At AMC’s hit-series season six it’s 1966; wartime and suburban dystopia is having its effects. Season five finale had Peter Campbell getting hit in the face and thrown off his train to Greenwich. Conductor: I’m about to throw you off. Pete: Go ahead, you fat piece of crap. Conductor: I am an officer of the New Haven Line. Pete: Well, I’m president of the Howdy Doody Circus Army. Conductor: That’s it, you’re coming… and socko to Peter’s face. The trains and the New Haven create recall-more than Herbert Matter’s swanky orange and black graphics… more on that later.
The Philadelphia & Reading’s own Mad Men, namely Franklin Gowen and Archibald Angus McLeod tussled with Mad Men of their time, especially in the name of the New Haven Line. It’s why there’s disused infrastructure, beautiful ruin with which to make a place- VIADUCTgreene. It’s why there’s Reading Terminal (and that the Planning Dept. couldn’t find money to tear it down to change it into something ‘useful‘).
In 1880-’81 the Philadelphia & Reading was bankrupt and former President Franklin Gowen, was a receiver. April 24, 1881 he “hired the Philadelphia Academy of Music for the purpose of addressing stockholders, as well as Philadelphia’s political and business leaders. His three-hour oration not only excoriated the P&R British financiers, the McCalmaont Bros, “cowardly meanness, but accused them and their American agents, Kidder, Peabody of working in league with the Pennsylvania Railroad in order to attempt moving the Reading into the sphere of control of that much larger corporation.” Gowen knew the only way to compete, to thrive was to grow out of being a regional carrier. He had big ideas.
May 14, 1881 The Railway News
PRESIDENT GOWEN’S SPEECH. PHILADELPHIA. A crowded and enthusiastic meeting was held on Saturday April 24 at the Academy of Music Philadelphia for the purpose of hearing from President Gowen a statement of the position of the Philadelphia and Reading Railway. We are indebted to the Philadelfihia Inquirer for the following account of the proceedings and report of the speech of Mr Gowen.
It had been merely announced that the Hon. F.B, Gowen, president the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company would address the stock and bond holders on that evening and that tickets were to be had on application at the company’s general office; yet with this announcement, modest in its simplicity, and with the subject of the address presumably one that would be interesting only to those directly concerned in affairs of the Reading Railroad Company, there was attracted to the Academy an audience that, in numbers and character, would have honored any occasion, and for three hours it sat enchained by the grace and vigour of Mr Gowen’s oratory. At a-quarter past seven o’clock all the seats in the paraquet circle were occupied and on a goodly array of rows in the dress circle were taken up. In the lower portions of the auditorium, even the aisles, lobbies and steps were crowded. Scattered among the audience in the parquet circle and balcony, and in the proscenium boxes, were many ladies. On the stage were Vice President George de B. Keim, several of the managers and a number of officers of the Reading Railroad and Coal and Iron Company, and a large representation of lawyers, brokers and coal merchants.
“OPPOSITION TO THE READING RAILROAD. I have to say to you here that there is no place in Pennsylvania or the United States in which the Reading Railroad Company has with such opposition as in the City of Philadelphia and there is no place that has benefited so much by the Reading as the City of Philadelphia. About a year ago I was at a party at which the present Governor of this State, who comes from the Wyoming coal region, was a guest. In a little speech that he made knowing how firmly his own region is connected the City of New York and how little Philadelphia has to do with that part of the State he said to the gentlemen there many of whom Philadelphians: “New York has got ahead of you in your State: she has taken your oil trade; she has taken a great deal of your coal trade, she has got your commerce at her port instead of you having it, and if it were not for the Reading Railroad there would be no portion of State of Pennsylvania attached to the City of Philadelphia.” Great Applause. Just look at it. Last year we shipped from this port 2,100,000 tons of coal; the Pennsylvania Railroad only shipped 541,000 tons; we shipped 423,000 tons of iron and Pennsylvania merchandise. I cannot get their statistics of shipments by vessel; we shipped 13,597,000 bushels of grain and they only shipped 16,404,000. We shipped nearly as much as they. The whole grain trade of this country last year was as follows New York city $132,000,000. Think of the magnitude of these figures- $132,000,000! Baltimore had $56,000,000 and poor Philadelphia had only $28,000,000 and of that tne Reading shipped fully 45 percent. Applause. “I tell you, said Mr Gowen, with emphasis and gravity, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company has done more to destroy this city commercially and morally than a swarm of locusts would have done.”
you get the drift. on stage were Gowan supporters and real Philadelphia boosters including John Wanamaker and Frank Furness (who worked for Gowen & the P&R).
Also from the May 14, 1881. The Railway News…
A local correspondent forwards us the following remarks reference to the meeting as above reported: -
Philadelphia. April 25 1881. The talk of the town to day and yesterday is the great speech of Mr Franklin B Gowen at the Academy of Music last Saturday evening. It had been announced as to be addressed to the shareholders the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company and admission to the spacious auditorium was by ticket. The hour fixed was eight o clock. When I entered the building at 7:30 o clock every one of the 2,900 seats was occupied and many persons were standing. I found a seat on a step in one of the aisles and sat there for three hours until the speech was ended. Never did time pass so rapidly. The audience was composed of the most prominent of our citizens- merchants, manufacturers, bankers, professional men and not a few ladies. From the start, the speaker had their earnest attention and hearty sympathy. Although the address was thickly studded with personalities and attacks upon men very prominent in the affairs and affections of this city, there was during the whole three hours but one expression of dissent-one man hissed while the management of the Pennsylvania Railroad was mercilessly criticised. The speaker promptly invited him to the stage that the audience might see what a goose he was. What attracted and held the audience was undoubtedly the boldness of the speech, the courage of the speaker, his evident honesty, and his eloquence. He undoubtedly believed all that he said and unquestionably the audience reposed full faith in his utterances. Beyond this however, the mere fact that such an audience was assembled shows the deep interest our best men still take in the affairs of the Reading Company and in the great struggle that is now going on for the possession of its immensely valuable properties. If that strife could be decided by a vote of the business men of Philadelphia there is no doubt that Mr Gowen would be retained in his office, and yet the Pennsylvania Railroad is immensely popular here. This speech will undoubtedly fasten more firmly than ever the affection of the friends of the Gowen management to it and will also intensify if that be possible the hatred and hostility of its enemies.
Later, the July 1881, Penn Monthly (devoted to literature, science, art, and politics) reported:
ON the evening of the 16th of June, Mr Franklin B. Gowen delivered at the Academy of Music, before a large audience an address whose advertised subject was The Position Which the City of Philadelphia Should Occupy to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Transportation Lines and to the Railroad Problem of the Day… He contended that Philadelphia should be the metropolis and the factor of the products of the state, but he showed that this cannot now be so because large portions of the state are more nearly connected by railroads with New York. He insisted that Philadelphia capital should be directed to the development of railroads within the state and not beyond it and that the Pennsylvania Railroad Company should not be permitted to crush competition by the absorption of the Reading Railroad Company. He condemned very emphatically and very properly any unjust acquisition of wealth by railroad officials, all unjust discrimination in transportation rates, and all corrupt corporate control of political power. Of pertinent argument, other than this, the speech had none. All honest men will concur in Mr Gowen’s censure of illegal and immoral corporate and official action but everyone will not agree that all the industries of the Commonwealth should pay tribute to the City of Philadelphia, and that those portions of the state which by geographical position are more naturally connected with New York should not have the right to send their products to that market. Mr Gowen’s views upon this point savour of a past age and are not such as one would expect to hear from a man of his culture and ability. Nor would Mr Gowen’s Chinese Wall encircling Pennsylvania with outlets only at Erie and Philadelphia have availed to preserve for our city that supremacy over New York which she had in revolutionary days. New York passed Philadelphia in the race of commerce and trade before the days of railroads and her continued pre-eminence is assured under the inexorable laws of trade by her geographical situation. Indeed rivalry in business between Philadelphia and New York is, if Mr Gowen will pardon the comparison, as absurd as rivalry between the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad of today and the Pennsylvania Railroad of today. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company bears to Mr Gowen’s late speeches the relation which the head of Charles the First held to Mr Dick’s memorials. When Mr Gowen discusses the trade of Philadelphia it is the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which by unjust discriminations has diverted that trade. When he refers to the contest for the control of the Reading Railroad Company it is the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which has organized the opposition in order to accomplish by a change of management that which Mr Gowen would have prevented. When he alludes to the Junction railroad litigation it is the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which corrupted the fountain of justice and maintained in law its title to a mile of road which it had built upon its own land and with its own money. When he considers state and municipal legislation it is the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which has dictated the action of the State Legislature and the City Councils. When he speaks of his financial negotiations it is the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which by its emissaries in the direction of the banks has compelled the refusal of loans to his company. This last seems to us to be the greatest of the evil achievements of that bold bad corporation as Mr Gowen’s fancy paints it. It may be easy to stimulate factious opposition to the management of a rival corporation to divert the course of trade to corrupt legislators and to buy judges, but it is not easy in these days of diminished banking profits to induce bankers to refuse to loan when the security is sufficient and the rate of interest satisfactory.
Penn Monthly went on to further discredit Gowen. In addition to wrongly reporting the date of Gowen’s speech, they missed a lot. PRR stated building it’s for-spite Schuylkill Valley Division later the following year. Obviously Gowen had a point. With the support of William Vanderbilt, powerful president of the New York Central and other railroads, Gowen was reelected as president in January 1882. As either President (this round until January 1884) or agitator, Gowen remained involved. He told a reporter that he was sorry the occasion required him to become a candidate, but every dollar he had was invested in the Reading. On 12.10.1885 he attended William Vanderbilt’s funeral, who on 12.8, while talking to B&O president Robert Garrett II, son of legendary railroader, also B&O president and confidant of Abe Lincoln, Robert Work Garrett, W.H.V. “suddenly fell dead from his seat from shock of apoplexy almost into the latter’s.” Probably from talking about FG and the PRR, though over “two lengthy letters, Garrett II patiently explains that he did not excite or inflame Vanderbilt and thus had no hand in his death.” Paying his respects to his late friend at the funeral, “Gowen was inevitably the center of all eyes.” The New York correspondent of the Philadelphia Times, “F.A.B.,” reported: The most interesting and in many respects the most remarkable man I saw at Mr. Vanderbilt’s funeral was Franklin B. Gowen, and he really attracted more attention than any other, although George W. Childs, A. J. (Tony) Drexel, and the president of the Pennsylvania and Erie Roads was there. From one of the leading financiers of the country, F.A.B. obtained an opinion of Gowen : He has most remarkable intellectual gifts. He carries sublime courage with him and can talk a setting hen off from her nest with his wonderful gift of speech. … He is the most picturesque man in railway affairs in America. His imagination is grand, and his tongue is as smooth as burnished gold.”
On December 11, 1885, “once again he rented the Philadelphia Academy of Music, which filled to standing room capacity to hear his three-hour oration denouncing present management and its willfully ignoring his advice on how to save the company, as well as the present receivers’ reorganization plan.”
In January 1886 he regained the presidency.
J.P. Morgan, in addition to being a huge asshole, was a scared ugly man. He didn’t like Gowen’s Big Ideas, or Big Ideas that wen’t his own… neither did his worrywort advisor, A.G.’Tony’ Drexel. To maintain the status quo, Gowen had to go….
“In order to do this it has been found necessary to get rid of Mr. Gowen. We have all combined to get him out of railroad management, just as all the powers of Europe combined to crush Napoleon, and there will be no peace until Mr. Gowen is in St. Helena. He is an able and brilliant man and in some respects a veritable Napoleon, but he is no railroad manager…. The trouble with Mr. Gowen is that he wants to be fighting all the time. When he was after the Molly Maguires he was in his element, but as a railroad manager he is a failure.”
Whoever said that, and it was quoted from the The Philadelphia Times makes me think it was Tony Drexel, was wrong. F.B.G. was a stellar railroad manager who wouldn’t cow-tow to J.P. Morgan. His resignation was effective 7.17.1886. Sad he didn’t live to see what he wrought. Though there are suspicions, it’s believed he shot himself 12.13.1889
It was said Robert Garrett II never got over Vanderbilt’s dying in front of him, he died 7.29.1896, forty-nine years old and childless, in the cottage next to where his father had died 12 years earlier (at Deer Park, the B&O resort hotel he built in Western Maryland). The cause of death was listed as “chronic nephritis”—kidney failure—the same cause as his father, John Work Garrett, the…“autocratic, rapacious, cold, calculating, and a highly effective railroad administrator — except when he wasn’t. … A great railroad president? Yes, but …”
Because his daddy wanted world-class, Robert Garrett II hired Frank Furness to design Philadelphia’s 24th Street B&O station; when he died, Furness was working for him on a Baltimore hotel project.
The next Mad Man with Big Ideas was every bit the match. Next up: Archibald Angus McLeod. And the New Haven Railroad. Til then, know the New Haven Railroad was JP Morgan’s hometown pet. In 1835 Joseph Morgan, J.P.’s grandfather, bought 100 shares of Hartford & New Haven stock, later his son, Junius Morgan became a director of the railroad and later, in 1837, John Pierpont was born and grew up just west of the Hartford & New Haven depot. It’s all about your place.