The Big Four—Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker—ruled California government, both state and local, for thirty years. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which they owned, was the single largest corporation in California and controlled 85 percent of the state’s railroad tracks. Huntington handed out bribes to state legislators, federal congressmen, local police and government officials with impunity. They owned the ferry services, local transit companies and wharf facilities. At political conventions, agents of the railroad freely circulated the convention floor and dominated the smoke-filled rooms, arranging the nomination of pro-railroad candidates. The Big Four had access to the floors of the both the legislature and the senate. It was a difficult task, Californians finally had enough and decided to bring down the Big Four. You’ll find this new book by Alton Pryor a stimulating read that clearly illustrates “how not to run a government.”
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