Frederick Billings

Frederick Billings : A Life

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Description

Here is San Francisco during the gold rush through the eyes of a 25-year-old Vermonter and the first lawyer to hang out a shingle there, in 1849. Instrumental in founding the University of California, an early conservationist and advocate of national parks at Yosemite and Yellowstone, Frederick Billings was in later years president of the Northern Pacific Railroad when it crossed Montana, where the state's largest city is named for him.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 408 pages
  • 158.75 x 241.3 x 38.1mm | 816.46g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 16 half-tones, 5 maps
  • 0195068149
  • 9780195068146

Review Text

The well-told life and times of Frederick Billings (1823-1890): Forty-Niner, attorney, railroad entrepreneur, philanthropist, and conservationist. Yale history professor Winks (Cloak and Gown, 1987, etc.) has drawn on a wealth of resources, including Billings's own extensive family archive, to flesh out the story of this multifaceted figure. After journeying across the Panama isthmus in the wake of the discovery of gold in California (a trip during which he lost his beloved sister), the 26-year-old attorney made his mark by starting a land-claims practice, investing in San Francisco real estate, and becoming California's first attorney general. Winks skillfully explains the colorful, boom-and-bust atmosphere that enabled Billings to make his fortune after only 18 months in the state. In middle age, after unsuccessfully angling for statewide offices in the Republican party, Billings masterminded the reorganization of the first northern transcontinental line, the Northern Pacific, only lo lose the presidency of the company when Henry Villard engineered the first hostile takeover in American business history. In his final years, back in his native Vermont, Billings acted on his belief in the compatibility of business and the environment by establishing an experimental model-farm and by helping to reforest the landscape. However, as talented as Billings was, Winks implies that he lacked the flamboyance that could have distinguished him from his Gilded Age contemporaries. A balanced treatment, well researched, of a representative 19th-century figure caught up in the forces and movements of his time. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Robin W. Winks

About the Author: Robin Winks is Randolph W. Townsend, Jr. Professor of History at Yale University. Among his many books are The Blacks in Canada and Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and Asia in Western Fiction. He is currently at work on a study of the National Park System in the United States.show more

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