Sidney Dillon

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Sidney Dillon
Born(1812-05-07)May 7, 1812
DiedJune 9, 1892(1892-06-09) (aged 80)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
OccupationRailroad builder & manager
Hannah Smith
(m. 1841; died 1884)

Sidney Dillon (May 7, 1812 – June 9, 1892[1]) was an American railroad executive and one the nation's premier railroad builders.

Early life[edit]

Dillon was born in Northampton, Fulton County, New York.[1] His father, Timothy, was a farmer.[2]


Sidney Dillon began his career in the industry working as a water boy on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, one of America's earliest railroads, for its construction from Albany to Schenectady, New York.[2]

In 1840, he went into business for himself, forming his own construction company, and obtaining the construction contract for the Boston and Albany Railroad.

He was actively involved in the construction of numerous roads, his largest being the Union Pacific Railroad, with which he became actively involved in 1865 through an equity exchange with the Crédit Mobilier of America corporation.

Crédit Mobilier of America was a company set up by the Union Pacific to defraud United States taxpayers in the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The result was the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal, which exposed an over-invoicing and a stock and bond share-pricing scheme, whereby Union Pacific officers and directors, including Dillon, profited by manipulating the share price of Crédit Mobilier of America's stock shares and bonds, padding invoices to the U.S. Government, and bribing congressmen with shares in Crédit Mobilier of America, cash and other perks.

As one of the principal contractors for the Union Pacific, Dillon's vast experience in the construction of railroads proved invaluable. He took part in the "golden spike" ceremony of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, receiving one of the ceremonial silver spikes used to complete the project. Following 1870, Dillon was primarily known as a financier, becoming involved with Jay Gould in numerous ventures as well as serving on the board of directors of the Western Union Telegraph Company. He finally served as President of the Union Pacific Railroad from 1874 to 1884, and again from 1890 until his death in 1892.

Personal life[edit]

The monument of Sidney Dillon in Woodlawn Cemetery

In 1841, Dillon married Hannah Smith (1822–1884) of Amherst, Massachusetts. The couple had two daughters:.[2][3]

  • Cora A. Dillon, who married Dr. Peter B. Wyckoff in 1875.[4]
  • Julia E. ("Julie") Dillon, who married Josiah Dwight Ripley on May 28, 1862. After his death, she married Gilman Smith Moulton on March 1, 1894.[5]

Dillon died at his home at 23 West Fifty-Seventh Street in New York City, after a twelve-week illness, at the age of 80.[1] Funeral services were held at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church (55th Street and 5th Avenue) on June 13.[1] He is interred under a distinctive Celtic cross at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.


Through his daughter Julia, he was the grandfather of Sidney Dillon Ripley I (1863–1905) and Louis Arthur Dillon Ripley (1878–1958), himself the father of Dillon's great-grandson Sidney Dillon Ripley II (1913–2001), a noted ornithologist, conservationist and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution for twenty years.[6]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Death of Sidney Dillion". The New York Times. June 10, 1892.
  2. ^ a b c Ingham, John N. (1983). Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders. Vol. 1. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-313-23907-6.
  3. ^ Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York. Vol. 16. New York (State). Legislature Assembly. 1895. p. 20.
  4. ^ Miller, William Van Rensselaer (1896). Select Organizations in the United States. Knickerbocker Publishing Company. p. 49.
  5. ^ Hiram Carleton, ed. (1903). Genealogical and family history of the state of Vermont. The Lewis Publishing Company. p. 39.
  6. ^ Molotsky, Irvin (13 March 2001). "S. Dillon Ripley Dies at 87; Led the Smithsonian Institution During Its Greatest Growth". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 January 2019.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by President of Union Pacific Railroad
1874 – 1884
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Union Pacific Railroad
1890 – 1892
Succeeded by