Norman E. Tutorow: The Governor, The Life and Legacy of Leland Stanford

Norman E. Tutorow, THW GOVERNOR. The Life and Legacy of Leland Stanford, A California Colossus  (Spokane, Washington: Arthur H. Clark, 2004, 2 vols, pp. 1146) is a monumental work to which it is difficult to do justice.  The author deserves immense praise, and it is noteworthy that an important publisher like Arthur H. Clark is located in Spokane, which must have changed since I visited it in 1938.  This review will concentrate on items of interest to WAIS. First the title. Leland Stanford liked to be called The Governor. He thought big, and, when he had the largest locomotive in the world built, he called it El Gobernador. When I came to California in 1937. Spanish words names were fashionable since they recalled romantic Spain. Spanish style architecture adorned places like Santa Barbara. That was before the tidal wave of Mexican immigrants, as a result of which Spanish has lost its romantic appeal. Warm Springs Ranch,  which Stanford owned, was part of Agua Caliesnte Rancho. Stanford never visited Mexico.  When I came to Stanford Mexico was still traumatized by the revolution and was generally despised. Professors of Spanish went to Spain, not to Mexico. A number of Americans, notably Californians like Hearst, had invested in Mexico during the Porfirio Diaz period, but there is no evidence that Stanford did.

It was fashionable to visit Europe, and Stanford made five trips there, but he did not visit Spain. Stanford died in 1893, before the crisis which led to the war of 1898 with Spain.  Stanford showed little active interest in international affairs, and I suspect that it was his wife Jane who pushed him to visit Europe and to collect the artwork which found its way into the Stanford Museum. The Stanford's first European tour was from May 1880 to December 1881, He was 56, his wife Jane was 51, and little Leland was 12. They traveled from New York to Liverpool on the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's "Patagonia". For a year and a half the Stanford family toured Europe, visiting Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Much of the time Jane was sick, so Leland Sr. and Jr. traveled alone, dutifully writing letters to "Mama". The governor was interested mainly in business possibilities, and in a speech at a July 4 celebration in Paris, he was loudly applauded when he stressed the principle of self-interest.  When he was called home on business,  Jane and Leland Jr. continued their tour without him. Jane boasted that Leland, Jr . was fluent in German and French. In Berlin they saw people bowing and scraping when Emperor William passed.  In Paris the Stanfords had their portraits pained by well-known artists.  In Italy,  Jane and  Leland Jr. were among 200 visitors received by Pope Leo XIII, who placed his hand on their heads, even though they were not Catholic. Jane was a devout Protestant, but she showed her respect for the Catholic Church when she donated their Sacramento house to the Roman Catholic diocese of Sacramento, together with a $75,000 endowment and several lots. Stanford rejoined his family in the summer of 1881, so it counts as his second trip to Europe, while for Jane and Leland Jr. it was still their first.  There is little information on what the Stanfords did in the last four months of their tour.

Stanford's third trip to Europe lasted from  May 26, 1883 to May 4, 1884.  Leland Jr. was supposed to start his studies at Harvard after the trip, but his death in Florence changed all that,  He left his impressions of England in letters to Lizzie Hull.  He continued his studies under a tutor, Herbert Nash. The stress on the learning of German probably reflected its prestige as the language of science. The section titled "The Myth of Stanford and the Orient Express" described their visit to Constantinople, where they spent ten days. Jane was not impressed with the matrimonial condition of Turkish women.  Nor were they impressed with Sultan Abdulhamid II,of whom Tutorow gives a long account. The Sultan tried to interest him in building a railroad from Constantinople to the head of the Persian Gulf.  Stanford simply gave some good advice in writing. Much information about this was given by a reporter for the San Francisco Call.  The word"myth" is used because in fact Stanford was not involved in the building of the Orient Express.  The last letter Leland Jr. was to write was an account of the tour sent from Naples to Lizzie Hull. It was in Constantinople that the first signs of Leland Jr.'s fatal illness appeared. It was a cold winter, and the weather was even worse when they reached Athens. Naples was "unhealthy", so they went to Rome, where a doctor said that Leland Jr. had a mild case of typhoid fever. The Stanfords went on to Florence, where Leland Jr. died on March 30, 1884 at the age of 15 years and 10 months. He died in the Hotel Bristol. Years ago, I was running along the Arno to catch a train. I passed the Hotel Bristol, looked up, and there was a plaque commemorating the death of Leland Jr.  Tutorow gives the texts of many letters of condolence.  It was his death which deepened the Stanfords' interest in religion and led to the creation of Stanford University.  In the hope of meeting the soul of her son, Jane turned to spiritualism, which then enjoyed a vogue hard to imagine today.  Years ago, in Sao Paulo, Brazil,  I was the luncheon guest of a group of businessmen. I was surprised to find that all were spiritualists or sympathetic to spiritualism.    

The next European trip of the Stanford couple was from May to October, 1888, while he was a Senator.  For health reasons they went to Bad Kissingen in Germany.  They landed in Liverpool and traveled to London in the private railroad car of their friend Baron Edmond Rothschild.   I can find no information abuut the attitude of the Stanfords toward the Jewish question.  Instead of going directly to Bad Kissingen, they made an extensive tour of the continent.  The senator bought many art items for the collection being assembled at Stanford University, evidence that he was really interested in such things.  For some reason they visited Metz, then a highly militarized German town where German officers took them ona tour of the fortifications.  They stopped at Frankfurt on their way to Bad Kissingen. There are in Germany some 50 of these "baths", most of them located in or close to the Oder Valley.  Bad Kissingen is at the east end of the group, in Bavaria.  This was the time of the Kneipkur, named after a Dr. Kneip who thought that water was all-healing. Birmarck. whom Stanford greatly admired, had a home near Bad Kissingen, which the Stanford were invited to visit.  After six weeks in Bad Kissingen, the Stanfords visited Nuremberg and  Munich, where there were festivities marking the centennial of the birth of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.  Ludwig II, the patron of Wagner, had died in 1886, but the Stanfords recorded no interest in either.  The Stanfords do not seem to have met Ludwig III.  During the celebrations, a parade of elephants stampeded, causing many injuries and at least two deaths. The Stanfords went on to St. Moritz for more water cures, but did not like the place, so they went on to another Swiss water resort at Maloja. The architecture of the Kursaal building there provided a model for Stanford's Encina Hall. From Maloja they crossed into Italy. At Lake Como they caught a boat to Bellagio.  After a brief tour of the area, they returned via Liverpool to New York

The Stanfords' last trip to Europe was from May to October 1890. They sailed to Liverpool on the White Star's "Teutoniuc· (what a name for a liner!).  They returned to Bad Kissingen to take the waters.. Because of the bad weather they cut their journey short and returned to the US on the "Teutonic". For details of these journeys, consult Tutorow. Our interest is what vision Stanford had of the world.  To grasp this one would need to examine the records the Stanfords left of their journeys, the reports about them in the press, and Stanford's statements as Governor and Senator.  This would be a major task.  From Tutorow's book, my conclusion is that Stanford was especially interested in the Germany of Bismarck.  The Stanfords' interest in Italy was much less than I had thought.  All this is a sideshow as far as Tutorow is concerned, since he is concerned mostly with Stanford as Governor, Senator and founder of Stanford University.. I will send this review to him and post any comments he makes. His present project is a biography of Jane Stanford.  He is already unequalled as a historian of Stanford,, and the biography of Jane Stanford will complete the enormous task he has undertaken. I trust Stanford authorities are duly appreciative, and  to this end I will forward this review to them.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: February 3, 2005