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E. H. Harriman's Geni Profile

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Edward Henry Harriman

Also Known As: "E. H. Harriman"
Birthplace: Hempstead, New York, USA
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Orlando Harriman Jr. and Cornelia Harriman
Husband of Mary Williamson Harriman
Father of Mary Harriman Rumsey; Henry Neilson Harriman; Cornelia Gerry; Carol A. Smith; W. Averell Harriman and 1 other
Brother of John Neilson Harriman; Orlando Harriman, III; Annie Ingland Van Rensselaer; Cornelia (Lilly) Neilson Harriman and William McCurdy Harriman

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About E. H. Harriman

Edward Henry Harriman (February 20, 1848 – September 9, 1909) was an American railroad executive.

Early years

Harriman was born in Hempstead, New York, the son of Orlando Harriman, an Episcopal clergyman, and Cornelia Neilson. His great-grandfather, William Harriman, emigrated from England in 1795 and engaged successfully in trading and commercial pursuits.

As a young boy, Harriman spent a summer working at the Greenwood Iron Furnace in the area owned by the Robert Parker Parrott family that would become Harriman State Park. He quit school at age 14 to take a job as an errand boy on Wall Street in New York City. His uncle Oliver Harriman had earlier established a career there. His rise from that humble station was meteoric. By age 22, he was a member of the New York Stock Exchange. And, by age 33, he focused his energies on acquiring rail lines.


In 1885 Harriman learned that the 7,863 acres (31.82 km2) Parrott family estate was for sale. He bought it for $52,500 and named it Arden (now a hamlet in Tuxedo, New York). Over the next several years he purchased an additional 20,000 acres (81 km2) almost forty different parcels of land, and built forty miles of bridle paths to connect them all. His master 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) home (Arden House) which sat high above the Palisades Parkway, was completed only seven months before he died. In the early 1900s, his sons W. Averell Harriman and E. Roland Harriman hired landscape architect Arthur P. Kroll to work closely with the head gardener and landscape those many acres. It was from this estate that his widow would donate ten thousand acres (40 km²) to New York state to start Harriman State Park in 1910.

Harriman was nearly fifty years old when in 1897 he became a director of the Union Pacific Railroad. By May 1898 he was chairman of the executive committee, and from that time until his death his word was law on the Union Pacific system. In 1903 he assumed the office of president of the company. From 1901 to 1909, Harriman was also the President of the Southern Pacific railroad. The vision of a unified UP/SP railroad was planted with Harriman. (The UP and SP were reunited on Sept. 11, 1996 when the ICC approved their merger.)

At the time of his death Harriman controlled the Union Pacific, the Southern Pacific, the Saint Joseph and Grand Island, the Illinois Central, the Central of Georgia, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and the Wells Fargo Express Company. Estimates of his estate ranged from $70 million to $100 million. It was left entirely to his wife.

The Harriman Alaska Expedition

Main article: Harriman Alaska Expedition

In 1899, Harriman financed and accompanied a scientific expedition to catalog the flora and fauna of the Alaska coastline from its lush southern panhandle to Prince William Sound. Among the scholars who joined him were John Burroughs, John Muir, George Bird Grinnell, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Edward Curtis, Trevor Kincaid, G. K. Gilbert, Albert Fisher, Robert Ridgway, Charles Keeler, Frederick Coville, Frederick Dellenbaugh, William Emerson Ritter and Clinton Hart Merriam. They made the trip on a luxuriously refitted 250-foot (76 m) steamer, George W. Elder.

Interest in Jiu-Jitsu

Harriman became interested in jiu-jitsu after his two-month visit to Japan in 1905. The New York Times reported that he brought to America a troupe of six Japanese jiu-jitsu wrestlers, two of whom were prominent judokas, Tsunejiro Tomita and Mitsuyo Maeda. Among many performances, the troupe gave an exhibition that drew six hundred spectators in the Columbia University gymnasium on February 7, 1905.

Personal life

In 1879 he married Mary Williamson Averell, the daughter of William J. Averell, a banker of Ogdensburg, New York, who was president of the Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad Company. This relationship aroused his interest in up-state transportation and two years later his career as a rebuilder of bankrupt railroads began with a small broken-down railroad called the Lake Ontario Southern which he renamed the Sodus Bay & Southern, reorganized, and sold with considerable profit to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Upon Harriman's death in 1909, naturalist John Muir, who had joined him on his 1899 Alaska expedition, wrote in his eulogy of Harriman, "In almost every way, he was a man to admire."

Notable quotations

"Much good work is lost for the lack of a little more."


The Union Pacific Harriman Dispatch Center in Omaha, Nebraska is named for Edward H. Harriman. In 1913, his widow created the E. H. Harriman Award to recognize outstanding achievements in railway safety. The award has been presented on an annual basis since then.

His estate, Arden, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

Harriman is mentioned in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as the commercial baron whose agents become the title characters' nemeses. In the film's second train robbery, a railroad employee ascribes his refusal to cooperate with the robbery to his obligations to Harriman personally, and one of Butch and Sundance's intimates describes Harriman's hiring of famed outlaw-hunters to track down the gang's leaders.

In the movie The Wild Bunch, a railroad official named as "Harrigan" takes the same strategy.

Harriman was also featured in the computer game Railroad Tycoon II, as a computer AI character.

He is also featured in Railroad Tycoon III as a playable character in several scenarios.

Two post offices in Oregon were named for Harriman, including the one at Rocky Point, where he maintained a summer camp for several years.

Financial and business publisher Harriman House is named after Harriman.

Harriman was a notable philanthropist, and founder of the Tompkins’ Square Boys’ Club, now known as The Boys’ Club of New York. The original club, founded in 1876 and located in the rented basement of the Wilson School in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, began with three boys. Harriman’s idea for the club was to provide a place “for the boys, so as to get them off the streets and teach them better manners.” The club was the “first organization of its kind in the United States, if not in the world.” In 1887, eleven years after its founding, the club was incorporated as “The Boys’ Club of Tompkins Square.” By 1901, the club had outgrown its space in the basement of the Wilson School, and Harriman purchased several lots on 10th and Avenue A, and a five-story clubhouse was completed in 1901. By 1907, average nightly admissions to the club averaged over one thousand.

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E. H. Harriman's Timeline

February 20, 1848
Hempstead, New York, USA
November 17, 1881
Age 33
May 28, 1883
Age 35
July 20, 1884
Age 36
New York, New York, United States
December 17, 1889
Age 41
November 15, 1891
Age 43
New York, NY, USA
December 24, 1895
Age 47
September 9, 1909
Age 61