"WORK UPON THE RAILROAD"
Samuel Gompers, speaking at the Union last year, warned college men to keep out of Labor implying more or less bluntly that the most suitable occupation for all such was reclining in the shade of Academies, making paper darts. Mr. Gompers' feeling reflects the old idea,--fonding to become a popular belief,--that a college education is rather a mill-stone about the neck of any one going into business.
In sharp contrast it is interesting to hear the opinion of Samuel Res. President of the Pennsylvania Railroad system and not a college graduate himself. "Other things being equal", said Mr. Rea recently, "the college man will go ahead faster and get further than the man who lacks that great initial advantage. We have reached the point where the preliminary training of a college or university course is no longer looked upon merely as an advantage but has become, practically speaking, a necessity for the young man who aims at a place in the executive forces." In the Pennsylvania system, where for every hundred college men entering the service there are a good many thousand non-college men, as Mr. Rea pointed out, the comparatively small groups of college-trained men have 86 of the 163 leading officers and directors.
Such evidence is, of course, not all-conclusive, but it does indicate a turn in the tide. The "self-made man" of a generation ago, inevitably turning up in New York with a nickel in his pocket and emerging a "captain of industry," has passed off the stage along with the railroad empires of Harriman and Hill. That era was one of pioneer expansion, rapid transition, and adventurous growth; stimulating to speculation and the building up of great "get-rich-quick" fortunes by shrewd gamblers who rightly played their "hunches". In such a period the college man was out of the running. His four years of education were four years lost as far as experience in the campaign were concerned, and his training taught him nothing that helped to overcome the handicap. The ubiquitous, not-of-this-world, innocence of the college man plunging into business called forth the famous plea of Horace Greeley that fate should spare him from such "horned cattle" as the college graduate.
Today conditions are completely changed. Railroading, and with it most other industries, have become stabilized. Training rather than an unlettered degree in the "school of hard knocks" is predominant. The era of speculation has given way to one of specialization, and the college man has come into his own.