Thursday, March 8, 2007


Samuel Rea
1855-March 1929

Samuel Rea was born in Hollidaysburg in 1855. His parents were James D. Rea and Ruth Blair Moore. His paternal grandfather General John Rea was in Congress from Bedford and Franklin PA during the terms of Jefferson and Madison. Through the marrige of his father's siblings he was related to the Childs and therefore Frick families. Samuel's father James D. Rea died in 1868.

Samuel Rea began his connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1871. Except for an intermission from 1875 to 1879 (when he worked for the P&LE Railroad), he served continuously on the Pennsylvania Railroad until his retirement from office as President in 1925.

Samuel Rea married Mary Black, the daughter of Jane Black. IN 1880 Samuel and Mary lived with her widowed mother and family in Allegheny PA. Their children, born after 1880, include:

- George Rea

- Ruth Rea

(Source: century and a half of Pittsburg and her people / by John Newton Boucher ; illustrated. Vol. 4. 1908.1854-1933. page 223)

In 1886, Samuel Rea became a member of the New York Stock Exchange—being the first seat held in the city of Pittsburgh. He remained a member for 12 years.
In 1888 he published a book called “The Railways Terminating in London: With a Description of the Terminating Stations”.

After the Flood, Rea removed to Bryn Mawr PA, to an estate called Waverly Heights; it now serves as Waverly Heights, a lifecare community in Gladwyne.
Rea was reared in the Presbyterian faith and said he preferred reading Prof. Moffet’s translation of the Bible.

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Samuel Rea, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, will retire in 1925 at the age of 70. His probable successor is W. W. Atterbury, Vice President, in charge of operation.
General Atterbury, except during his service with the A. E. F. in France, has been connected with the Pennsylvania ever since he was graduated from Yale in 1886. He began as apprentice in the Altoona, Pa., shops, became road foreman, assistant engineer, master mechanic, general superintendent of motive power, general manager, Vice President.

Samuel Rea began as a clerk in a country store. At 16 he went railroading, and 31 found him, mature, assistant engineer in the construction of chain suspension bridges over the Monongahela at Pittsburgh. Finally, as head of the 12,000-mile system employing 250,000 men, he became one of the three or four dominating powers in American transportation. He is considered largely responsible for many features of the Esch-Cummins Transportation Act, whereby the roads were returned to private control in 1920.

(Source, Time, Jan 4, 1924)

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Since 1880 six men have been president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. They were: Roberts, 1880-1897 Thompson, 1897-1899 Cassatt, 1899-1906 McRea, 1906-1913 Rea, 1913-1925 Atterbury, 1925- Fifth on the list in point of time, but not of stature, is Samuel Rea, who died last week in his home at Bryn Mawr, suburb of Philadelphia. Of him said Frederick D. Underwood, onetime (1901-26) president of Erie Railroad: "I have known four presidents of the Pennsylvania preceding Mr. Rea ... he stood head and shoulders above them all."

Tremendous, indeed, were the changes in the Penn system during the 50 years in which Mr. Rea was associated with it. He began as a rodman in 1871, at a time when the Penn road had hardly outgrown its original (1846) charter which provided that it should extend from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. Not only did he see the road pass through the greater part of the expansion which has made it a 12,000-mile system, but it was directly through his efforts that the Pennsylvania secured access to Manhattan. He planned a bridge across the Hudson from Jersey City to Manhattan. When other roads refused to cooperate, he went under instead of over the water and built the Hudson River tubes. Later he made an arrangement with the New York, New Haven & Hartford and built the Hell Gate Bridge, and still later got control of the Long Island Railroad and connected it to the Penn with tunnels under the East River.

In his later years, as head of a great railroad, Mr. Rea was not only rail tycoon but public figure as well. Thus many a person knew that he belonged to the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, that he supported Alfred Smith in the late campaign. He was famed, too, as a woodchopper and as a collector of English antique silver. Doubtless many of the thousands who this week passed through Manhattan's Pennsylvania Station realized that in it Samuel Rea has an enduring and a fitting memorial.

(Source: Time, April 1, 1929)

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Pennsylvania Station was built to accommodate as many as half a million daily passengers, and soon after it opened, Samuel Rea, by this time the president of the Pennsylvania, found himself defending his work against charges that it had been wastefully overbuilt. Time was to prove him right. By 1919 the station was accommodating almost thirty-five million a year, eclipsing Grand Central Terminal as the busiest New York station. Less than a decade later more than sixty million used it annually, enough to make it the most heavily used railroad station in all North America. By 1939 its yearly traffic had reached a then record level of almost sixty-six million passengers.

(Source, American Heritage: “Penn Station Lives!” by William D. Middleton, Fall 1997)

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A statue of Samuel Rea, by Adolph A. Weinman, ca. 1910, was placed just west of the entrance to Penn Station at 32nd St. and 7th Ave.Rea was responsible not only for supervising the building of the magnificent Pennsylvania Station (completed in 1910), but for the whole project linking the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Jersey City terminal with Manhattan, which included construction of railroad tubes under the Hudson under the East River to the sprawling railroad yards in Sunnyside, Queens. It was one of the most massive engineering projects of the early twentieth century, matched only by the construction of Grand Central Terminal a few blocks away. See a photo of the statue, here:

A photo of Samuel Rea can be seen here:

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glenncahoon said...

Did Mr. Samuel Rea build a Home in San Jose, California

Vicomte Flesym said...

Dear Glenn, Thanks so much for posting your question. No, I think the San Jose Samuel Rea was another man. Here is a link to a good bio about the CA Samuel Rea: