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Atlas Shrugged Chronology

The table below reconstructs the events of Atlas Shrugged as a sequential chronology. I have fixed my timeline using a comment at the beginning of the book Who Is Ayn Rand?: "[O]n an evening twelve years from tonight, the people of the United States are ... waiting to hear a broadcast by the head of their government -- Mr. Thompson." Since Who Is Ayn Rand? was published in 1962, this would mean that John Galt's interruption of Mr. Thompson would occur in 1974. I have based the rest of the timeline around this date.

YearDateEventPage
c. 1600 Sebastián D'Anconia leaves his fortune in Spain and flees to Argentina.89-90
c. 1615 Sebastián D'Anconia sends for the girl he loved in Spain; she comes to him.90
c. 1860 Nathaniel ("Nat") Taggart, ancestor of Dagny Taggart, founds the Taggart Transcontinental railroad.62
c. 1880 Nat Taggart's son builds a bridge in Colorado.156
c. 1900 Nat Taggart's grandson builds the Taggart Tunnel.581
1918 Paul Larkin is born.43
c. 1919 Robert Stadler is born.176
1920 Richard Halley is born.69-70
c. 1922 Dan Conway is born.78
1926 Hank Rearden is born.34
1928 Floyd Ferris is born.324
1930 Lee Hunsacker is born.298
1932 James Taggart is born.15
1933 Phillip Rearden is born.40
1935 Francisco d'Anconia is born.57
1935 John Galt is born.731
1935 Ragnar Danneskjöld is born.731
1937 Dagny Taggart is born.55, 91
1938 Ellis Wyatt is born.17
1939 Eddie Willers is born.11
1940 Hank Rearden takes a job working in iron mines in Minnesota.36
1942 Jeff Allen goes to work for the Twentieth Century Motor Company.616
1944 Richard Halley writes an opera called Phaëthon. It closes after one performance.69-70
1944 William Hastings goes to work for the Twentieth Century Motor Company.309
1945WinterFrancisco spends the winter in Madrid, at the home of the Duke of Alba.92
c. 1946 Robert Stadler writes a treatise on cosmic rays.175
1946SummerDagny decides she will work at Taggart Transcontinental.54
1946WinterFrancisco spends the winter as a cabin boy on a cargo steamer carrying d'Anconia copper.92
1947SummerFrancisco works as a dispatcher's call boy for a Taggart Transcontinental division point.91-92
1947 Galt leaves home at the age of 12.731
c. 1949 Robert Stadler is "recognized as the greatest physicist of his time."175
1949 Dagny tells Eddie that she will run Taggart Transcontinental when they grow up.55
1950SummerWhile hopping trains to visit factories for fun, Francisco tells Dagny and Eddie that industrial trademarks are the "coats-of-arms of our day."95
c. 1951 Robert Stadler is appointed head of the physics department at Patrick Henry University.175
1951 Francisco takes a job as a furnace boy in a copper foundry on the outskirts of Cleveland.109
1951FallFrancisco, Galt, and Ragnar begin attending Patrick Henry University in Cleveland.97, 731
1952FallJim Taggart is a senior in college. Galt, Francisco and Ragnar are sophomores.98
1953SummerDagny goes to work for Taggart Transcontinental, as a night station operator in Rockdale.55, 101
1953SummerJim Taggart goes to work for Taggart Transcontinental, in the Department of Public Relations.55
1954 Dagny's mother gives her a formal debut ball.102
1954SummerDagny and Francisco consummate their relationship.106-107
1955 Upon graduating from college, Francisco buys the copper foundry at which he has been working.109
1955FallFrancisco goes to Montana to work as an assistant superintendent at a d'Anconia mine.109
1956 Rearden buys an iron mine that is about to close.36
1956SpringFrancisco is put in charge of d'Anconia Copper's New York office.109
1958 Francisco's father dies; he inherits d'Anconia Copper.110
1959 Robert Stadler endorses the founding of the State Science Institute. John Galt discontinues his graduate studies with Stadler the same day.176, 734
1961 Rearden buys a steel plant.37
1962SpringJed Starnes dies; heirs take over Twentieth Century Motor Company.616, 313
1962SpringGalt begins the strike.626
1962 Francisco goes on strike.110-114
1962 Hugh Akston retires from Patrick Henry University.138
1962 Dagny ends her friendship with Fransisco.61
1962 William Hastings quits the Twentieth Century Motor Company and takes a job with Acme Motors.309
1962 Galt goes to work as a track laborer for Taggart Transcontinental.999-1000
1963 Ellis Wyatt develops a way to retrieve oil from previously exhausted wells.17
1963 Richard Halley has a successful production of his opera, Phaëthon, then suddenly retires without explanation.71
1963 The Twentieth Century Motor Company goes out of business.269, 617, 625
1963 William Hastings retires from Acme Motors.309
1963December 10Hank Rearden marries Lillian.125
1965-66 Lee Hunsacker's Amalgamated Service, Inc. sues Midas Mulligan over denied loan to buy TCMC.302
1966SpringMidas Mulligan shuts down his bank and disappears.301
1966 Jim and Dagny's father dies. Jim becomes president of Taggart Transcontinental.56
1966 The Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors authorizes construction of the San Sebastián Line.57
1966 Two members of the Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors resign, as does the Vice-President in Charge of Operation.59
1966 Taggart Transcontinental's chief engineer resigns.157
1966 Work begins at the San Sebastián Mines.89
1966 Orren Boyle starts Associated Steel using a government loan for most of the capital.51-52
1966FallJudge Narragansett retires.303
1967 William Hastings dies.308
1968 Eric Starnes commits suicide.305
1968 Dr. Hendricks retires.661
1968 Simon Pritchett becomes head of the philosophy department at Patrick Henry University.129
1969 Taggart Transcontinental orders Diesels from United Locomotive Works.66
1969 Dagny threatens to resign unless she is made Vice President in Charge of Operation for Taggart Transcontinental. The company's Board gives her the position.59-60
1969-70 Lee Hunsacker's Amalgamated Service, Inc. bankrupts the Twentieth Century Motor Company. In turn this bankrupts Eugene Lawson's Community National Bank in Madison, Wisconsin. Mayor Bascom of Rome, Wisconsin buys the remains of Twentieth Century, and sells them to Mark Yonts' People's Mortgage Company.281-282
1970AugustTaggart Transcontinental orders rail from Orren Boyle's Associated Steel.16
1970FallMark Yonts of The People's Mortgage Company sells the remains of the Twentieth Century Motor Company to investors and also uses it as collateral on a loan.278
1970FallDagny completes the San Sebastián Line.60
1971January 1 The San Sebastián Line opens.60, 120
1971September 2The novel begins.11
1971SeptemberDick McNamara, a contractor for Taggart Transcontinental, retires.67
1971OctoberThe National Alliance of Railroads passes the "Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule." Dan Conway decides to retire.76, 78
1971December 9The US Coast Guard tries (but fails) to capture Ragnar Danneskjöld after he seizes a ship bound for the People's State of France. The newspapers do not print the news.147-148
1971December 10Hank and Lillian Rearden host a party for their wedding anniversary.41, 124
1972JanuaryCherryl Brooks arrives in New York via a Taggart Transcontinental train.249
1972SpringThe Utah Institute of Technology closes.340
1972July 22The John Galt Line opens.220
1972July 25The Phoenix-Durango Railroad closes.217, 220
1972September 2Hank and Dagny decide take a few weeks of vacation together, starting the following Monday.265
1972NovemberWesley Mouch issues directives restricting manufacturing and transportation, and imposing a special tax on Colorado businesses.317, 333
1972NovemberEllis Wyatt destroys his oil fields and vanishes. A nationwide oil shortage follows.319, 325
1973MayThe State Science Institute publishes Why Do You Think You Think? by Floyd Ferris.321-323
1973September 2James Taggart marries Cherryl Brooks.364
1973September 3The stock of d'Anconia Copper crashes.403
1973September 3Lillian Rearden discovers her husband is having an affair.404
1973DecemberRagnar Danneskjöld begins sinking ships loaded with d'Anconia copper.465
1974February 15The Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors votes to close the Rio Norte Line (a.k.a. the John Galt Line).470, 480
1974March 31The Rio Norte/John Galt Line closes.480
1974May 1Directive #10-289 goes into effect.515
1974May 22Quentin Daniels sends his letter of resignation to Dagny Taggart.601-602
1974May 28The Taggart Tunnel is destroyed.568, 580
1974May 28Kip Chalmers is scheduled to speak at an evening rally in San Francisco. 548-549
1974May 31Dagny's plane crashes in Galt's Gulch.650
1974June 29Dagny leaves Galt's Gulch.746, 756
1974June 29Project X is demonstrated.763-765
1974August 5Cherryl Taggart commits suicide.822, 843
1974September 2The People's State of Chile nationalizes d'Anconia Copper.804, 852
1974November 4Rearden goes on strike after his mills are attacked.923-927
1974November 22John Galt delivers his speech.936
1975SpringThe novel ends.1074
2166 Contracts guaranteeing property rights for the Taggart Transcontinental's San Sebastián Line and d'Anconia Copper's San Sebastián Mines will expire.57

Notes

I want to acknowledge the efforts of Hans Schantz, whose earlier work in developing an Atlas Shrugged timeline inspired this one. His was offline for some years, but he has now posted an updated version of his timeline. Note that because he makes some different assumptions (most significantly basing his timeline around different "start date" for the novel), so his specific dates will be different, but the overall timing is similar.

Page references are taken from The Objectivism Research CD-ROM, which includes the text of Atlas Shrugged along with other works by Rand.

The following specific citations were used to build the chronology:

89-90 - "Sebastián d'Anconia, his ancestor, had left Spain many centuries ago, at a time when Spain was the most powerful country on earth [...] and he sailed to a new world." The exact time period is not specified, but c. 1600 would be appropriate on the assumption that the past of Atlas Shrugged is generally similar to that of the real world, in this case specifically in regard to the time period "when Spain was the most powerful country on earth."

90 - "Fifteen years after he left Spain, Sebastián d'Anconia sent for the girl he loved; she had waited for him."

62 - "Nathaniel Taggart had been a penniless adventurer who had come from somewhere in New England and built a railroad across a continent, in the days of the first steel rails." Again using the assumption of historical similarity between the real world and the novel's world, the first steel rails were in 1857, so c. 1860 seems appropriate for Nat Taggart's venture. In the real world, the first transcontinental railroad wasn't completed until 1869, but with the introduction of the Taggart family we are moving away from reality and into the world of the novel, so some divergence at this point is acceptable.

156 - "The bridge, twelve hundred feet of steel across the black gap, was built in the days of Nat Taggart's son." Again the exact date is unspecified, so I determined a reasonable date based on interpolating this event between Nat Taggart's original construction of the railroad and the later building of the Colorado tunnel by his grandson.

581 - "Then have them get for me out of the files the old maps of our road as it was before Nat Taggart's grandson built the tunnel." Placing this event, along with the prior event of Nat Taggart's son building the bridge, are two of the more difficult questions of Atlas Shrugged chronology. Dagny is speaking in the passage quoted, and presumably she would not refer to her own father or grandfather as "Nat Taggart's grandson." Based on all the above, I developed some reasonable estimates for the Taggart family timeline:

Using these dates, Nat Taggart would have built his railroad around the age of 40, his son and grandson would have worked on their projects during their late 30s, and each generation would have been in their 20s when their children were born. "Nat Taggart's grandson" would be Dagny's great-grandfather (or perhaps her great-grandfather's brother or cousin), but not someone she would have known personally.

43 - "He was fifty-three years old." With this and all other birth dates, the absence of specific birthday information in the text means these dates could slip by a year.

176 -- "He did not look like a man in his early fifties [...]." Because Stadler's age is never given precisely, the date for his birth and the dates for other early activities in his life (his treatise on cosmic rays, etc.) cannot be pinned down exactly. Once his story intersects with other characters, the timeline becomes more precise.

69-70 -- "He was forty-three years old and it was the opening night of Phaëthon, an opera he had written at the age of twenty-four. [...] The opera had been performed then, nineteen years ago, and had closed after one performance [...] On the night when the opera was presented again, nineteen years later, the last sounds of the music crashed into the sounds of the greatest ovation the opera house had ever heard. [...] It was eight years ago; no one had seen him since."

78 -- "Dan Conway was approaching fifty." As with Robert Stadler, the absence of a precise age leaves some uncertainty as to the birth year in this case.

34 -- "His face was cut by prominent cheekbones and by a few sharp lines; they were not the lines of age, he had always had them; this had made him look old at twenty, and young now, at forty-five."

Additional keywords: Ann Rand, Anne Rand, Ayn Rad, Ayn Ran, Any Rand, Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand, Alas Shrugged, Atlas Shugged, Atlas Shruged


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