Hell-Bound Train

Mon 27 Apr 98 7:41
By: Curtis Johnson
Re: Hell-Bound Train

I've been reading Main Street and Wall Street, William Z. Ripley, 1927, Little, Brown & Co. Great reading if you're into the genre of corporate finance horror stories. Anyway, p. 255, 257 has this short passage:

"It reminds me of the school board at Lancaster, Ohio, in 1828, which refused to permit the use of the school building for discussion as to whether railroads were practical or not. This is what the Board said, `You are welcome to use the schoolhouse to debate all proper questions in, but such things as railroads and telegraphs are impossibilities and rank infidelity. There is nothing in the Word of God about them. If God had designed that His intelligent creatures should travel at the frightful speed of fifteen miles an hour, by steam, He would have clearly foretold it through His holy prophets. It is a device of Satan to lead immortal souls down to Hell.'"

W Z Ripley was a Harvard professor of economics, who specialized in the railroad industry (some of his proposals were incorporated word-for-word into the law setting up the Interstate Commerce Commission), but I smell an urban legend here. Morse didn't demonstrate his telegraph until 1838, and the quote is just a little bit too good.

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