Collis Huntington was born at Harwinton, Connecticut, on 22nd October, 1821. He left school at fourteen and the following year moved to New York City where he sold watches. He eventually raised enough money to open a general store in Oneonta. After the discovery of gold in California Huntington opened a store in Sacramento specializing in mining supplies.
In 1860 Huntington joined with a group of businessmen to establish the Central Pacific Company. Huntington soon emerged as the leader of the company and he made a fortune when the roadroad was completed between California and Utah. After completing this line Central Pacific built a second transcontinental route between Texas and New Orleans.
In 1884 the various companies that Huntington was involved in were merged to form Southern Pacific. Huntington also extended the lines of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway which he purchased in 1869 to link with the Southern Pacific, forming a 4,000 mile (6,440 kilometre) continuous track.
Huntington was very successful in receiving government loans for his various schemes. He was also able to persuade politicians in Washington to block aid for his main competitor, the Texas and Pacific Company. This led to campaign by William Randolph Hearst and his journalist, Ambrose Bierce, where they accused him of corruptly controlling politicians.
Collis Huntington became president of the Southern Pacific-Central Company in 1890 and retained this position until his death on 13th August, 1900.