Here for the first time is told in a single volume one of the most remarkable stories in American history. An Eastener is never long in California without hearing something of “the big four”: four Sacramento shopkeepers—Collis P. Huntington, Lelan Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker—who got control of the newly organized Central Pacific Railroad property. These men are portrayed in Mr. Lewis’s volume vividly and with a great wealth or pertinent anecdote. Thus their true characters are revealed and the grandiose era in which they lived and operated is re-created as well. Huntington, the shrewd manipulator and lobbyist in Washington, founded the great fortune which is responsible for the magnificent library at San Marino; Leland Stanford, Governor of California and United States Senator, created Leland Stanford Junior University; Hopkins, the cold, quiet watchdog of the railroad’s treasury, kept himself out of the limelight, out of politics and scandal, yet, like the others, died enormously wealthy; while Crocker founded a dynasty of bankers still important in the affairs of California and the nation.
Oscar Lewis, a longtime authority on Californiana and secretary of the Book Club of California, spent six years gathering the material for The Big Four and writing it. The result is a definitive telling of a story that is ever fresh and ever fascinating.