Hill, James J.

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  • James J. Hill (1838–1916) was a Canadian-American railroad entrepreneur in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His Great Northern Railroad helped foster the economic development of the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest, earning Hill the nickname “The Empire Builder.”

    Hill was born September 16, 1838, in Wellington County, Upper Canada (now Ontario). At the age of eighteen, he moved to the United States, settling in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Early employment with a steamboat company and a wholesale grocer convinced Hill that control of transportation was essential to business success. By the late 1870s, the rising entrepreneur established local monopolies in the steamboat industry, with the Red River Transportation Company. He also became involved in the mining of anthracite coal.

    In 1878, Hill began his career in ...

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