"A first-rate look at the little-known story behind the creation of America's first continental railroad…Entertaining and well written." —Publishers Weekly
One hundred forty years ago, four shopkeepers in Sacramento, California, rose to become the force behind the American transcontinental railroad, achieving along the way wealth beyond measure. To build influence and maintain power, they lied, bribed, and, when necessary, arranged for obstacles, both human and legal, to disappear. Their names were Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, and they were known as "The Big Four" or "The Associates." Their drive for money—nothing more, nothing less—was epic. Their legacy is a university, public gardens, museums, mansions, banks, and libraries—and to a large degree, California itself. A captivating chronicle of a crucial period in American urban expansion, The Associates is a true-to-life tale of ruthless ambition, staggering greed, and the making of a nation.
Novelist and nonfiction author Rayner (The Devil's Wind) provides a first-rate look at the little-known story behind the creation of America's first continental railroad the story of Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford, founder of the university that bears his name. The associates were unscrupulous, savvy profiteers, whose motives were driven solely by a lust for riches and whose success usually came at the expense of others. After usurping engineer Theodore Judah's campaign to connect the Atlantic with the Pacific, the foursome capitalized on anti-Chinese sentiment, hiring desperate Chinese to do hazardous work in inhumane conditions for substandard wages. They later sanctioned murder yet successfully painted themselves as philanthropists thanks to the journalists and historians in their pockets. Amid a story of greed and ruthlessness, Rayner offers a fascinating glimpse into the growth of the U.S., illustrating how these determined if ruthless men revolutionized transportation and greatly influenced the expansion of California. The author claims their business acumen "defined the nature of the modern corporation," and their legacies live on in a library, a university, art galleries and museums. Entertaining and well written, Rayner's book will appeal to readers interested in history as well as business.