The Life and Legend of E. H. Harriman

By Maury Klein

544 pp., 6 x 9.25, 40 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-6553-8
    Published: April 2011
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6077-9
    Published: June 2003

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To Americans living in the early twentieth century, E. H. Harriman was as familiar a name as J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie. Like his fellow businessmen, Harriman (1847-1909) had become the symbol for an entire industry: Morgan stood for banking, Rockefeller for oil, Carnegie for iron and steel, and Harriman for railroads. Here, Maury Klein offers the first in-depth biography in more than seventy-five years of this influential yet surprisingly understudied figure.

A Wall Street banker until age fifty, Harriman catapulted into the railroad arena in 1897, gaining control of the Union Pacific Railroad as it emerged from bankruptcy and successfully modernizing every aspect of its operation. He went on to expand his empire by acquiring large stakes in other railroads, including the Southern Pacific and the Baltimore and Ohio, in the process clashing with such foes as James J. Hill, J. P. Morgan, and Theodore Roosevelt.

With its new insights into the myths and controversies that surround Harriman's career, this book reasserts his legacy as one of the great turn-of-the-century business titans.

Originally published 2000.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

About the Author

Maury Klein is professor of history at the University of Rhode Island. His previous books include Unfinished Business: The Railroad in American Life and The Life and Legend of Jay Gould.
For more information about Maury Klein, visit the Author Page.


"A highly accessible and readable account of Harriman's role in the complex world of turn-of-the-century railroads."--Enterprise & Society

"This volume is more than a biography of an important historical figure. . . . Those who are not necessarily students of the period will finish this book knowing a great deal about how society, politics, and business were intertwined as the United States entered the twentieth century. . . . A first-rate book that explains an interesting era through the eyes of one of its leading participants."--American Historical Review

"Klein brings a wealth of knowledge about railroad and financial history to his biography. . . . Harriman comes alive in Klein's sympathetic account as a man dedicated both to his family and to his business career."--Journal of American History

"A book that should be read by anyone interested in United States financial history or in the history of American railroads. . . . Clearly the definitive work on Edgar Henry Harriman (1848 to 1909) and . . . a fascinating look at big business of the dawn of the twentieth century."--Journal of Economic History

"This is a fine biography. Maury Klein presents a balanced portrait of Harriman by examining his strengths and weaknesses as well as his successes and failures. This book will set the standard for future work on Harriman. It will certainly prove valuable reading for historians, but because it is such an interesting story, wonderfully told, it should also find a wider, popular audience."--Business History Review

"The subject of this book, Edward H. Harriman, at long last has found its author. . . . No one else could even be imagined as being better qualified to author such a stunning biography of this preeminent railroad leader. Many who read this book will wish they had written it. . . . Exceptionally well written, this biography merits prizes and a wide readership."--The Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography