Henry Huttleston Rogers
Henry Huttleston Rogers was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, to a modest New England family. Rogers first became involved in railroads early in 1861 as a baggage-master and brakeman for the Fairhaven Branch Railroad.
In September 1861, at 21 years of age, Rogers left Fairhaven to seek his fortune in the oil business. By 1890, Rogers had risen to the position of Vice-President and member of the board of directors of Standard Oil. At the end of his career, Rogers served as President of six and Vice-President of 13 of the Standard Oil Trust Companies.
Rogers was drawn back into the railroad industry by his other business ventures in mining, oil, copper, gas, and transit. He served as a long-time director of several major railroads, including the Santa Fe, the St. Paul, Erie, Lackawanna, and the Union Pacific.
In the mid-1890s, Rogers was part owner and president of the Ohio River Railroad. Rogers’ greatest railroading achievement was the construction of the Virginian Railway. Six hundred miles in length, the railroad transported coal from southern West Virginia to tidewater ports near Norfolk, Virginia. Constructed between 1903 and 1909, the railroad’s state-of-the-art equipment and technology included massive and powerful locomotives, a 133-mile electrified zone, and coal dumping machines at its piers. Rogers planned the railroad to handle very large volumes of freight traffic at the lowest possible cost. He further ensured the company’s financial success by investing nearly $40 million of his personal resources into the railroad’s construction, despite Wall Street’s Panic of 1907. With its industry-leading construction standards, efficient service for domestic and international customers, and high-profit margins, the Virginian set a pace in modern railroading unmatched over its fifty-year life.
Rogers died of a stroke on May 19, 1909, one of the most successful American businessmen of all time.