The New International Encyclopædia/Villard, Henry

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[ 135 ]

VILLARD, Henry (1835-1900). An American journalist and financier, born in Speyer, Rhenish Bavaria. His name was originally Hilgard, but he changed it to Villard when he came to the United States in 1853. During the Civil War he won considerable distinction as a war correspondent with the Federal armies, and during the brief Austro-Prussian War of 1866 was correspondent for the New York Tribune. After the financial panic of 1873 he was made the representative of several committees of German bondholders in connection with the Pacific Coast railroads. He at once went to the Pacific Northwest, where he eventually bought the interests of various European investors and organized the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, He formed a syndicate which obtained control of the Northern Pacific Railroad, of which he became president in 1881. Under his direction the main line to the Pacific was completed, but at such an immense expense that the company became financially embarrassed, and Villard was compelled to sacrifice his large private fortune and to retire from the presidency, A few years later, by means of German capital, he again obtained control of the Northern Pacific system, and from 1889 to 1893 was chairman of its board of directors. In 1881 he bought a controlling interest in the New York Evening Post. He was also interested in promoting Thomas A. Edison's inventions, and in [ 136 ] 1890 effected a combination of electrical interests and organized the Edison General Electric Company, of which he became president.