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The St. Louis Republic. [volume] (St. Louis, Mo.) 1888-1919, May 08, 1904, The Sunday Magazine, Image 57

Image and text provided by State Historical Society of Missouri; Columbia, MO

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020274/1904-05-08/ed-1/seq-57/

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A LITTLE more than
four vcars ago John
B. McDonald, a
New York' contractor,
sat in the banking house
of August Belmont on
Nassau street. He had
in his hand a contract
for building the New York
underground railroad on
a bid of S35.ooo.ooo. Pre
vious to this the rapid
transit commissioners
had been uji and down
"The Street " searching
for a man strong enough
financially and daring
enough speculatively to
Kick such a colrssal en
terprise. At lest it w.n
a spectacular propositi in
The citv had driven a hard ba-gam.
the multi-million-iires sniffed at it
The Manhattan Elevated and the Metropolitan
Street Railway Company turned it down.
So it was with other financiers.
One after another shook his held.
When the subway was mentioned they suddenly
remembered that it was their busy day.
From all along the line of money kings came the
same answer: "It is putting goxl dollars into a
hole " All save one.
"I'll think it-over," said Belmont.
Forty-eight hours 'later lie sent for the con
tractor. "I'll go into it." said the Nassiu street banker.
That is the financial story of the building of the
greatest underground railroad in the world. August
Belmont risked his entire fortune on a business cnture
tliat some of the biggest capitalists of America feared
to undertake.
"How did you hive the nerve to go into it, Bel
mont?" asked a friend the other day.
" I think I am a good deal like a" little dog tliat I
used to own while at Harvard." said Belmont. "He
wasn't much on the fight, but if another dog tackled
"William Barclay Parsons, Tlie Engineer
him he would get hold f a hind leg and stick. I liad
faith in this thing and I had faith in McDonald. I got
my leg hold, and I hung on "
After a few months more of waiting, the
underground railroad will be complete. Today its
success is assured It is acknowledged to be the
greatest financial undertaking and the most remark
able engineering feat in history It is more than a
I'cal achievement. It is national, yes, international,
in its scojie, for it lias revolutionized the rapid
transit problem of the great cities of the world.
In a nutshell, here is
this vast rapid transit
system -
Extending from the
Battery at the southern
extremity of Man
hattan island to Bailey
avenue and 230th street
on the west side in a long
sweep of thirteen and a
half miles of four, three
and two tracks, and forty
eight miles of single
track; from 100th street
and Broadway under Cen
tral park, to the eiist,
under the Harlem river to
Bronx park and iSind
street, a distance of seven
miles, or seventeen and a
half miles of single track.
This is the Manhattan division which the contractor
is about to turn over to the oerating comiuny
To Brooklyn another great system is liemg pushed
rapidly toward completion. It leaves the main line
in Manliattnn at the foot of Whitehall street, near
Battery park, and plunging under the East river,
enters Brooklyn at the fool of Joralemnn street,
running with two and three-track systems to Atlantic
avenue, a distance of two and three-tenths miles.
Thus, spreading out from the heart of the metroji
olis. like a gigantic spider-web. are more than sixty
five miles of single tracks, covering a distance of
twenty-five miles of sjiacc to be traveled by 'trains.
Mere figures arc inadequate to express the extent
of this system. Never in the history of the world lias
there lieen such a subway as this. The oldest tunnel
of which mankind lias knowledge was built three
thousand years .-go by a king of Babvlon It ran
under the Euphrates nvcr. connecting the r-vd
palace with the temple of Bel us It was a sh.. -w-hole
in the ground comvired to this great undertaking
of New York. Compared to it the famous catacombs
of Rome are a series of rabbit burrows. In 1S03
when the Simplon tunnel, which pierced under the
Alps and connected Switzerland with Italy was begun
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Group of Capitalists, "Whose Combined Rating "Was Estimated at Five Billion Dollars, to Whom Was Accorded the First Trip Through the New
Sub-wax- .Among Those Present Were August Belmont, George Gould. Jacob H. Scruff. Clarence Mac Kay. James Stillman. John D. K.ochefe11er. Jr.,
Andrew Freedman, James Speyer. Valentine Snyder, Perry Ddmont, 'William 11. Moore. Daniel Laroonl, Cornelius Vanderbilt und George Cromwell

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