New Haven Railroad, The Its rise and fall By John L Weller  248 pages DJ

New Haven Railroad, The Its rise and fall By John L Weller 248 pages DJ

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New Haven Railroad, The Its rise and fall By John L Weller 248 pages DJ
 
THE NEW HAVEN RAILROAD ITS RISE AND FALL By John L Weller  248 pages. Dust Jacket.  Copyright 1969
Contents
Acknowledgments vii
1 Prologue: The Guns of July 1
2 Pierpontifex Maximus and His Times 6
3 The Early New Haven 35
4 The Return of Mr. Mellen 45
5 The Trolley Follies 53
6 The Steamer Follies 71
7 The Westchester Follies 96
8 The Corsair Agreements 120
9 The Hatchet Man 128
10 Decline and Fall 143
11 The Follies of 1914 161
12 Epilogue: The Final Follies 196
Notes 233 Bibliography 239
Appendix 242
Index 243
1. Prologue: The Guns of July
FOR READERS OF the New York newspapers the guns of August 1914 were all but silenced by the guns of July trained upon the New Haven Railroad and its management. The fateful assassination at Sarajevo, duly reported on June 29, was promptly forgotten. Walter Millis, in his book: Road to War: America 1914-1917, remarked on this phenomenon: "That morning [Tuesday, June 30] there was announced the sensational indictment of Mr. Charles S. Mellen of the New Haven Railroad; it was recognized as the first frontal attack of the Administration's war upon the 'interests,' and that was a more exciting war than anything in Europe."
From that date until July 24, when the New York Times announced the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia as a matter of "serious but not sensational importance" 1 all signs of the impending holocaust--the lights burning late in the capitals of Europe, the exchanges of diplomatic notes, the mobilization of armies and fleets-were crowded off the front pages by the revelations of New Haven wickedness.
Indeed, for more than a year the New Haven, its directors and its former president, Mr. Mellen, had been the target of a journalistic barrage such as no other American corporation has ever had to meet. A series of disastrous train wrecks had enlivened the campaign, serving up a steady diet of horrors, each more ghastly than the last; and even the good ( but not so gray then) New York Times had joined the parade, splashing its pages with photographs of locomotives crashed through wooden coaches and of rights-of-way littered with broken bodies.
Added to these sensations were disclosures of financial eccentricities that rocked the securities markets and undermined the belief, hitherto almost universal, in the impregnable security of New Haven investments and in the wisdom of the country's greatest financial leaders. The front pages of July 14 were devoted to the Interstate Commerce Commission's report to the Senate. The Times' three-column head proclaimed: PROSECUTION OF NEW HAVEN DIRECIS CALLED FOR BY INTERSTATE BOARD-Mellen-Rockefeller-Morgan Control Arraigned in Scathing Report-Road Lost $65,871,299. Follow-up stories appeared on the front page daily for the next week, with another three-column spread on July 22 announcPresident Wilson's instructions that the malefactors be prosecuted with vigor.
There was no lack of news. United States Marines had landed at Vera Cruz; Rasputin, the "Richelieu of Russia," was stabbed by a peasant woman and lay at death's door; police lieutenant Charles Becker's trial for the murder of Herman Rosenthal was at its sensational peak; and Harry K. Thaw, killer of Sanford White, had bribed his way out of Matteawan. One would expect the affairs of a corporation to receive scant attention at such a time but the New Haven story more than held its own. On May 23 the Times had been moved to editorial complaint: Neither Mexico nor Becker can drive Mr. MELLEN off the front page.
Mellen indeed was a colorful man, but the allegations of wrongdoing involved others more noted than he: J. Pierpont Morgan, last and greatest of the financial giants whom Matthew Josephson has called "The Robber Barons"; William Rockefeller, co-founder of the Standard Oil Trust and great-uncle of New York's present governor; former Senator Nelson Aldrich, wealthy Republican wheel-horse and relative by marriage of the Rockefellers; Lewis Cass Ledyard, pillar of the New York bar and executor of Morgan's estate; George F. Baker, chairman of New York's First National Bank; and a long list of others, including James Buchanan Brady-"Diamond Jim"-gourmand, super-salesman and consort of Lillian Russell.
Men of the highest standing had been eager in those days to be associated with the New Haven's affairs and the pinnacle of status was to be admitted to the elite club which constituted its board. In contrast to its present decrepit impoverishment the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company sixty years ago was a vast holding company, regarded as one of the richest and most powerful corporations in America. Under its control were nearly 10,000 miles of transportation systems extending beyond the New England states to the Pennsylvania anthracite regions, Lake Ontario and the Canadian border; and by sea from Canada to Florida and the Gulf. Its virtual monopoly of all transportation in New England was supplemented by ownership of electric, gas and water utilities. The employees of this complex were estimated by Mr. Mellen to number 125,000; the total capitalization was a closely guarded secret but it approximated $800,000,000.
Its power over the political institutions in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts was so complete that it was termed the "invisible government" of that area.2 Such were its resources that the great Pennsylvania and New York Central railroad companies ( the very lines which now have reluctantly absorbed it) had been obliged to call upon it for emergency loans of several millions each to tide them over the hard times of 1907-1908.3
Since the Administration's war was upon the "interests," the main thrust of the 1914 accusations was directed at such important personas J. P. Morgan and his son, president Mellen, Senator Aldrich, Rockefeller and George F. Baker, who professed his dislike for having to explain that he was out on bail.4 The newspapers and their readers also were titillated by the names of lesser fry caught up in the net, who seemed to have profited strangely through association with these nota.
A Yankee coal dealer with no apparent relation to the mighty, obviously unnerved by the publicity, was not so distraught as to relax his firm grip on some $2,700,000 gained without investing a dime. Mr. Oakleigh Thorne, a banker once nationally known but now retired, was delightfully nubiferous as to the disposition of some $11,000,000; a gentleman of the old school, he had thoughtfully destroyed any papers that might serve as painful reminders of less prosperous days. A youthful handyman from Portland, Maine, had only a "vague recollection" of cashing checks for $3,000,000; and various nameless and faceless individuals had devised the interesting custom of presenting Mr. Mellen with "due bills" which that urbane gentleman always graciously honored. ( To date, these had amounted to $1,200,000.) All this made fascinating reading and probably aroused pangs of envy in many who had been passed over in the distribution of all this largesse.
Further stimulation of the public interest was provided by the unfathomable complexity with which the New Haven's affairs had been conducted. In a magazine interview, Mellen boasted: "It is a hopeless tangle, as I intended it should be." 5
Compounding the confusion was the outbreak of a strange pestilence in the spring and summer of 1914. (Science at the time had no name for this disease, but its most virulent peaks seem to correlate with the onset of Congressional investigations, indictments and similar occurrences.) Several of the New Haven's most prominent directors, subpoenaed to appear at the investigation, were unable to do so; and Mr. Hiram M. Kochersperger, financial vice president, was stricken so badly that a trip to Europe seemed the only possible treatment. This was regrettable, since in his absence no one could decipher the New Haven's books. The treatment apparently was successful: Mr. Kochersperger later recovered sufficiently to draw a company pension for many years.
Some who were not more seriously disabled were afflicted by amnesia; the presidents of two New Haven banks, for example, sufinitially from these symptoms. Their lawyers, one of whom was Mr. Homer S. Cummings,* had advised them not to strain their memories.A federal indictment brought about some improvement but their recovery was far from complete.
Fires of uncertain origin which broke out in disparate locations destroyed some important files and an annoying transportation foul-up misrouted one company's entire records into Canada, whence it seemed that they could not be returned. It was made clear that the New Haven's current management was doing its best to shed light on the situation but because of these handicaps and a jurisdictional dispute between the government's prosecutors a great many questions have remained unanswered over the years.
The newspapers and magazines vied with each other in asking: Who got the millions? Had J. P. Morgan wrecked the New Haven or had the country's greatest financial genius been the victim of deceivers? Was Morgan the real culprit or was it Mellen? Were oilman Rockefeller, banker Baker and lawyer Ledyard really such innocents in financial matters as was now suggested?
Either way, the whole story was bad for the securities markets, to which the great J. P. Morgan had been practically a god. Only a year before Wall Street had half-masted its flags for Morgan's funeral; now it lowered ticker tapes in further manifestation of grief. Said the Times front page on July 16: The [New Haven] stock broke through 50, for
a new low record of 491/4. . . . Less than ten years ago it was quoted at 216.*

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