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Mss:8993 1862-1928 V719

Villard, Henry, 1835-1900. Henry Villard Business Papers, 1862-1928 (inclusive), 1870-1900 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss:8993 1862-1928 V719
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: Henry Villard business papers
Date(s): 1862-1928 (inclusive)
Date(s): 1870-1900 (bulk)
Quantity: 87 linear feet (127 volumes, 124 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Business records, correspondence, and photographs of 19th century railroad and electrical industry financier Henry Villard (1835-1900)


Gift of the Villard Family to Harvard, 1922; gift from F. W. Doolittle to Harvard, 1934; transferred from Houghton Library, 1967.

Processing Information:

Processed: 1998, 2002
By: Andrea Faye Sheehan, Maggie Hale
The Villard papers were reprocessed from July to October 1998. The series are arranged chronologically by Villard's business endeavors. Materials were refoldered and reboxed and rubber bands, paper clips and other fasteners were removed. Most newsprint was photocopied. Annual reports and printed material were removed from the collection; they are cataloged individually in HOLLIS, Harvard's online catalog. The photographs and stereographs were reprocessed in 2002.

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information.

Existence and Location of Copies:

Boxes 100 & 105 of the Henry Villard business papers are available on microfilm (2 reels, 35mm.) for use in the Historical Collections Reading Room, Baker Library. Order no. 05-1752, reel 1 & 2.
Stereographs located in boxes 119-121 have been scanned.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: Henry Villard Collection, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.

Related Materials

There are related Henry Villard materials in the Houghton Library, Harvard College Libraries, Harvard University.

Biographical Note:

German-born financier Henry Villard (1835-1900) was an important figure in American and international business during the second half of the nineteenth century. Villard played key roled in the financing of the transcontinental railroad in the United States, in promoting the Pacific Northwest, and in the development of the electrical industry in the United States and Germany.
Henry Villard was born Ferdinand Heinrich Gustav Hilgard on April 10, 1835 in Speyer, Germany. The Hilgards were a prominent Bavarian family; Heinrich's father was a jurist who served on the supreme court of Bavaria. Heinrich attended university in Germany before an estrangement with his father led him to emigrate to the United States in 1853. He took the surname of a French schoolmate to avoid his father, who he feared would force him to return to Bavaria to join the army.
After holding various odd jobs and mastering English, Villard found work as a journalist. He first wrote for German-American newspapers in Chicago and New York. In 1860, he became a correspondent for the New York Herald and covered the Civil War. During visiting Boston in 1863, Villard became acquainted with the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and his family. Three years later, he married Garrison's daughter, Helen Frances Garrison (known as Fanny.) Henry Villard and Fanny Garrison Villard had four children: Helen, Henry, Oswald, and Heinrich.
In the 1860s, Villard became involved in finance as a liaison between German investors and American railroad companies. With support from his German backers, Villard financed many railroad companies, including the Kansas Pacific Railway Company, the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company, Oregon and California Railroad, Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and the Oregon and Transcontinental Company. He also advocated developing the Pacific Northwest and encouraged immigration to Oregon and California.
After meeting Thomas A. Edison in 1879, Villard became interested in electricity. He saw the commercial potential for electricity, and he actively promoted Edison's patents all over the United States and Europe. He also pushed for an alliance between Edison and the German inventor, Werner von Siemens. In 1889, Villard formed the syndicate Edison General Electric with J. P. Morgan and G. Lowrey. Villard was thoroughly engaged in electric street railway systems and brought trolley systems to cities in 1891, beginning with Richmond, Virginia. In 1892, Villard had his own holding company for railroad and electrical securities: North American Company. Villard died on November 12, 1900 at the age of sixty-five.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The collection primarily consists of business records created by Villard and his associates from 1862 to 1900, and cover Villard's life as a businessman and investor. The papers mainly concern Villard's railroad and electrical enterprises. Documentation includes correspondence (e.g., letterbooks, telegrams, cablegrams, invitations, etc.,) administrative records (e.g., minutes, memos, by-laws, annual reports, etc.,) financial papers (e.g., ledgers, receipts, stock certificates, etc.,) legal papers (e.g., litigation, affidavits, testimony, depositions,) agreements, newspapers, newspaper clippings, reports, scrapbooks, maps, and patents.
The records chiefly document the development of transportation networks in the West and Pacific Northwest, with the bulk of the material relating to the development of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company and its completion in 1883. Other transportation companies that are well represented in the collection include Kansas Pacific Railroad, the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company, Oregon and California Railroad Company, Oregon Steamship Company, Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, Oregon Improvement Company, and Oregon and Transcontinental Company.
Other materials of interest include Villard's business activities with Thomas A. Edison and Werner von Siemens, and his correspondence and financial records.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Railroads--United States
Banks and banking--Germany
Investment banking--Germany
Electric lighting
Steamboat lines--Oregon
Liquid fuels
Geological surveys
Articles of incorporation
Chicago (Ill.)--Exhibitions
New York (N.Y.)
Northwest, Pacific
Saint Paul (Minn.)
Adams, Charles Francis, 1835-1915.
Anderson, Adna
Anderson, Finley
Billings, Frederick, 1823-1890
Bretherton, Charles E.
Carr, Robert E.
Colby, Charles L.
Dolph, Joseph N. (Joseph Norton), 1835-1897
Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931
Endicott, William
Gaylord, J. Alden
Haynes, F. Jay (Frank J.), 1853-1921
Henderson, J. C.
Hilgard, Eugene W. (Eugene Woldemar), 1833-1916.
Koehler, Richard
Lawson, William
Marcus, Arnold
Mitchell, John H. (John Hipple), 1835-1905
Oakes, Thomas Fletcher, 1843-1919
Oterendorp, K. Van
Pumpelly, Raphael, 1837-1923
Rodewald, Fred
Schmidt, Frederick C.
Smith, Elijah
Smith, S. T.
Spofford, Charles A.
Stern, Jacob S. H.
Tannatt, Thomas R.
Tappan, Lewis N.
Thayer, James Bradley, 1831-1902
Villard, Fanny Garrison, 1844-1928
Villard, Henry, 1835-1900
American Liquid Fuel Company
Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad Company
Denver and Rio Grande Railway Company
Deutsche Bank (1870-1945)
Edison Electric Light Company
Edison Electric Light and Power Company of St. Paul
Gibson Electric Company
Kansas Pacific Railway Company
Lee, Higginson & Co.
John H. Austin and Company
North American Company
Northern Pacific Railroad Company
Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway Company
Northern Pacific Terminal Company of Oregon
Northern Transcontinental Survey
Oregon and California Railroad
Oregon and Transcontinental Company
Oregon Central Railroad Company
Oregon Improvement Company
Oregon Railway and Navigation Company
Oregon Steamship Company
Oregon Transportation Company
Oregonian Railroad Company
Pacific Coast Steamship Company
Siemens & Halske
Sprague, Duncan and Hutchinson
Union Depot and Railroad Company
Wisconsin Central Railroad Company (1871-1899)
World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.)