During his life Leland Stanford went from a farm boy to a captain of industry, a leading figure in California state politics, and the generous benefactor of a university named for his son, Leland Stanford Jr. University, more commonly known as Stanford University. In a Tower Talk June 29, sponsored by the Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford's biographer Norman Tutorow provided an overview of his life and the many roles he played in shaping the West.
Tutorow, an eminent historian and lecturer, has written extensively on Stanford and California. Drawing on information he compiled for his most recent book, The Governor: The Life and Legacy of Leland Stanford (Arthur H. Clark Company, 2004), Tutorow presented a comprehensive view of a man who is largely unknown to the public today although his presence is still felt. "Stanford was into everything," Tutorow said. His accomplishments include but are not limited to first Republican governor of California, first president of the Central Pacific Railroad, first president of the Southern Pacific Company, owner of the world's largest vineyard, first among the world's trotting horse breeders, and developer of the world's first motion picture.
In his research Tutorow said he uncovered many false stories circulating about Stanford. One was that he was president of the Southern Pacific Railroad. "Leland Stanford was the leading man in railroads in this part of the country," Tutorow said, but added that Stanford was never president of the Southern Pacific Railroad as has been widely reported. Also, there are many claims made as to where he lived; however, Tutorow pointed out that there is only one house where Stanford lived that remains today, which is the Leland Stanford Mansion in Sacramento. Finally, the famous, or perhaps more correctly infamous, story of Mr. and Mrs Stanfords' visit to Harvard University and being turned away, Tutorow explained, simply never happened, although they did consult with the staff of prominent universities at that time.
Tutorow received his Ph.D. in American political and military history from Stanford University and holds degrees in history, Spanish, German, and philosophy. He has served as chief of the Archives Branch of the Los Angeles Federal Records Center and chief of master planning at the Presidio of San Francisco. Tutorow was a Hoover Visiting Fellow from 1996 to 2001 and continues to do research on a book at the Hoover Library and Archives.