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You are here: Home » People » Our Hall of Fame » Leland Stanford

Our Hall of Fame: Leland Stanford (1824-1893)

Go back to: William Seward | ahead to: Chester Arthur

[This information is from pp. 22-23 of Our Hall of Fame, a booklet produced in 1938 by what was then called the Schenectady Public Library. It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 920 S324, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

Portrait of Leland Stanford

Portrait: Leland Stanford

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Leland Stanford was born in Watervliet, New York, on March 9, 1824. He lived as a boy on a farm in Schenectady County and later attended Clinton Liberal Institute and Cazenovia Seminary. At the age of twenty-one he entered a law office in Albany and three years later was admitted to the bar, beginning his practice in Wisconsin. In 1852 he went to California and sold miner's supplies until 1856 when he settled in Sacramento joining his brothers in business.

Stanford entered politics and in 1861 was elected governor of California. During his administration he was successful in keeping the state within the Union. In 1885 he became United States senator. In the meantime he had become interested in railroads to which he was to devote practically his whole lifetime.

The Central Pacific Railroad was completed in 1869 and from the beginning until his death he served as president and director. He looked after the financial affairs and the railroad was built almost entirely with or on the security of public funds. The next year the Southern Pacific Railroad was incorporated and the Southern Pacific Company became dominant in the railroad organization. From the profits in the construction of the Central and Southern Pacific Railroads and with increasing values, Stanford and his associates became very rich men.

Leland Stanford had a wide range of interests and was able to do much with his fortune. He was responsible for the founding of Leland Stanford Junior University which he generously endowed as a memorial to his son. He was active in promoting the agricultural development of California and maintained extensive vineyards and a large ranch where he bred fine race horses. He sponsored some of the first experiments with instantaneous photography in which he was interested in connection with the study of animal locomotion. After his re-election to the United States Senate in 1891 his health began to fail and on June 21, 1893 he died at his home in Palo Alto.

Stanford was a man of unusual energy sometimes working day and night without stopping, and enduring without complaint the hardships experienced during the railroad construction. His public life added prestige to the vast fortune he accumulated and his philanthropic interests were of great benefit to many.

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You are here: Home » People » Our Hall of Fame » Leland Stanford updated March 31, 2015

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