Robert R. Young


Robert R. Young

Robert Ralph Young (February 14, 1897-January 25, 1958) was a United States financier and industrialist. He is best-known for leading the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and New York Central Railroad during and after World War II.

Because of his initials, R.R. Young was often labeled "Railroad" Young; he was otherwise known as the "Populist of Wall Street," or, as his press agent encouraged journalists to call him, "The Daring Young Man of Wall Street".

He regarded himself as a crusader against the mismanagement of railroads by banking interests. Young's most famous advertisement slogan was "A hog can cross the country without changing trains - but you can't."

Childhood, education

Young was the youngest of four children, born to David John and Mary Arabella (Moody) Young at Canadian, Texas on February 14, 1897. His mother died when he was ten. His father, a strict man, did not quite know how to control his precocious son, whom neighborhood boys nicknamed "Pumpkin" because of his auburn hair.

In his teens Robert was sent to Culver Military Academy in Indiana, from which he graduated at the head of his class in 1914. He then entered the University of Virginia but dropped out before the end of his second year.

Early career, DuPont, General Motors

Young took a job as a powder-cutter at the E. I. DuPont gunpowder plant at Carneys Point, New Jersey. On April 27, 1916, he married Anita Ten Eyck O'Keeffe, sister of the artist Georgia O'Keeffe They had one daughter, Eleanor "Cookie" Young, who went on to become one of the much-publicized "Glamour Debutantes" of the Depression era.

At DuPont, Young worked his way up to the treasurer's office, where he learned much about finance and advertising. By 1920, he had left DuPont and speculated in securities for a short time.

Young joined General Motors (GM) in 1922 and was made assistant treasurer in 1928. He soon became associated with GM head John J. Raskob, and left GM to handle Raskob's finances, when Raskob, who was also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, took a sabbatical to manage Al Smith's presidential campaign.

Early in 1929 Raskob vehemently disagreed with Young's predictions of a stock market crash, and the two men parted company. Subsequently, Young netted a fortune selling stocks short of their earlier value.

Stock market, railroads, C&O

In 1931, Young formed a brokerage partnership with Frank Kolbe and bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in order to speculate in stocks. In 1942, in alliance with Allan P. Kirby, a retail merchant, Young owned a controlling interest in the Alleghany Corporation, a railroad holding company previously owned by the Cleveland-based Van Sweringen family, which controlled the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O), Pere Marquette Railroad (PM), and other railroad properties.

By the end of the World War II, C&O was poised to help America during its great growth during the following decades, and at mid-century was truly a line of national importance. It became more so, at least in the public eye through Young, who became "the gadfly of the rails" as he challenged old methods of financing and operating railroads, and inaugurated many forward-looking advances in technology that have ramifications to the present.

As chairman of the board of the C&O, Young launched a well-publicized campaign for the modernization of railroad passenger service. He was one of the first railroad executives to introduce lightweight, high-speed diesel passenger trains. However, his attempt to obtain a central position at the Pullman Company after World War II failed.

He changed the C&O's herald (logo) to "C&O for Progress" to embody his ideas that C&O would lead the industry to a new day. He installed a well-staff research and development department, which came up with ideas for passenger service that are thought to be futuristic even now, and for freight service that would challenge the growth of trucking.

During the Young era and subsequently, C&O was headed by Cyrus S. Eaton and Walter J. Tuohy, under whose control the "For Progress" theme continued, though in a more muted way after the departure of Young. During that time, C&O installed the first large computer system in railroading, developed larger and better freight cars of all types, switched (reluctantly) from steam to diesel motive power, and diversified its traffic, which had already occurred in 1947 when it merged into the system the PM of Michigan and Ontario, Canada, which had been controlled by the C&O since Van Sweringen days. The PM's huge automotive industry traffic, taking raw materials in and finished vehicles out, gave C&O some protection from the swings in the coal trade, making merchandise traffic 50% of the company's haulage.

New York Central

In the early 1950s, Young turned his attention to the New York Central Railroad (NYC). In 1954, after a long proxy struggle and with the aid of Clinton Williams Murchison, Sr. and Sid Williams Richardson, Young gained control of the NYC and became the chairman of its board.

Young maintained offices and an apartment in New York City. However, he preferred to do most of his office work in the privacy of the den of his mansion at Newport, Rhode Island. Among his circle of friends were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The dreams of Young and innovative Alfred E. Perlman, whom he selected to become president of the NYC, to form a true transcontinental line were frustrated by antitrust suits and by lack of interest on the part of the western lines to merge with the nearly bankrupt NYC corporation.

Many of Young's friends and smaller investors lost money as NYC stock prices fell. On January 25, 1958, Young, who had suffered from depression for over 15 years, committed suicide at his winter mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. He was buried in Newport, Rhode Island.

References

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External links

* [http://www.cohs.org/ Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society]
* [http://www.nycshs.org/ New York Central System Historical Society]


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