Linfield College


About Linfield

Linfield Scenic

Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

Press Releases

3/23/2009 The failure of transcontinental railroads focus of lecture


            McMINNVILLE – Richard White, a Stanford University history professor, will present “Train Wreck: The Failure of the Transcontinental Railroads and Their Disturbing Modern Parallels” on Thursday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the Richard and Lucille Ice Auditorium in Melrose Hall at Linfield College.

            The lecture is sponsored through the Jonas A. "Steine" Jonasson Endowed Lectureship at Linfield and is free and open to the public.

            White will discuss the transcontinental railroads of late 19th century North America as classic premature enterprises built ahead of demand which were, in the words of Robert Fogel, a distinguished economic historian, perfect examples of "hothouse capitalism."

             The railroads have been seen as a phenomenal success when, in fact, virtually all of them went bankrupt, some numerous times, and those that did not were saved by government restraint. They triggered financial panics similar to the current economic situation, helped corrupt the political system and spawned the major reform movement of the nineteenth century – antimonopoly. They caused widespread environmental disaster, were connected with some of the greatest social failures in American history and undercut attempts of the Indians to adjust to new conditions.

            White holds the Margaret Byrne Professorship in American History at Stanford University. He is regarded as one of the nation’s leading scholars in the history of the American West, Native American history and environmental history. He is the author of numerous books and articles including “The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and the Republic in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815,” which was named a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize. White is also the recipient of many awards including a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

            The Jonas A. "Steine" Jonasson Endowed Lectureship at Linfield honors Jonasson, professor emeritus of history, who was associated with Linfield for more than 60 years before his death in 1997. The endowment is used to bring in distinguished scholars and speakers in the area of history. Jonasson held the unofficial title of Linfield historian and wrote "Bricks Without Straw," a history of the college. For more information, call Lissa Wadewitz, Linfield assistant professor of history, 503-883-2719,