually toward the front. There was a small half-collar from the shoulders behind, and from this to the train, the back of the dress was in one piece of brocaded satin, following the curve of the form to below the waist, where there was a large knot of satin ribbon. Below the ribbon the skirt was trimmed in an oblong design with the pearl trimming, which here also acted as a heading for an outer fall of the previously described lace. The folds of satin across the front were caught up on the left side by bouquets of orange blossoms, and thence went diagonally upward behind until they were lost in the folds of the rear skirt. Down either side of the lace trimming in the rear depended long vines of orange blossoms. The train was of Princesse court style, and was three and a half yards long. The edge was cut all around in rounded points underneath, so as to bunch up underneath them, were five rows of satin plissé. A short veil of point de Venise and point d'aiguille lace depended from and over a high comb, the fastenings being sprays of orange blossoms and white lilacs, one on the right side of the head forward, and the other on the left, behind. Miss Vanderbilt wore long white kid gauntlets and low white satin shoes displaying white silk stockings, with rich medallions of Valenciennes lace introduced over the instep. These latter cost $120 the pair. She carried a large bouquet of white and yellow Marshal Neil roses. Her only jewelry was a pair of superb solitaire diamond ear-rings, a present from the groom. Mr. Twombly, a tall, slender young man, with dark hair, eyes, and moustache, was in evening costume of black. Mrs. Vanderbilt wore a lavender brocaded satin, cut square necked, and trimmed with exquisite Duchesse and point medallion lace 14 inches deep. Her ornaments were diamonds. Mr. Vanderbilt appeared in evening costume, with a sprig of geranium in his buttonhole.

The more favored spectators who occupied seats in the central aisle were nearly all in full evening dress. Miss Lila O. Vanderbilt, the bride's youngest sister, was attired in white silk and white gauze, both embroidered with sprigs of clematis. The corsage was décolleté with high trimmings of Hungarian lace and postillion waist behind trimmed with broad satin ribbons. In front was a plaited white satin belt, beneath a bouquet of white roses. The lace sleeves had insertions of gauze, embroidered in three rows of scallops, and were finished off below the elbow by bunched satin knots. The skirt was of plain white silk under white embroidered gauze, edged by three rows of embroidered scallops, and upheld at either side by bunches of white roses and knots of satin ribbon. On the left side, at the bottom, the gauze was raised and fastened by a bouquet of roses, so as to display a deep, triangular-shaped mass of satin plissés. Her ornaments were diamonds. She carried a bouquet of red and white Marshal Neil roses. Mrs. Elliott F. Shepherd, a married sister of the bride, wore a light blue, brocaded silk, trimmed with olive and pink chenille leaves and flowers heading deep point d'aiguille lace. The corsage was made similar to that of the bride, with demi-lace sleeves. The skirt was turned over in revers at the sides and rear, and had further trimmings of bows of self-colored ribbons. Mrs. Sloane, another married sister of the bride, wore cream-colored matelasse trimmed with seven-inch Valenciennes laces under a heading of pearls and spangles. The general shape was similar to the bridal costume. There were four rows of trimming across the front of the skirt. Down the left side were six short flounces of the lace overlapping each other. The right side was similarly decorated with bunches of carnations. Miss Cora Moffatt, an intimate friend of the bride, was dressed in pink damassé, trimmed with narrow self-colored fringe and Mechlin lace. The front of the skirt was arranged in a series of wide revers. The wives of Cornelius and William K. Vanderbilt the bride's brothers, were attired with equal richness and taste.

When the bridal party reached the chancel steps Mrs. Vanderbilt disengaged her hand from the groom's arm and stepped to the left, while he proceeded forward to the rail. Immediately afterwards, Mr. Vanderbilt joined his wife, and the bride went on to her fiancé's side. The ushers ranged themselves four on each side of the chancel. The bride and groom then knelt together for a few moments in silent prayer. When they arose, Dr. Tyng stepped forward, and in a loud voice recited the Episcopal formula, calling on any person knowing of an impediment to the marriage to step forward then, or forever after hold his peace. Nobody responding, Dr. Tyng retired, and Dr. Cooke, taking his place, performed the marriage ceremony according to the Episcopal ritual. The congregation stood while it was in progress, and the deepest silence was maintained. The bride was cool and collected throughout, and the groom gave his responses in a clear and audible voice. When the time came for using the ring the groom produced it from his waistcoat pocket, and the bride turning handed her bouquet to her brother Frederick, and then held out her finger. At the close of the ritual Dr. Cooke stepping to one side, pronounced the couple man and wife in a loud voice. All then knelt while the Lord's Prayer was being recited, and at its close Dr. Cooke formally blessed the newly married couple, and then, when they had risen, warmly shook their hands in congratulation. This was repeated by Dr. Tung, after which the bride took her husband's arm, and, facing about, they led the procession destruction the aisle out of the church, Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt following, and the ushers after them. As they passed out the organist played Mendelssohn's "Wedding March," and subsequently selections from "Il Trovatore."

A reception followed immediately after in the residence of the bride's father, corner of Fifth-avenue and Fortieth-street. A canopy stretched from the hall door to the curb, and a strip of carpet covered the sidewalk and stoop beneath it. Here, too, a large crowd of curiosity seekers had assembled, and the presence of a squad of Police was necessary to keep these in order. The interior of the Vanderbilt mansion was lighted up with the brilliancy of day. In the central hall was a large group of tropical plants. In the northern parlor, between the two front windows, hung an immense floral bell, composed of camellias, tuberoses and white pinks, under which the newly-married couple stood to receive the congratulations of the guests. In the hall at the side of the staircase was stationed a string band, who played selections from "La File de Madame Angot" and other lively airs. In the dining-room in the rear was spread out one of Delmonico's most artistic lunches, of which the guests partook later in the evening. The bridal presents were not displayed, but were of unusual value and beauty, as might be expected, among them being, it was reported, checks and securities from the father of the bride representing an aggregate of $1,000,000. There was a comparatively small attendance at the reception, only a few invitations having been issued. Among the more prominent guests were Sidney Dillon and wife, Mr. Tillinghast and wife, Mr. Greenleaf and wife, Hon. Chauncey M. Depew, Mr. McMurray and wife, Hon. Augustus Schell and wife, Richard Schell and family, Mr. P. H. Drake and wife, ex‑Gov. Morgan and family, Judge Hilton and family, Mr. L. H. Taylor and family, Mr. S. E. Hawley, Mrs. Coggswell, Mrs. Commodore Vanderbilt, the two daughters of Judge Gilbert, of Brooklyn, Mr. Samuel Barton and family, Mr. and Mrs. Christmass, Dr. Jared Linsly, Mr. E. A. Willis, Marshall O. Roberts and family, Mr. Boyd, Mrs. James, Mr. Jeremiah P. Robinson and wife, of Brooklyn, Mr. Charles A. Robbins, Mr. Peter Lynch, Mr. and Mrs. H. Durant, Mr. and Mrs. Quintard Palmer, Mr. and Mrs. Ward, of Brooklyn, and Dr. and Mrs. Kissam, of Brooklyn. Several very beautiful toilets were worn at the reception. Mrs. Dr. Kissam was attired in trailed pink silk, with maroon velvet and colored head trimming. Mrs. Ward wore a black cut velvet robe with court train, trimmed with Brussels lace and jet. Mrs. Palmer also displayed a superb black velvet costume. Mrs. Durant was dressed in black silk, with a front of black and white striped silk trimmed with jet embroidery.

In addition to an unusually complete outfit of lingerie, hose, &c., the bridal trousseau consisted of nine dresses. One was of maroon-colored velvet trimmed with self-colored cock's feathers. Another was of plum-colored brocade and velvet. A third was of black silk trimmed with amber and clair de lune colored satin and beads. A fourth was of black velvet. A fifth was a street dress of black silk with clair de lune trimming. A seventhº had a trail and back of brocaded silk, and a front of white silk trimmed with three tabliers of Valenciennes lace, headed with chenille and pearl trimming. An eighth was of black brocade trimmed with black silk. There were also a breakfast dress of gray camel's hair cloth and pink silk trimmed with natural feathers; a white cashmere robe de chambre trimmed with white ermine and Mechlin lace, and a wrapper of cut velvet. There were bonnets, and all the other paraphernalia for each dress.

The young couple left last evening in a special drawing-room car for Boston, where they will spend a few days of the honeymoon prior to their departure on a short bridal tour to Europe.

Mr. Twombly for several years has been an acquaintance of the Vanderbilt family. Until very recently he was connected with a paper manufacturing firm of Boston. On Nov. 1, Mr. Vanderbilt appointed him superintendent of the New-York Central and Hudson River elevators, at Sixty-first-street, with George J. Whitney, of Rochester, who, for some time, has borne the responsibilities of the position. Mr. Twomblyº is said to be about 30 years of age. He graduated in Yale College in 1871.


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Page updated: 14 Feb 14