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Biography of leland stanford us senator from california and as the president of the central pacific railroad one of the builders of the first us transcontinental railroad he is one of the 19th century entrepreneurial tycoons called robber barons he and his wife founded stanford university. Leland stanford retains a double legacy as both a robber baron and a great philanthropist he got his start in business as a merchant during the california gold rush but he worked his way up to president of both the central and southern pacific railroad companies by 1861. 150 years ago on may 10 1869 university founder leland stanford drove the last spike that marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The governor the life and legacy of leland stanford the autobiography of jesus major journal articles 1 graphic illustrations of california history a guide to sources picturescope 1968 164 75 82 2 leland stanfords wisconsin years wisconsin then and now 1969 1510 1 4 3. Leland stanford central pacific railroad california governor by john s hittell the death of leland stanford which occurred on the 20th of june is a nota ble event in the history of california during more than a quarter of a cen tury he was the most distinguished citizen of our state