History of Railroads and Maps

  • The Beginnings of American Railroads and Mapping

    Railways were introduced in England in the seventeenth century as a way to reduce friction in moving heavily loaded wheeled vehicles. The first North American "gravity road," as it was called, was erected in 1764 for military purposes at the Niagara portage in Lewiston, New York. The builder was Capt. John Montressor, a British engineer known to students of historical cartography as a mapmaker.

  • The Transcontinental Railroad

    The possibility of railroads connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts was discussed in the Congress even before the treaty with England which settled the question of the Oregon boundary in 1846.[8] Chief promoter of a transcontinental railroad was Asa Whitney, a New York merchant active in the China trade who was obsessed with the idea of a railroad to the Pacific. In January 1845 ...

  • Mapmaking and Printing

    Technological advances in papermaking and printing which permitted quick and inexpensive reproduction of maps greatly benefited railroad cartography. Before the introduction of these new techniques early in the nineteenth century, maps were laboriously engraved, in reverse, usually on copper plates, and printed on hand presses. Although the results were excellent, this slow and costly process could not keep pace with the demand for railroad ...

  • The Growth of Mapping

    The wealth of data derived from the Pacific surveys stimulated cartographic activities. The data used in compiling twenty-two large individual maps published with the thirteen handsomely illustrated volumes of the Pacific Railroad Surveys,[15]for example, was the basic source material for Lt. Gouverneur Kemble Warren's "Map of the Territory of the United States from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean." With Warren's map the ...

  • Land Grants

    The second half of the nineteenth century was the era of railroad land grants. Between 1850 and 1872 extensive cessions of public lands were made to states and to railroad companies to promote railroad construction.[18] Usually the companies received from the federal government, in twenty- or fifty-mile strips, alternate sections of public land for each mile of track that was built. Responsibility for surveying ...

  • Map Publishing Firms

    Perhaps 30 percent of the commercially produced railroad maps were published by the New York City publishing house established by Joseph Hutchins Colton in 1831. This firm was known the world over for the quality, quantity, and variety of its publications, including maps, atlases, and school geographies.[19] Henry Varnum Poor, in the introduction to his History of the Railroads and Canals of the United ...

  • Early Twentieth Century

    Not all the commercial mapping ventures of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries represented large and diversified operations. Several interesting manuscript maps of the mid-western states portray routes of the "Railway Mail Service" and locate working post offices. These maps were designed by an enterprising Chicago railway mail clerk, Frank H. Galbraith in 1897.