War Between the States

U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts

Credited for being the single most influential man in building the Union Pacific Railroad

Autograph Note Signed


(1804-73) Born in Easton, Mass., he was the son of Oliver Ames, a blacksmith who built up a business by selling shovels and eventually earned the nickname, "The King of Spades." Working in the family business with his brother, Oliver Ames, Jr., he became a partner in Oliver Ames & Sons, which prospered from the settlement of the Midwest and the discovery of gold in California. During the Civil War the company continued to prosper as they secured Army contracts for swords, shovels and other tools. He was influential in the establishment of the Republican Party in Massachusetts, and was elected U.S. Congressman, serving from 1863 until 1873. During his tenure he was a member of the Committee on Railroads. In 1865, President Lincoln had watched the Union Pacific portion of the transcontinental railroad bog down after only 12 miles of track had been laid, and appealed to Ames by saying, "Ames, you take hold of this. The road must be built, and you are the man to do it. Take hold of it yourself. By building the Union Pacific, you be the remembered man of your generation." Through his influence, he obtained contracts for his family in the construction of the Union Pacific, and staked nearly all of the family's holdings as capital for the project. The contracts were later transferred to the Credit Mobilier Company of America after Ames ousted its founder Thomas Durant, and his brother Oliver was appointed president of the Union Pacific in 1866. In 1872, it was learned that Ames sold shares in Credit Mobilier to fellow congressmen at a price greatly below the market value of the stock in hopes of influencing railroad legislation. A public scandal ensued which led the House to conduct an investigation which resulted in a resolution being passed, on February 28, 1873, formally censuring him. His enemies thereafter began calling him "Hoax Ames." On May 10, 1883, ten years after his death, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a resolution exonerating Ames. A large pyramid monument was built to honor the Ames brothers for building the Union Pacific Railroad. It stands at the highest point on the line near Sherman Summit, Wyoming. His son, Oliver Ames, served as Governor of Massachusetts, 1887-90.

Autograph Note Signed: 5 x 2 1/2, in ink. "I am glad to see by your heading that you are a temperance man. I have been a Tetoler for about fifty years. Yours Truly, Oakes Ames." Light wear. Very fine.

Autograph Oakes Ames

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