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World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

Passengers at the Port of San Francisco: 1800s



Ben Holladay

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.


Recommended Reading

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The Annals of San Francisco
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 Mission and 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!
A Chronicle of the Politicians, Proselytizers, Paramours, and Performers Who Helped Create California's Wildest City

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 telling of San Francisco stories of yesterday and relating them to today.

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

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 fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated a brash, rising naval power from a ancient empire. It is a prescient fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. Indeed, 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, and 16 pages of color and 83 black-and-white illustrations.

Artful Players: Artistic Life in Early San Francisco
Birgitta Hjalmarson
Artful Players: Artistic Life in Early CaliforniaWith a handful of wealthy Gold Rush barons as indulgent patrons, an active community of artists appeared in nineteenth-century San Francisco almost overnight. A subculture of artistic brilliance and social experimentation was the result--in essence, a decades-long revelry that finally ended with the 1906 earthquake. Witness Jules Tavernier, hungry and in debt, accepting a stuffed peacock and two old dueling pistols in payment for a Yosemite landscape; Mark Twain as reluctant art critic, etc.

 

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Recommended Reading

Note: If you are unable to find the books suggested herein at your local bookstore, consider browsing
Click here to visit Powell's Books!

Ben Holladay.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
The Saga of Ben Holladay
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Ben Holladay.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Ben Holladay
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J. V. Frederick

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The Modern World-System III The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730s-1840s
Immanuel Wallerstein

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Imperial San Francisco:
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Critical Human Geography)
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Gray Brechin

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Rand Richards

California Gold Rush.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
The World Rushed In:
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Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
J. S. Holliday

Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Translating Property:
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Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Maria E. Montoya

Ancient America.
The Lost Colonies of Ancient AmericaLost Colonies of Ancient America.
A Comprehensive Guide to the Pre-Columbian Visitors Who Really Discovered America
Frank Joseph
"A delineation of foreign cultures with the Americas which transcends mere coincidence. The work documents connections to Sumerians, Egyptians, Minoans, Romans, Kelts, Hebrews, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Southeast Asians, Norsepeoples, Knights Templar and Christians." -- Dr. Joseph S. Maresca
"Frank Joseph's decades of research and exploration has uncovered evidence that rewrites history books. A vital reference for anyone seeking knowledge of America's forgotten past." --David Jones, editor, New Dawn Magazine

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