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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Villard, Henry

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VILLARD, vĭl-ärd', Henry, American journalist and capitalist: b. Speyer, Bavaria, 11 April 1835; d. Dobbs Ferry, N. Y., 11 Nov. 1900. His real name was Hilgard, but he changed it to Villard on coming to the United States in 1853. He entered upon journalistic work, writing at first for German-American journals, then as correspondent for the Cincinnati Commercial, and for the Chicago Tribune. He reported the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858 for eastern newspapers; was at the National Republican Convention of 1860; and during the Civil War won a wide reputation as a war correspondent, going to the front with the Army of the Potomac; he also conducted a correspondents' bureau at Washington. In 1866 he went abroad to report the Austro-Prussian war for the New York Tribune. In 1868-71 he was secretary of the Social Science Association in Boston. In 1873 he represented German bondholders in financial dealings with some of the railroads of the Pacific Coast; going to the Northwest he organized the Oregon Railway and Transportation Company; and in 1881 by a pooling of railway interests formed the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and was elected its president. The road was completed in 1883, but was involved in financial difficulties, on account of which Villard lost a large part of his fortune, and resigned the presidency of the road. He regained his financial standing with the aid of German capital, and in 1889 became one of the directors of the Northern Pacific, holding that position until 1893, when the road went into the hands of receivers. He was also interested in Edison's inventions; in 1890 he bought the Edison Lamp Company at Newark, and later the Edison Machine Works at Schenectady, where he organized the Edison General Electric Company, of which he was president two years. In 1881 he obtained a controlling interest in the New York Evening Post, and Nation. Consult his ‘Memoirs’ (3 vols., Boston 1904).