Whitney, Asa

Whitney, Asa,

1797–1872, American merchant and transcontinental railroad projector, b. North Groton, Conn. He entered the mercantile business in New York City, acted as a foreign buyer for several years, and then was (1842–44) a merchant in China. Upon his return, he toured (1844–51) the United States, carrying on an extensive publicity campaign urging the construction of a railroad from Chicago to the Pacific; he also petitioned (1845) Congress to support his plan. Whitney's proposed route from Lake Michigan through South Pass to the Pacific was not accepted mainly because of the growing sectionalism before the Civil War. He also presented to the British in 1851 an unsuccessful plan for a Canadian transcontinental railroad. He retired in 1852, a decade before the U.S. Congress passed an act for the construction of a transcontinental railroad. He wrote National Railroad Connecting the Pacific (1845) and A Project for a Railroad to the Pacific (1849).

Whitney, Asa

(1797–1872) merchant, railroad promoter; born in North Groton, Conn. A dry goods merchant, he became head of his own firm in 1836. After suffering financial losses and the death of his wife in 1840, he traveled to China where he became very wealthy as an agent for several New York firms and envisioned the value of an American transcontinental railroad to trade with China. He devised a plan for its construction which he presented to Congress in 1844, and spent the next seven years lobbying the public through newspapers, speeches, and pamphlets, including A Project for a Railroad to the Pacific (1849). In 1852 he remarried and retired to his Washington estate. He died shortly after the first transcontinental railroad was completed.

Whitney, Asa

(1791–1874) inventor, manufacturer; born in Townsend, Mass. A railroad superintendent and canal commissioner, he patented a locomotive steam engine in 1840. Settling in Pennsylvania, he later started a company, Asa Whitney & Sons, that became the country's largest manufacturer of train wheels.
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