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Passengers at the Port of San Francisco: 1800s

Born 1819 in Kentucky; Died 1887 in Portland

Ben Holladay was characterized as a devoted, diligent, enterprising man and a transportation magnate. He speculated in gold and silver mines, distilleries, general stores and slaughter houses, but he was said to have made a great deal of money selling supplies to the U. S. Government during the Mexican War, but is best known for making his name and fortune in transportation.

Ben HolladayHe started the Concord Stagecoach to the West, in the 1860s and established his headquarters in an office at the corner of California and Liedesdorff streets in San Francisco to run his California, Oregon & Mexico Steamship Company.

His vessels sailed between Francisco to the Southern states, and to Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii, and the Orient.

Around 1861, Holladay took over steamers from Pacific Mail Line; this included the Cortez, Oregon, Sierra Nevada, Republic, Panama.

His cabin fares between San Francisco and Portland were $45.00 and passengers unconcerned about food and accommodations could travel in steerage for $25.00.

Daily Alta California, December 11, 1866

Judgment Against Holladay.

New York, December 9th ? The United States Circuit Court, Judge Smally presiding, gave a verdict of $10,000 against Ben Holladay, for the loss of a money package near Julesburg, two years ago, when the Indians destroyed the Overland coach. The defence claimed that the loss was by an act of the public enemy, and so he was not liable; but the Court ruled otherwise.

At one point in his shipping career, it was said he owned all shipping in Oregon.

Holladay and Brenham Agents 1864.

Competition was such that he established the North Pacific Transportation Company, which was comprised of his own shipping company and a Maine Yankee named Patton's Anchor Line and the California Steam Navigation Company.

By 1869, this collaboration was operating ten side-wheelers and six propeller steamers north from San Francisco. The ships included Active, John L. Stephens, Moses Taylor, Oriflamme, Orizaba, Pacific, Panama, Senator, Sierra Nevada, Ajaz, California, Continental, Gussie Telfair, Idaho, Montana, Pelican.

Purportedly, Holladay's favorite ship, the Oriflamme, was built in 1864 as a fast naval gunboat and had engaged in China coastal trade. Holladay used this ship for private parties, some of which lasted all the way from San Francisco to Alaska.

In 1862, Holladay was the sole owner of the Overland Mail and Express Company and he is credited with introducing the Concord Stagecoach to the West. With Ben Holladay 's acquisition of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch in 1866, the name changed to Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company. He became known as the Stagecoach King.

Combative and ruthless, he expanded and modernized; his Overland Mail & Express Company, running regular services across more than 3,000 miles (4,800km) of stage and freight lines from St. Louis to Salt Lake City and Oregon, was the biggest and most successful operation of its kind ever mounted.

He was also the sole owner of some 20,000 vehicles, with more than 15,000 employees; passenger revenues often totalled $60,000 a month - the fare from Atchison, Kansas, to Salt Lake City was $350 - and over five years the US Post Office paid him nearly two million dollars.

Holladay moved from San Francisco to Oregon in 1868 in order to get involved in the railroad business. He stirred things up wherever he went and was decribed as "a bit of a dandy," dressing like a riverboat gambler. He was said to be "wholly destitute of fixed principles of honesty, morality, or common decency." Holladay's goal was to build a rail line to California along the east side of the Willamette River. In order to do so, he spent a total of $55,000 in bribe money to help secure his company's endorsement. He also built two large hotels in the area where the park bearing his name is now located.

The enterprising Holladay established Portland's first horse car line to connect the ferry at Front and F streets with downtown Portland. It was a muledrawn car, worn out from long usage in San Francisco before Holladay brought it to Portland, and it was pulled over iron rails from the turntable at Front and G streets down through town to Carruthers street, in South Portland, where another turntable was located. On November 1, 1866, Ben Holladay sold his stagecoach company to Wells Fargo.

In January 1872, Holladay and servants boarded the steamship Oriflamme for San Francisco, returning to Portland in March.

Ben Holladay lost his fortune in the stock market crash on September 18, 1873. In 1875, the bankrupt Holladay sold out to Goodall, Nelson & Perkins Steamship Company which reorganized the company as the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. He outlived his two wives and two daughters and died in Portland in 1887 at the age of 68.

The Annals of San FranciscoThe Annals of San Francico 1855.
Frank Soule, John H. Gihon, Jim Nisbet. 1855
Written by three journalists who were witnesses to and participants in the extraordinary events they describe. The Annals of San Francisco is both an essential record for historians and a fascinating narrative for general readers. Over 100 historical engravings are included. Partial Contents: Expeditions of Viscaino; Conduct of the Fathers towards the natives; Pious Fund of California; Colonel John C. Fremont; Insurrection of the Californians; Description of the Golden Gate; The Presidio of San Francisco; Removal of the Hudson's Bay Company; Resolutions concerning gambling; General Effects of the Gold Discoveries; Third Great Fire; Immigration diminished; The Chinese in California; Clipper Ships; Increase of population; and Commercial depression.

San Francisco, You're History!
Politicians, Proselytizers, Paramours, and Performers Who Helped Create California's Wildest City
Politicians, Proselytizers, Paramours, Performers.
California Performers.
J. Kingston Pierce
Seattle-based freelance writer Pierce presents a fascinating view of a variety of colorful people and events that have molded the unique environment of San Francisco. He chronicles historical highlights along with a focus on current issues. Pierce touches on the gold rush, earthquakes, and fires and introduces the lives of politicians, millionaires, criminals, and eccentrics. Pierce sparks the imagination in relating the stories of yesterday to today.

When America First Met China:
An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail
When America First Met China.

Eric Jay Dolin
Ancient China collides with America in this epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships. Brilliantly illuminating one of the least-understood areas of American history, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin traces our relationship with China back to its roots: the nineteenth-century seas that separated a brash, rising naval power from a ancient empire. It is a fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. The furious trade in furs, opium, and bêche-de-mer -- a rare sea cucumber delicacy -- might have catalyzed America's emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe. Peopled with fascinating characters--from Robert Morris: Financier of the American RevolutionRobert Morris, Financier of the American Revolution. to the The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong: Splendors of China's Forbidden City, who considered foreigners inferior beings -- this saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines becomes a must-read for any fan of Nathaniel Philbrick's MayflowerMayflower. or Mark Kurlansky's Cod.Cod, the fish that changd the world. Two maps, 16 pages of color, 83 black-and-white illustrations.

Latin America, World Journeys, Discovery.The Age of Sail.Commodore Levy:
A Novel of Early America in the Age of Sail

(Modern Jewish History)

Irving Litvag
By all accounts, Uriah Phillips Levy, the first Jewish commodore in the U.S. Navy, was both a principled and pugnacious man. On his way to becoming a flag officer, he was subjected to six courts-martial and engaged in a duel, all in response to antisemitic taunts and harassment from his fellow officers. Yet he never lost his love of country or desire to serve in its navy. When the navy tried to boot him out, he took his case to the highest court and won. This richly detailed historical novel closely follows the actual events of Levy’s life: running away from his Philadelphia home to serve as a cabin boy at age ten; his service during the War of 1812 aboard the Argus and internment at the notorious British prison at Dartmoor;  his campaign for the abolition of flogging in the Navy; and his purchase and restoration of Monticello as a tribute to his personal hero, Thomas Jefferson. Set against a broad panorama of U.S. history, Commodore Levy describes the American Jewish community from 1790 to 1860, the beginnings of the U.S. Navy, and the great nautical traditions of the Age of Sail before its surrender to the age of steam.


Ben Holladay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California.

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