Henry Villard business papers
- 1862-1928 (inclusive)
- 1870-1900 (bulk)
Conditions Governing Access
Extent87 linear feet (127 volumes, 125 boxes)
The records chiefly document the development of transportation networks in the West and Pacific Northwest, with the bulk of the material relating to the development of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company and its completion in 1883. Other transportation companies that are well represented in the collection include Kansas Pacific Railroad, the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company, Oregon and California Railroad Company, Oregon Steamship Company, Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, Oregon Improvement Company, and Oregon and Transcontinental Company.
Other materials of interest include Villard's business activities with Thomas A. Edison and Werner von Siemens, and his correspondence and financial records.
Henry Villard was born Ferdinand Heinrich Gustav Hilgard on April 10, 1835 in Speyer, Germany. The Hilgards were a prominent Bavarian family; Heinrich's father was a jurist who served on the supreme court of Bavaria. Heinrich attended university in Germany before an estrangement with his father led him to emigrate to the United States in 1853. He took the surname of a French schoolmate to avoid his father, who he feared would force him to return to Bavaria to join the army.
After holding various odd jobs and mastering English, Villard found work as a journalist. He first wrote for German-American newspapers in Chicago and New York. In 1860, he became a correspondent for the New York Herald and covered the Civil War. During visiting Boston in 1863, Villard became acquainted with the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and his family. Three years later, he married Garrison's daughter, Helen Frances Garrison (known as Fanny.) Henry Villard and Fanny Garrison Villard had four children: Helen, Henry, Oswald, and Heinrich.
In the 1860s, Villard became involved in finance as a liaison between German investors and American railroad companies. With support from his German backers, Villard financed many railroad companies, including the Kansas Pacific Railway Company, the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company, Oregon and California Railroad, Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and the Oregon and Transcontinental Company. He also advocated developing the Pacific Northwest and encouraged immigration to Oregon and California.
After meeting Thomas A. Edison in 1879, Villard became interested in electricity. He saw the commercial potential for electricity, and he actively promoted Edison's patents all over the United States and Europe. He also pushed for an alliance between Edison and the German inventor, Werner von Siemens. In 1889, Villard formed the syndicate Edison General Electric with J. P. Morgan and G. Lowrey. Villard was thoroughly engaged in electric street railway systems and brought trolley systems to cities in 1891, beginning with Richmond, Virginia. In 1892, Villard had his own holding company for railroad and electrical securities: North American Company. Villard died on November 12, 1900 at the age of sixty-five.
- Series I. Kansas Pacific Railroad, 1862-1879
- Series II. American Liquid Fuel Company, 1869-1880
- Series III. Wisconsin Central Railroad Company and Northern Pacific Railroad Company, 1868-1895
- Series IV. Oregon and California Railroad Company, 1870-1890
- Series V. Oregon Steamship Company, 1873-1896
- Series VI. Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, 1879-1897
- Series VII. Oregon Improvement Company, 1860-1923
- Series VIII. Northern Pacific Railroad Company, 1867-1919
- Series IX. Oregon and Transcontinental Company, 1881-1890
- Series X. North American Company, 1879-1921
- Series XI. Edison General Electric, 1879-1917
- Series XII. Correspondence, 1871-1901
- Series XIII. Investments and financial records, 1874-1895
- Series XIV. World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, Chicago, Illinois, 1892-1896
- Series XV. Memoirs, 1861-1900
- Series XVI. Scrapbooks and newspapers, 1881-1897
- Series XVII. Oversized material, 1877-1903
- Series XVIII. Photographs and stereographs, 1876-1883
Existence and Location of Copies
Stereographs located in boxes 119-121 have been scanned.
By: Andrea Faye Sheehan, Maggie Hale
The Villard papers were reprocessed from July to October 1998. The series are arranged chronologically by Villard’s business endeavors. Materials were refoldered and reboxed and rubber bands, paper clips and other fasteners were removed. Most newsprint was photocopied. Annual reports and printed material were removed from the collection; they are cataloged individually in HOLLIS, Harvard's online catalog. The photographs and stereographs were reprocessed in 2002.
- Articles of incorporation
- Banks and banking--Germany
- Chicago (Ill.)--Exhibitions
- Electric lighting
- Geological surveys
- Investment banking--Germany
- Lee, Higginson & Co.
- Liquid fuels
- New York (N.Y.)
- Northwest, Pacific
- Railroads--United States
- Saint Paul (Minn.)
- Steamboat lines--Oregon
- Wisconsin Central Railroad Company (1871-1899)
- Villard, Henry, 1835-1900. Henry Villard Business Papers, 1862-1928 (inclusive), 1870-1900 (bulk): A Finding Aid
- Baker Library
- EAD ID
Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository
Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.
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