From Telegrapher to Titan
Now in Paperback

From Telegrapher to Titan

The Life of William C. Van Horne
Valerie Knowles
Distribution: World
Publication date: 8/2/2010
Format: paper 504 pages, 18 b&w illus.
5.7 x 8.7 x 1.125
ISBN: 978-0-253-22250-3
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William C. Van Horne, a true titan of North American business, started his railroad career at the age of 12 working various jobs for the Michigan Central, and crowned it by becoming the president of the Canadian Pacific. He is credited with opening Cuba’s interior by means of railway, greatly expanding Canada’s interests by launching the sea transport division of the Canadian Pacific—with regular luxury liner service between Vancouver and Hong Kong—and completing Canada’s first transcontinental railway. Van Horne was knighted by Queen Victoria for his contributions to Canadian Unity and, more recently, was named Laureate of the Century by the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. A man of many talents, Van Horne was also Canada's premier art collector and one of its leading financiers. In From Telegrapher to Titan, Valerie Knowles delivers a gripping account of this larger-than-life figure.

Author Bio

Valerie Knowles is author of several books, including Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540–2006.


"Given the subject's significance . . . I think Indiana University Press has an opportunity . . . to fill an inexcusable void in both railroad and Canadian history." —Herbert H. Harwood, Jr., The New York, Westchester & Boston Railway: J. P. Morgan's Magnificent Mistake, (IUP, 2008)

From Telegrapher to Titan, Valerie Knowles takes us back to an era of frenzied progress, a time of frontier mentality and old money, and shows us a titan amongst men, who rose from being a messenger boy to the Chairman of the Canadian Pacific Railway while becoming one of the foremost art patrons of his time as well as a devoted father and husband. Van Horne’s legacy is felt today—his signature forever etched upon the country in tracks, coast to coast." —Rail Canadien , September-October 2004, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"For the most part, Van Horne was a remarkable person and for Canada a real hero that helped pull Canada together and settle the west. Valerie Knowles has done an excellent job in describing the man and telling his story. The book is easy to read and, as in all good history books, includes a broad range of references. It is certainly well worth the read and is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about Van Horne." —Bruce Ballantyne,
Branchline , June 2005, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"While much has been written about the CPR's construction and early years of operation, there has been comparatively little recorded about the man who was such a key figure in its early history.This exhaustive volume by Valerie Knowles fills that void nicely." —
The Michigan Railfan , Vol. 72#3, May-June 2011

"In this volume, Valerie Knowles delivers a gripping account of this larger-than-life figure." —
NMRA Magazine

"Knowles has . . . provided railroad enthusiasts with a thoroughgoing analysis, and her work is likely to appeal to many business and transportation historians as well." —Business History Review

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Table of Contents


Chapter One: Growing Up in Frontier Illinois
Chapter Two: Early Career
Chapter Three: Rapid Advancement
Chapter Four: New Challenges and Hobbies
Chapter Five: New Horizons
Chapter Six: Toward the Last Spike
Chapter Seven: Cutting Costs
Chapter Eight: The Final Push
Chapter Nine: All That Grant Was to the U.S.A.
Chapter Ten: Van Horne at the Helm
Chapter Eleven: Art for Art's Sake
Chapter Twelve: Family Matters
Chapter Thirteen: Cuba Beckons
Chapter Fourteen: Building the Cuba Railroad
Chapter Fifteen: Chasing the Money
Chapter Sixteen: Dodging the Grim Reaper

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