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James J Hill & Opening of Northwest (Borealis Books) [Paperback]

by Albro Martin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1, 1991 0873512618 978-0873512619
James J. Hill (1838-1916), the Empire Builder, created a vast railroad network across the northwestern United States. In this splendid biography, Martin, the first researcher to have access to Hill's voluminous correspondence, richly portrays a man of many parts: an entrepreneur, a family man, a collector of notable French paintings, a promoter of scientific agriculture, and a booster for the Northwest.

Frequently Bought Together

James J Hill & Opening of Northwest (Borealis Books) + James J. Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest (The Oklahoma Western Biographies) + Great Northern Railway: A History (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage)
Price for all three: $92.69

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Editorial Reviews


"Martin's book is exceptionally well written of the best biographies of a nineteenth-century business leader ever written." -- American Historical Review

Product Details

  • Series: Borealis Books
  • Paperback: 702 pages
  • Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press (May 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0873512618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0873512619
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,181,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic biography of the Empire Builder May 11, 1997
By A Customer
Of the four major biographies of James J. Hill, this one is the best and most detailed. If it has a fault, it is that it is too detailed for many readers. But for those interested in the financial history of the Great Northern Railway and the personal history of its builder, this is the classic.

Martin had full access to the James J. Hill papers, now open to the public. Pyle's 1917 biography was also based on those papers, but Pyle was an employee of Hill's and tried to whitewash the truth, which actually made Hill look worse than he was. Holbrook's brief bio was based mainly on Pyle and rumor. Malone's 1996 book on Hill is to Martin's what Holbrook's was to Pyle's--a good intro but not as detailed as Martin's.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good!!! January 9, 1999
By A Customer
This is a very good, highly readable history of James J. Hill, his family and his numerous successful business adventures, and the Great Northern Railway in particular.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars James J Hill & Opening of Northwe June 26, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very readable. I took it along on a recent trip on Amtrak's Empire Builder, while I didn't finish the book on this trip, too much to see, this is a perfect place to read it.

I recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Good Albro Martin Book October 16, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very readable. I'm a railroad fan and this is a good read for those interested in US railroad history. Martin's prose is excellent. Also, the bookseller delivered the book promptly and in great condition used.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed in this book... November 16, 2007
By Minsky
Judging from the other reviews here, I sometimes wondered if I was reading the same book. I didn't find the writing style breezy or particularily easy to read. The main problem with this book is the almost complete lack of what it says in the title "The Opening of the Northwest."

I had expected to find a book that would cover in detail the design, building and construction of the Great Northern railroad and tell me about the towns along the route. The entire construction of the GN was covered in about six pages and practically next to nothing was said about the towns along the route. The only real 'opening of the NW' that was discussed was about the lumber trade and some mining, that was it.

This book spends far too much time covering the business side of Hill's life in exhausting, boring and hard-to-follow detail. This should not be a business text about how to take over a railroad.

I did find the relatively sparse coverage of Hill's personal life to be interesting and it's obvious he was a very shrewd businessman. But all told, I was very disappointed with this book, especially since I bought it after taking the Empire Builder and hoped to find out more about the route I had just travelled. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

I do not recommend this book.
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