Origins of Sayings - The Public Be Damned

Abuot the history and origins behind the famous saying the public be damned.

Stories behind Famous Sayings


Who Said It: William H. Vanderbilt

When: 1882

The Story behind It: William H. Vanderbilt, president of the New York Central Railroad, had arrived in Chicago and was having dinner in his private railroad car in the yards of the Michigan Central Railroad. A free-lance reporter, Clarence Dresser, entered the private car and asked to speak to Vanderbilt. At that time, there was much controversy surrounding the methods used to finance railroads and the guidelines used to establish freight rates. Dresser was quite eager to get a firsthand interview with the railroad magnate. When asked to postpone the interview until after dinner, Dresser protested that he had a deadline to meet and that the public had a right to know the facts. Vanderbilt's reply: "The public be damned." Those words were printed in the next morning's edition of the Chicago Tribune. Vanderbilt later denied having said the words, but he will be forever identified with the phrase.

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