Henry Villard 18351900

Frank Jay Haynes (18531921)
Albumen silver print, 1883

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift of Henry Villard

In 1883 the Northwest celebrated the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad, America’s second transcontinental railroad. To mark the achievement, company officials—led by the Northern Pacific’s president, Henry Villard—organized an elaborate ceremony at the location in Montana where the rail lines from the East met those from the West. This photograph shows a group who attended the festivities. Villard is seated at the center with a hat on his knee.

A German immigrant who worked as a journalist during the Civil War, Villard became interested in the transportation industry after studying railroad bonds for a group of German investors. In 1881, hoping to build a rail and steamship empire in the Northwest, Villard assumed control of the Northern Pacific, which had struggled financially since it was first chartered in 1864, and led the effort to complete the line’s construction.