The Big Four (they preferred the term “The Associates”) were the owners/main investors in the Central Pacific Railroad (the westernmost leg of the U.S.’s first transcontinental railroad, which terminated in Oakland):
- A. Leland Stanford (1824–1893) - President
- Collis P. Huntington (1821–1900) - Vice President
- Mark Hopkins (1813–1878) - Treasurer
- Charles Crocker (1822–1888) - Construction supervisor
Well, they brought the railroad. Or, more precisely, they funded it. But otherwise, this shameless crew of robber barons (that’s right, uh huh!) were not from here, didn’t live here, and never came here (save maybe Crocker; the others had mansions in pre-earthquake San Francisco, among other places). You may well ask why, then, Oaklanders should care about them, much less give ‘em a page on Oaklandwiki. Well, as “movers and shakers” at the state and national level, they were gilded-age forces to be reckoned with whose names come up often in local historical research. Although they likely visited “these parts” only rarely (if ever), their Oakland connections include:
- the CP railroad’s terminus (obviously!)
- Crocker (who died in NYC) is buried in Mountain View Cemetery (in the biggest, flashiest tomb on Millionaire’s Row; note that all the others also have ridiculously ostentatious memorials)
- They sparred in court with Horace Carpentier, eventually working out a deal of great benefit … to him (less so to Oakland itself; see Bagwell 1982, p. 50-52)
- When Stanford, by then a US senator, keeled over in office in 1893, Vernon Heights resident (and recent retiree), ex-Gov. George C. Perkins was asked to fill in (and ended up staying on until 1915).
- [Big Four] rode railroads to big profits (SFGate)
- A good book about the railroad is White, Richard, Railroaded, The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, W.R. Norton & Company, 2011.
- Another point of view, perhaps is Ambrose, Stephen, Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863 - 1869. Simon & Shuster, 2000.