This is the "Overview" page of the "James J. Hill: Railroad Baron" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

James J. Hill: Railroad Baron   Tags: 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, 1910s, business, railroad  

Last Updated: Jun 14, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Overview Print Page

Research Options

  • Visit the MNHS Library
    Original materials, records, and newspapers on microfilm are available on site and reference staff can help with research.
  • MNHS Research Services
    Order copies of records, articles, or other specific materials from the MNHS collections.
  • Interlibrary Loan
    MNHS loans out most microfilm materials. Contact your local library for more information and assistance with this service.
  • Online Research
    Some items such as newspapers, articles, photos and objects are available online. Look for links within this guide.
  • Other Libraries
    Many books listed in the Secondary Sources page can be borrowed from other libraries.

Related Research Guides & Webpages



James J. Hill

St. Paul railroad baron James J. Hill was born in Canada in 1838. He moved to St. Paul in the Minnesota Territory by himself at age 17. In St. Paul, Hill began working as a clerk and shipping agent for several steamboat companies and quickly started his own transportation and fuel businesses. In 1878, he joined with several partners to buy out the failing St. Paul & Pacific Railroad.

Hill concentrated the following decade on extending this line, reorganized as the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba, into western Minnesota, Dakota, Montana and the Pacific Northwest. The final spike of the transcontinental track was driven January 6, 1893.

Over next twenty years, Hill managed his railroad, renamed the Great Northern Railway, and also ventured into mining, timber, land and livestock, as well as philanthropy. He faced battles with competing companies, including the Northern Pacific Railway.  His attempts to overtake and merge with the Northern Pacific led to an antitrust suit by Theodore Roosevelt's government; Hill eventually lost.

Hill maintained a front-line role in his businesses until his death in 1916. His personal fortune at that time has been estimated at $63 million with $200 million in related assets, making Hill one of the wealthiest and most powerful figures of America's Gilded Age.


MHS Reference Staff

reading room bookshelves

Gale Family Library
MN Historical Society Library
345 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Contact Us:
By Phone (651-259-3300)
By Email

Library Hours
Tuesday: 9am to 8pm
Wed. to Sat.: 9am to 4pm
Sunday: Closed
Monday: Closed
Holiday Hours


Guide Author

Reference Staff

Minnesota Historical Society Library • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300

Loading  Loading...