A Christmas present from my wife in 2010 changed my life. It was "Conquering Gotham" (Viking Penguin, 2007) by Jill Jonnes. No book had ever, and will undoubtedly ever again, had such an impact on my emotions.
The respect for Alexander Cassatt and his railroad at the turn of the century was second to none in the Industrial Age. Sadly, this is virtually unknown in our modern era because history books pay little attention to this fact. This is the reason for this website.
The rise and the fall of Penn Station was, respectively, the creation of America's most magnificent and gracious buildings and one of the darkest moments in the soul of America. Few people today know of the original Penn Station, which is itself a tragedy. I knew nothing of it until I read the book. Even fewer know of why or how the railroad tunnels under the East and Hudson Rivers in New York were built. Worse yet, virtually noone knows about Alexander Johnston Cassatt, the visionary president of the Pennsylvania Railroad at the turn of the 19th Century. It was he who conceived of these monumental projects and was responsible for their construction, all while running the largest corporation in the world - the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The irony in all this is that Alexander Cassatt was widely known and admired by the nation in his time, and that Penn Station's magnificence astounded the nation.
The demolition of Penn Station in 1963 left me dumbfounded. After finishing the book, I was devastated by what I had read and learned. I thought of little else for days on end, not believing what I had read. The lack of knowledge in the collective consciousness of America about Alexander Cassatt, Penn Station and the East and Hudson River tunnels struck me as shameful.
Soon afterward, I absorbed Patricia Talbot's "End of the Line," the only biography of Alexander Cassatt. It did not take long for me to set about doing what I could to right this wrong. This website - alexandercassatt.com - is the result of my passion to change the invisibility of these great accomplishments by a virtually unknown icon of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and the omission of this important history in our nation's school textbooks. You know about J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and other "Robber Barons." They all greatly respected Alexander Cassatt and also resented his ability to stand up to them. Successfully.
I welcome you to alexandercassatt.com and hope you not only enjoy gaining knowledge about that which should not be forgotten in America's history, but also feel some of the passion I felt upon learning on how Alexander Cassatt had such a major role in changing life in America.
--- Robert A. Keesecker