JOHN W. GARRETT COLLECTION, 1850-1880
(1 cubic foot: 2 DB, 1 (.5) DB)
by: Robert S. Harding, 1986
John Work Garrett president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 1858-1884, was born in Baltimore, Maryland July 31, 1820. He was the second son of Elizabeth Stouffer and Robert Garrett. He married Rachel Ann Harrison, the daughter of Thomas Harrison, a Baltimore merchant. They had one daughter, Mary and two sons Robert and Thomas Harrison Garrett.
After attending Lafayette College (Pennsylvania) for two years John W. Garrett left in 1836 to become associated with his father's commission business in Baltimore. The commission house which dealt in wholesale groceries, produce, forwarding and a commission business expanded to establish direct connections with Latin America, seek outlets in Europe and develop its own banking operations. In time its financial operations overshadowed the commission and shipping business.
When John W. Garrett began to invest heavily in Baltimore and Ohio Railroad stock, the road was in competition with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the stock was not popular. Its value rose steadily over the years. Mr. Garrett was elected a director of the railroad in 1855. His report as chairman of a subcommittee on the need for additional funds to complete the line to the Ohio River led to his election to the presidency of the road on November 17, 1858, a position he held for 26 years. New policies with emphasis on economy, personal supervision and gradual expansion were inaugurated and consistently maintained. In spite of a general financial crisis, Mr. Garrett's first year in office showed a net gain in earnings.
Sympathetic to his southern friends during the Civil War, Mr. Garrett nevertheless supported the Union. He recognized the inevitability of Confederate defeat by superior northern resources. Confederate leaders blamed him for their inability to seize Washington and he received warm appreciation for his services to the Union cause from President Lincoln. The railroad stretched along the theater of war and twice crossed Confederate territory. It was, therefore, a main objective for southern attack. Branches were frequently damaged by Confederate raids but the main line to Washington became important for the transport of troops and supplies. The Baltimore and Ohio RR carried out the first military rail transport in history and the transfer of 20,000 men from the Potomac to Chattanooga in 1863 was a major triumph for its president.
With the advent of peace Mr. Garrett turned to rebuilding and strengthening the railroad. He replaced equipment and track damaged by the war, then extended the system by securing direct routes to Pittsburgh and Chicago and arranging an independent line into New York. Wharves were built at Locust Point for ocean liners and a system of elevators erected. The B. and O. built its own sleeping and dining cars, established hotels in the mountains and created its own express company. By 1880, after battles over rates with other trunk lines, a costly rivalry with the Pennsylvania Railroad over the eastern route and charges of discrimination against local shippers Mr. Garrett was at the height of his success. He cooperated in establishing the B. and O. Employees Relief Association for accident and life insurance, a hospital system, saving and building funds, and arrangements for improving sanitation in the work place. He was on friendly terms with Johns Hopkins, a trustee of John Hopkins Hospital, and with George Peabody, founder of the Peabody Institute of which he was also a trustee. Garrett County, Maryland was named in his honor.
John W. Garrett died on September 26, 1884 within a year of his wife's death in a carriage accident. During his connection with the railroad the stock increased from $57 to $200; at the outbreak of the Civil War the railroad was operating 514 miles of rail, gross earnings where $4,000,097 and net per mile was $4246.1 By 1864 gross earnings were $10,138,876 and net per mile, $7113.1 By the end of his presidency mileage had increased to 1711 and net earnings were $4535 per mile. (All statistics from the National Cyclopedia of American Biography Vol. 18:3)
Scope and Content
This chronological arranged collection of records of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad contains lists of locomotives on the line or in the shops 1865-1871 and 1880, a list of accidents in 1870, locomotives turned out from 1867 to 1880, engine repair costs, reports on locomotive power, cost and performance reports, locomotives and cars purchased and correspondence relating to the foregoing and other matters. With rare exception the reports and correspondence are all within the period of Mr. Garrett's presidency of the railroad from 1858 to 1884. Most of the correspondence is to Mr. Garrett from supervisory staff of the railroad, primarily the master of machinery and the master of transportation reporting on problems, actions and other matters incident to the operation and maintenance of the railroad. There is relatively little correspondence from Mr. Garrett to staff and others.
The papers encompass the period of the Civil War when the railroad was engaged in the movement of troops and equipment for the Union. A twelve page history of the operation of the road during the Civil War prepared for the New York World and submitted to Mr. Garrett for approval is among them.
Some correspondence concerns particular problems arising at various B&O installations and facilities and extending over years. One such was at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia whose ownership of a water power development became an issue because the property, which included a B&O right-of-way obtained from the U.S. Government during the Civil War, was sold to private interests. Litigation in Federal courts and action by the U.S. Congress resulted in reaffirming B&O's positions.
All of the materials are handwritten; nearly all are in ink. Except for a few pieces which have separated along the fold line and one report in yellow flimsy too faint to read the material is in good condition. The manila envelopes in which much of the material was received, with subject matter of their contents designated by railroad staff, have been filed with the related papers.
Additional correspondence of John W. Garrett concerning Ohio River bridges, requests for employment and bridges, trestles and tunnels, 1858-1880, is included among the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Records, 1826-1943; 1951.
The collection was given to the Division of Transportation by Lawrence W. Sagle.
Revised: March 28, 2002