James J. Hill
St. Paul railroad baron James J. Hill was born in Canada in 1838. He moved to St. Paul in the Minnesota Territory by himself at age 17. In St. Paul Hill began working as a clerk and shipping agent for several steamboat companies and quickly started his own transportation and fuel businesses. In 1878 he joined with several partners to buy out the failing St. Paul & Pacific Railroad.
Hill concentrated the following decade on extending this line, reorganized as the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba, into western Minnesota, Dakota, Montana and
the Pacific Northwest. The final spike of the transcontinental track was driven January 6, 1893.
Over next twenty years Hill managed his railroad, renamed the Great Northern Railway, and also ventured into mining, timber, land and livestock, as well as philanthropy. He faced battles with competing companies, including the Northern Pacific Railway, and his attempts to overtake and merge with them led to an antitrust suit by the government of Theodore Roosevelt, which Hill eventually lost.
Hill maintained a front-line role in his businesses until his death in
1916. His personal fortune at that time has been estimated at $63
million with $200 million in related assets, making Hill one of the
wealthiest and most powerful figures of America's Gilded Age.
Get Started With Secondary Sources
- James J. and Mary T. Hill: an Unfinished Chronicle by their Daughter, by Clara Hill Lindley.
New York: The North River Press, 1948.
MHS call number: HE2754.H5 L5.
- James J. Hill, a Great Life in Brief, by Stewart Hall Holbrook.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.
MHS call number: HE2754.H5 H6.
- “James J Hill: A Search for the Man Behind the Legend,” by Virginia Brainard Kunz.
In Ramsey County History vol. 12, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1975) edited by Virginia Brainard Kunz, pp: 3-10. St. Paul: Ramsey County and Saint Paul Historical Society, 1975.
MHS call number: Reading Room F612.R22 R3 v12:1.
- James J. Hill and the Opening of the Northwest, by Albro Martin.
St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1984.
MHS call number: HE2754.H5 M37 1991.
- James J. Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest, by Michael P. Malone.
Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.
MHS call number: HE2754.H5 M35 1996.
- “The Case of the Monopolistic Railroadmen,” by R.W. Apple, Jr.
In Quarrels that Have Shaped the Constitution edited by John A. Garraty, pp: 175-192.
New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987.
MHS call number: KF8742.A5 Q37 1987.
- The Great Northern Railway: A History, by Ralph W. Hidy [et al.]; editorial assistance from Elizabeth A. Burnham.
Boston: Harvard Business School Press, c1988.
MHS call number: Reading Room HE2791.G775 G73 1988
- The Railway Barons, by David Mountfield.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1979.
MHS call number: Reading Room HE1021.M68.
- Railways of the North West and the Burlington Northern [video], produced by Bill Warrick.
Tampa, Florida: Herronrail Video, 1995.
MHS call number: Videotape call #676.
- For articles on this topic in Minnesota History Magazine see the index under Hill, James Jerome. Most articles can be viewed online.
- James J. Hill papers (bulk 1860-1916).
Correspondence, financial records, legal documents, diaries, blueprints, maps, publications, speeches, biographical data, newspaper clippings, and photographs related to the personal and business dealings of St. Paul railroad baron and business magnate James J. Hill.
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed under Hill Family Collection, James J. Hill Papers—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 1231 boxes, 65 folders, 49 tubes, and 175 microfilm reels), or use an electronic version of the inventory. There are also electronic inventories for the photographs and graphic materials and selected digitized items from the collection.
- Great Northern Railroad corporate records.
Corporate records of the St. Paul-based Great Northern, its predecessors, and its subsidiaries and affiliates. Records include minutes, reports, correspondence and subject files, financial and accounting records, photographs, engineering drawings, land records, engineering and valuation records, advertising literature, timetables, publications, and many other materials documenting the principal staff and operating departments. Of special importance are the President’s Office subject files.
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Notebooks—filed under Great Northern—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 4,900 cubic feet of material). A summary overview of the records can be viewed online.
- Scrapbook of newspaper clippings relating to James J. Hill.
MHS call number: FOLIO HE2754.H5 S43.
- Mary T. Hill papers, 1858-1960.
Diaries, letters, financial records, and other materials of Mary T. Hill, wife of St. Paul railroad magnate James J. Hill, focusing largely on family life.
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed under Hill Family Collection, Mary T. Hill Papers—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 40 boxes), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
- Hill-Boeckmann family photograph collection, ca. 1856-1907.
Includes views of James J. and Mary T. Hill, their children and grandchildren, family friends, and church clerics. Views consist of informal plays, weddings, family members in costume, hunting expeditions, family outings, family members relaxing at home and at North Oaks, and vacations. Locations include the interior and exterior of the Hill House at 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota; the Louis W. Hill farm in North Oaks; and vacation spots in Aiken, South Carolina; Jekyll Island, Georgia; and Paris.
MHS call number: I.381; See electronic inventory for a detailed list of photographs (there are 134 photoprints). Selected images from this collection are also available in the Visual Resources Database.
- Celia Forstner and family papers.
Correspondence (1908-1912) of Celia Tauer, second cook at the St. Paul (Minn.) mansion of Great Northern Railway president James J. Hill (1908-1911); Forstner family histories and reminiscences (undated and 1964-1969); menus, recipes, and ephemera (ca.1908-1912) of the Hill family, and newspaper clippings (undated and 1910-1978) documenting activities of the Hill family. Celia Tauer married Henry J. Forstner in 1912.
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed under P1715 —for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there is 1 box).
- Minneapolis Tribune
- Minneapolis Journal
- St. Paul Pioneer Press
- St. Paul Daily Globe
- St. Paul Dispatch
- Check the library catalog for other materials.