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Building The Country (And Unbelievable Wealth): The Railroad Barons

golden_spike_ceremony__promontory__utah__may_10__1869.jpg
Andrew J. Russell/Public Domain
The official picture of the Golden Spike ceremony, May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah.

It's hard to believe that California and Oregon became states 20 and 10 years, respectively, before railroads tied the country together.

The driving of the Golden Spike in 1869 was a beginning, not an end. Railroads only continued to grow in importance, and power, and ruthlessness.

Michael Hiltzik, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist at the Los Angeles Times, takes up the story of railroads in the four decades after the Golden Spike, in Iron Empires: Robber Barons, Railroads, and the Making of Modern America.

People and goods got moved, and the people in charge got rich. But a lot of abuses took place as well. We visit with the author.

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The Jefferson Exchange is Jefferson Public Radio's daily talk show focused on news and interests across our region of Southern Oregon and Northern California. John Baxter is the senior producer, Angela Decker is the producer and Geoffrey Riley hosts the show.