History of America’s One Percent – Episode #31

hogaf-logo-wip2In this podcast series we dive into the long and shadowy history of America’s ruling elite through the works of authors who were either silenced, suppressed, or forgotten, to discover the origins of the 1% and from where their power and wealth was, and still is, extracted. Each recording will be approx. 1 hour in length to allow for easy consumption of the material.  The narrator will only interrupt the reading to provide insight, spell names, read informative footnotes, or provide definitions for archaic words.

In this episode – Continued reading of History of Great American Fortunes by Gustavus Myers.  Includes Part III, Chapter VIII:  Further Aspects of the Vanderbilt Fortune.  The Commodores Methods Carried On By the Third Generation.  An American Era: Frauds Below $50 Million Barely Worth Mentioning.  The Vanderbilt’s Confiscate a 17 Acre Chunk of New York City.  Compliant Government Officials Pass Law to Gift The Area to the Vanderbilt’s For Their Private Use. They Sign An Agreement to Re-Open the Streets to the Public Whenever The City Requires. The Agreement Gets “Misplaced,” Disappears for Twenty Years. They Pay No Taxes on the Appropriated Land.  Other “Small” Frauds Considered: Public Fleeced $1.2 Million for New York Central Upgrades.  The Railroad Charges What it Pleases For Work and Materials, City Forced to Pay.  Vanderbilts Pose as “Reformers.”  Methods of Acquiring the Lake Shore, and Boston and Albany Railroads.  The Government An Engine for Tyranny.  Machine Guns for the Overworked.  Ten Millions for A Dukedom.  Vanderbilt Marriages to European Titled Nobility Prove a Drain On Their Huge Fortune.

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[1] Minutes of the New York City Board of Estimate and Apportionment—Financial and Franchise Matters, 1907: 1071-1085. “It will thus be seen,” reported Harry P. Nichols, Engineer-in-Charge of the Franchise Bureau, “that the railroad is at present, and has been for twenty years, occupying more than three hundred city lots, or something less than twenty acres, without compensation to the city.”

[2] The facts as to the expenses incurred under the act of 1892 were stated to the author by Ernest Harvier, a member of the Change of Grade Commission representing New York City in supervising the work.

[3] The New York Central has long compelled the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad to pay seven cents toll for every passenger transported south of Woodlawn, and also one-third of the maintenance cost, including interest, of the terminal. In reporting an effort of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad to have these terms modified, the New York Times stated in its financial columns, issue of December 25, 1908: “As matters now stand the New Haven, without its consent, is forced to bear one-third of the charge arising from the increased capital invested in the Central’s terminal.”
When, in 1931, the New York Central Railroad Company applied to the Public Service Commission for a 40 per cent increase in commutation fares, it gave as a main ground the valuation of its terminal property. The total value of the Grand Central Terminal zone extending to 59th Street, it valued at $84,335,726. Nowhere, however, either in the application or in the hearings was the fact brought out that considerable of the funds used to provide the company with its terminal and approaches into the city were public funds, the proceeds of mandatory taxation.

[4] The author was so informed by an official who represented New York City’s legal interests at this session and successive Legislative sessions, and who was thoroughly conversant with every move. See Chapter 80, Laws of 1898, Laws of New York, 1898, ii:142. The amendment declared that Section 24 of the Stock Corporation Law did not apply to a railroad corporation.

[5] “Encyclopedia of Social Reform,” Edition of 1897: 1073.

[6] “The Present Distribution of Wealth in The United States.”

[7] The report of the Wisconsin Railway Commissioners for 1894, Vol. xiii., says: “In a recent year more railway employees were killed in this country than three times the number of Union men slain at the battle of Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and Orchard Knob combined. . . . In the bloody Crimean War, the British lost 21,00 in killed and wounded—not as many as are slain, maimed and mangled among the railroad men of the country in a single year.” Various reports of the Interstate Commerce Commission stated the same facts.

[8] “Semi-antiquated ways.” The “Railway Age Gazette,” issue of January, 1909, styled the New York Central’s directors as mostly “concentrated absurdities, physically incompetent, mentally unfit, or largely unresident and inattentive.”

[9] More than 500 American women married titled foreigners. The sum of about $220,000,000, it was estimated (1909), followed them to Europe. Since that time no further specific list has been prepared, but it is a matter of common knowledge that up to this year (1936) the process has continued, and further great sums have been exchanged for titles.

[10] See Annual Report of the New York State Board of Tax Commissioners, New York Senate Document. No. 5, 1003: 10.


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