In 1853, Henry Villard arrived in New York from Germany penniless and speaking not a word of English. Within three years, he was writing for a top newspaper and began an impressive career in American social and financial history. Brought to life by his great-granddaughter, Villard emerges as a man of courage and integrity, a financial wizard, and ...
In 1853, Henry Villard arrived in New York from Germany penniless and speaking not a word of English. Within three years, he was writing for a top newspaper and began an impressive career in American social and financial history. Brought to life by his great-granddaughter, Villard emerges as a man of courage and integrity, a financial wizard, and an enterprising entrepreneur. Photos.
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-01-22 With incredible energy and vision, and a knack for being at the right place at the right time, Henry Villard steadily rose from his poor immigrant status to become a business competitor of such 19th-century luminaries as J.P. Morgan and Jay Gould. Bored with school in Germany, Villard defied his well-to-do father's wishes and secretly left for America in 1853 at the age of 18. After a series of dead-end jobs, including a stint as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, he became a correspondent for the German-language newspaper Staats-Zeitung, through which he met many prominent men, befriending Abraham Lincoln while reporting on the Lincoln-Douglas debates. He then covered the 1860 Republican convention, election campaign and eventually the Civil War (which landed him in the thick of the fighting on the eastern and western fronts) for a host of influential papers. After the war, determined to find a better-paying career, Villard was prepared when the opportunity arose to wrest control of the Oregon and California railroad on behalf of German bondholders who sought his help, and eventually became president of the Northern Pacific Railroad. His interest in electricity led to a friendship with Thomas Edison, and Villard helped form a conglomerate that later became General Electric. Drawn largely from Villard's own memoirs, de Borchgrave's biography of her great-grandfather unsurprisingly accentuates the positive aspects of his life. Her detailed, enthusiastic account of his action-packed days as a Civil War reporter is the high point, while she treats Villard's business career somewhat superficially. But readers will be compelled by the ability of her Zelig-like subject to draw people to him wherever he went. B&w photos. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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