The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 8, February 19, 2023, Article 18


Here's his family's biography of James Allaire Millholland, also republished with permission from Stack's Bowers Galleries. Thank again. An amazing and full life, well lived. -Editor

1842 - 1911

James A. Millholland 1 Born to a heritage of railroad and marine innovation, James Allaire Millholland actively participated in the industrial explosion of the nineteenth century in western Maryland. His career flourished in railroads, first in building ever more efficient locomotives and then as a railroad executive.

His father, James Millholland (1812-1875), was one of the foremost railway master mechanics in the country. In 1829, as an apprentice to a prominent machinist in the B & O Railroad's shops in Reading, Pennsylvania, he helped build (supposedly of spare parts) the first light steam locomotive, the Tom Thumb, to a design of Peter Cooper's. (In the competition between this little engine and a horse pulled car, a belt slipping from a pulley resulted in victory for the horse-powered car.) Millholland, Sr. went on to design innovative locomotives, reconfigure designs, and experiment with ways to improve their propulsion.

James Allaire Millholland (JAM) continued in his father's footsteps. Born in Reading in 1842, he received his early education in local schools. At 17 he was apprenticed in the shops of the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad where he did experimental work and gained practical experience, including running freight and passenger engines. When he was 24, his father relocated the family to the hills of western Maryland. Mount Savage was uniquely located among the ore-bearing strata of the Appalachians, as well as serving as a gateway to the West. It teemed with industrial activity - coal, iron ore, and clay mining; foundries; brick refractories; and machine shops constructing locomotives. Fresh from traveling to the Paris International Exposition in 1867 where he studied the vast number of displays of European technological developments, JAM set out to improve the machinery department of the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad. Within a month he became a master mechanic of that railroad and then an officer of the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad, the Union Mining Company, and the Consolidated Coal Company. After ten years, he out-maneuvered hot competition with other young railroad lines and acquired the upstart George's Creek and Cumberland Railroad, born of two mining companies. Becoming director and president of GC&C RR, he expanded it to extend through the Cumberland Narrows; it ran a variety of rolling stock, from coal hoppers to passenger cars, including an open-sided observation car. As interconnecting routes made it easy to connect from Cumberland to Philadelphia and New York, JAM traveled regularly to both cities where he maintained offices.

JAM and his first wife, Virginia Randolph Keim Millholland (1846-1896), a descendant of the Randolphs of Virginia, had 12 children, several of whom became mechanical and civil engineers. Their substantial house on Washington Street in Cumberland is still standing. His first wife died at 49, and two years later in New York, he married Harriett Woodward Blunt, known as Woodie to family and friends, a woman 24 years his junior from an old Montgomery County (Maryland) family. Together they had four children. The social columns of area newspapers tell of the family's parties and open houses, excursions, and visits to relatives, as well as their travels to a large rambling summer house, Glenora, on 120 acres of rolling fields, orchards, barns and stables on Valley Road two miles outside Cumberland. The dinner table there had 12 leaves and accommodated well over a dozen people. Guest book entries of extended stays from relatives and friends suggest a welcoming household of warmth and conviviality.

  James Millholland in car

James A. Millholland and his wife in their 1905 Stanley Model G Light two passenger runabout – one of 11 built!

JAM wrote letters to Woodie when he was on his frequent business trips. Entertainingly worded and affectionately thoughtful, they describe city events, his experiences, even purchases — a vase for the yellow guest room. Well-made, often beautiful, objects fascinated him - good machine tools (for which his shops were noted), the mechanism of a shotgun newly delivered from England, cameras, automobiles, and numerous gadgets. He admired the craftsmanship and beauty of Asian artifacts, intricately carved ivory figures, balls one inside another, and Chinese porcelains. Intriguing and unusual objects were kept in a heavy, carved black four-sided, glass-doored cabinet of curiosities. As a woodworker, he made the coin cabinet with 20 trays divided into compartments for each coin, a drop leaf corner table, and a large, heavy tool chest elaborately fitted with a series of sliding shelves. His library reflects his inquiring mind, innate curiosity, and wide enthusiasms - natural history, agriculture, gardening, animal husbandry. In it could be found Shakespeare, The Decameron, Pepys' Diary, Emerson essays, humor, contemporary fiction, and history plus a collection of Lincolniana. The book plate in each volume records the exact date of its acquisition and often on the last page the date he completed reading it. Meticulous notebooks and numerous lists show the organization and the specificity of his thinking.

When James Allaire Millholland died, though retired for four years, he was still an active director of the First National Bank of Cumberland which honored his more than 25 years of service, a vice president and treasurer of Accurate Machinery Company of Cumberland, president of the Chinese Trading Company of Philadelphia, and trustee of a hospital and a school. These associations speak to his energetic capacities and mental resources. His obituary praises his innate refinement…[and] highly cultured and polished mind. His associates remembered his lively and well-informed conversation, his indefati.gable energy, wise judgment in business, and his genial vivacity in speech and manner.

Coda: Four years before JAM died he sold his railroad to the Western Maryland Railway Company which was soon purchased by a son of Jay Gould, known as one of the robber barons. The lives of these two Millhollands, father and son, roughly bracket the nineteenth century and trace an important era in American railroad history and its role in the industrial revolution: from an early locomotive on eight miles of track to eventual absorption of smaller local lines into larger and larger systems; regional amalgamated into nationwide; independently owned and operated burgeoning —sometimes by hook and by crook — into large complex corporately-managed entities.

  Millholland cabinet and ledger

To view or bid on the Millholland coins, see:
Spring 2023 Auction - Session 3 - Rarities Night featuring the James Allaire Millholland Collection - Lots 3001-3313 (
Spring 2023 Auction - Session 4 - The James Allaire Millholland Collection - Lots 4001-4229 (
Spring 2023 Auction - Session 11 - Internet Only - The James Allaire Millholland Collection - Lots 9329-9581 (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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