One of America's five wealthiest men toward the end of the 19th century, Collis Huntington was known as "ruthless," called "scrupulously dishonest," and greeted as a "cheery old man, with no more soul than a shark." He was respected less than he was feared, and detested universally, more so after the publication of his personal letters to a close business associate, David Colton. With those letters the public gained an inside view into his callous and cold-blooded business practices and the scope of his political manipulations and bribery. But he could also be maudlin, especially in his later years when he fondly recalled early exploits of wringing dollars from his elders. Huntington had no civic or social conscience, and though he was one of the founders of the Republican Party in California, he was not political. He was devoid of any personal interests other than the accumulation of wealth, great wealth -- and he was one of America's foremost masters in this vocation. Above all, he was as efficient and cunning as he was stubborn. "I am," he said, "decidedly against yielding to anything except the inevitable."