Every Sunday
February 9 - March 1, 2020
3:00 pm


In a time when the spirit of expansion was sweeping across a growing nation, few men found themselves equipped with the necessary resources to envision and build a railroad empire. Captains of industry Jay Gould, Collis Huntington, and Cornelius Vanderbilt did, however, and each of them, in their own time, carved out a legendary place in history. Celebrated and sometimes vilified for bringing industrial progress to new territory, the 35th annual Whitehall Lecture Series will present the fascinating histories of American railroad empires and the powerful industry pioneers who built them.

When possible, each lecture will be followed by a book signing with the author. Visit the Museum Store for a wide selection of books related to the Whitehall Lecture Series.

Website visitors can watch the lectures via a Livestream broadcast. There is no charge to watch the Livestream lectures. Scroll down to the lecture descriptions below to find the link to the corresponding Livestream broadcast.

Sponsored by:

America's Mainline: The Fight for the Southwest Transcontinental

walt borneman webWalter R. Borneman
February 9, 2020
3:00 p.m. 

After the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, the next challenge was to build an even better, more direct route through the American Southwest. Led by shrewd empire builders, dozens of rival railroads aggressively constructed lines through the West in a transcontinental contest that lasted more than a quarter of a century. “America’s Mainline” explored the battles and the eventual victory of what remains the country’s mainline between Chicago and Los Angeles.

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

TJ Stiles webT.J. Stiles
February 16, 2020
3:00 p.m. 

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner T.J. Stiles told the epic story of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest and most powerful figures in world history. Stiles described the three decisive leaps Vanderbilt made on his way from the deck of a sailboat to command of a railroad empire. Brilliant and ruthless, Vanderbilt helped to invent the modern corporate economy amid wars, social upheaval, and family turmoil.

The Life and Legend of Jay Gould: Notorious Railroad Pioneer and Captain of Industry

Maury Klein webMaury Klein
February 23, 2020
3:00 p.m. 

By far the most notorious and hated financier of his time, Jay Gould stunned the business world first by saving the Union Pacific Railroad from bankruptcy and then, after acquiring the Missouri Pacific Railroad, used it as the core of a new southwestern rail system that pioneered the economic development of that region.

Empire Express: The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad

BainPlunderBay webDavid Haward Bain
March 1, 2020
3:00 p.m. 

The Transcontinental Railroad as a project signified the dawn of a new era. “Empire Express” is the story of a new and unfathomable enterprise to connect far off places from the big cities in the East to indigenous settlements across the great unknown of the West. Sealed with the driving in of the Golden Spike in the Utah desert in 1869, and shrouded in scandal soon after, the Railroad represented the legacy of enterprise in American business and the development of the American character.