Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research
October 1995, No. 1
FRANK NORRIS WORKS ON THE RAILROAD
Novelist and Boer War correspondent Benjamin Franklin Norris, returned from
reporting a military campaign in Cuba and settled into a cottage at Roselle,
New Jersey, with his wife of 18 months, to work on a new novel. Fresh from
his first success - McTeague, a pioneering novel in the American
Naturalism movement - he once again returned to the American West for new
On May 11, 1880, when Norris was only ten, law officers representing railroad
and government interests attempted to evict wheat farmers from the land
they had successfully cultivated in California's San Joaquin Valley. Gunfire
broke out and when it ended seven men lay dead at Mussel Slough.
Norris researched the incident and planned it as the first novel in his
fictional trilogy The Epic of the Wheat. It was published in April
of 1901, as The Octopus (referring to the Railroad). Norris, meanwhile
had moved on to Chicago for further research, resulting in The Pit,
a novel of commodity trading, published as a serial in The Saturday Evening
Post and as a book in 1903. But Norris didn't live to see its publication
(or its production as a well-received Broadway play in 1904), or to write
the third novel, set in Europe, that was to tell the story of the wheat's
In October 1902 he ignored an attack of appendicitis until it was too late,
and died of peritonitis on the 25th, at the age of 32.
While Norris won recognition for his fiction in his lifetime, he was never
to see adoptions of his work in other forms. McTeague, recently produced
as an opera, was filmed in 1924 by Erich von Stroheim as Greed..
Considered to be a classic of the silent cinema, it is remembered today
only by a screenplay and some production stills. The film itself has disappeared.
The Octopus and The Pit have never been filmed. (I'm convinced
the former could still be done successfully).
A search of Eagles Byte chronologies on the words "train" and
"rail" turns up the following events for the years 1900-1902:
The Vanderbilt railroad interests take over the Reading, Lehigh and Erie
U. S. financiers form the Cuba Company, to develop Cuban railways.
Railroad engineer Casey Jones is killed while trying to bring a runaway
train under control, in Vaughan, Mississippi.
Boxer rebels attack Belgian diplomats at China's Fengtai Railroad Station.
Boxers cut the rail line between Peking and Tienstin.
The White Pass and Yukon Railroad, linking Skagway, Alaska, and Whitehorse,
Yukon Territory, is completed.
Britain creates a railway safety act.
U. S. railroad tycoon Collis P. Huntington, 78, dies of heart disease, leaving
the bulk of his
estate to his nephew Henry Edwards Huntington.
A Wall Street panic is caused by the battle between J. J. Hill and Edward
Harriman over control of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.
The New York State militia forces striking Albany railroad workers back
Train robber-murderer Black Jack Ketchum is hanged in New Mexico.
Paris's electric railway goes into service.
Britain's House of Lords hands down its ruling in the Taff Vale Railway
lawsuits against unions for their members' actions.
The U. S. warship Machias is sent out of Boston to Panama to keep
rail lines open during
Construction begins on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Railroad.
The Northern Securities Company is organized by Hill, Harriman and John
to consolidate the Northern Pacific, Great Northern and Chicago, and the
Nov 27 A train wreck-fire in Michigan kills 100 people.
California - The Southern Pacific Railroad distributes the pamphlet California
Primer to elementary school children. It proves to be so popular that
follow. ** Los Angeles and San Francisco are linked by rail.
A train collision beneath New York City's Grand Central Station, caused
visibility due to steam in the tunnels, results in a ban on steam engines
Two super trains begin New York-to-Chicago service- the Pennsylvania Railroad's
Pennsylvania Special and the New York Central's Broadway Limited.
The Twentieth Century Limited sets the rail speed record on a run
between New York City
U. S. troops are sent to Panama to keep train lines open during a struggle
independence from Colombia.
Reports are circulated that George J. Gould and Rockefeller interests are
planning a huge
Texas lawman Pink Taylor kills train robber O. C. "Camilla" Hanks,
a member of the Wild
Bunch, in a shootout.
PEARL OF AN URL
Continuing with this month's theme, our featured URL belongs to California's
Santa Clara River Valley Railroad
They have a number of goodies there: a history of the railroad; Observation
Platform - photographs of the line, including winter storm damage; and the
society's quarterly Newsletter (they're currently trying to obtain a 90-ft
turntable from Missouri).
Name the poets who wrote the following:
Great Central Railway, Sheffield Victoria to Banbury
North Philadelphia, Trenton and New York
EB SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY (more detailed versions available)
- Bogen, Jules I. -The Anthracite Railroads: 1927
- Botkin, B. A. - A Treasury of Railroad Folklore,
- Brown, Charles P.; Grant, H. Roger, ed. - Brownie the Boomer: The Life
of Charles P. Brown, American Railroader: Northern Illinois University Press,
- Cook, Richard J. - The Beauty of Railroad Bridges in North America:
Then and Now - Golden West Books, 1987
- Dorman, Richard L. - The Southern, A Narrow Guage Odyssey: R. D. Publications,
- Drury, George H. (compiler) - Guide to Tourist Railroads and Railroad
(3rd ed.): Kalmbach Publishing, 1990
- D'Emilio, Sandra & Campbell, Suzan - Visions and Visionaries: The
Art & Artists of the Santa Fe Railway: Peregrine Smith / Gibbs Smith,
Western New York newspaperman and historian Henry Clune (The Genesee)
dies at the age
Carnegie and du Ponts biographer Joseph Frazier Wall dies of a heart attack
at the age of 75.
Bill Gates' purchase of the Bettmann Archives is announced.
* * *
I hope you've enjoyed this first issue. Future issues will focus on other
facets of U. S. and world history. Detailed chronologies and bibliographies,
as well as individual research help is available. If you'd like further
information and/or fees, feel free to e-mail me.
Eagles Byte Historic Research
Go to INDEX