Founded as an investment by these four men in 1861. They preferred to be known as “The Associates”, rather than “The Big Four”, to no avail. With their funds and business acumen, they helped to build the first transcontinental railroad.
PBS documentary: The Transcontinental Railroad
- Mark Hopkins, Jr.
- Charles Crocker
- Collis Porter Huntington
- Leland Stanford
Mark Hopkins, Jr. (September 1, 1813, Henderson, New York – March 29, 1878, Yuma, Arizona): His parents were first cousins. He also married his own first cousin, Mary Frances Sherwood.
Died on a train. When he died, his Nob Hill mansion was uncomplete, and, although he was worth millions, he had no last will and testament.
The American Railroad Passenger Car, Parts I and II (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)
Hopkins mansion, Nob Hill
Charles Crocker (September 16, 1822, Troy, New York – August 14, 1888, Monterey, California)
Spiteful. Married Mary Ann Deming, named a train stop after her. Had four children. Owned the Crocker Bank, which eventually became, through growth and merging, Wells Fargo.
Stagecoach: Wells Fargo and the American West
Collis Potter Huntington (October 22, 1821, Harwinton, Connecticut – August 13, 1900, Long Lake, New York)
Married Elizabeth Stillman Stoddard (1844-1883), then married Arabella D. Worsham (1884-1900).
Gifted a substantial art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Has schools, institutions, and shipyards across the United States named for him. He is a character in the AMC television show Hell On Wheels.
The Associates: Four Capitalists Who Created California
Leland Stanford (March 9, 1824, Watervilet, New York – June 21, 1893, Palo Alto, California)
8th governor of California. California State Senator. Founded the eponymous Stanford University. The first student admitted to Stanford University was Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States.
Married Jane Elizabeth Lathorp. Had, of course, Leland Stanford, Jr.
Jane Stanford, who cofounded Stanford University with Leland, was allegedly poisoned with strychnine after his death, in 1905.
The Inventor and the Tycoon: The Murderer Eadweard Muybridge, the Entrepreneur Leland Stanford, and the Birth of Moving Pictures
Leland Stanford: Grocer, Governor and Benefactor
Ambrose Bierce lambasted The Big Four mightily in his work Black Beetles in Amber:
THE BIRTH OF THE RAIL DRAMATIS PERSONAE LELAND, THE KID _a Road Agent_ COWBOY CHARLEY _Same Line of Business_ HAPPY HUNTY _Ditto in All Respects_ SOOTYMUG _a Devil_