Leland Stanford drove the last of the symbolic golden spikes into the tracks linking the Central Pacific Railroad with the Union Pacific on May 10, 1869, completing the nation's first transcontinental rail system. That year, Jay Cooke & Co. agreed to undertake an $85 million bond issue for another transcontinental project, the Northern Pacific Railroad. After more than a decade of fits and starts, the massive undertaking was completed due to the efforts of a journalist-turned-financier, Henry Villard. Heinrich Hilgard was born in 1835 into a prominent Bavarian family. The times were tumultuous, with Republican sentiment pulsating throughout Germany. Several of Heinrich's uncles were leaders in the revolution of 1848, a cause that appealed to Heinrich.