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Primary Documents in American History

Pacific Railway Act

New Map of the Union Pacific Railway
New map of the Union Pacific Railway, the short, quick and safe line to all points west.
Rand McNally and Company,
1883.
Geography and Map Division.

The Pacific Railway Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1862. This act provided Federal government support for the building of the first transcontinental railroad, which was completed on May 10, 1869.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

American Memory Historical Collections

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

John A. Dix, President of the Union Pacific, requested that Lincoln send a letter to be read at a ground-breaking ceremony to be held in Omaha, Nebraska on December 2, 1863. John Hay, Lincoln's private secretary, replied to Dix's request by explaining that a bout with varioloid (a mild form of smallpox) prevented Lincoln from sending a letter to be read at the ceremony.

Search on the term "railroad" in this collection to read more about Lincoln and the railroads.

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

The Senate passed the Pacific Railway Act on June, 20, 1862, by a vote of 35 to 5. The House of Representatives passed this act on June 24, 1862, by a vote of 104 to 21.

Search in the 37th Congress using the phrase "Pacific railroad" to find additional Congressional documents on the Pacific Railway Act.

The Chinese in California, 1850-1925

An illustration in Harper's Weekly shows European and Asian laborers working on the last mile of the Pacific Railroad.

Search this collection using the word "railroad" to locate additional images of Chinese laborers working on the railroads in the American West.

The Nineteenth Century in Print

This collection contains a number of articles and books that discuss the transcontinental railroad. For example, an article from 1867 published in The Galaxy examines the construction of the transcontinental railroad, while a Scribner's Magazine article from 1892 looks back at the history of the transcontinental railroad. Search this collection using the words "Pacific railroad" or "Union Pacific" to find additional articles and books.

The Railroad Maps, 1828-1900

Includes progress report surveys for individual lines, official government surveys, promotional maps, maps showing land grants and rights-of-way, and route guides published by commercial firms. Try searching this collection using the words "Union Pacific" or "Central Pacific" or "Railroads West (U.S.)". This collection also contains an essay entitled "History of Railroads and Maps," which includes a section on the building of the transcontinental railroad.

Exhibitions

Rivers, Edens, Empire - Lewis & Clark and the Revealing of America

This exhibition contains maps, images and documents on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The After Lewis & Clark section of this exhibition includes documents and maps related to the transcontinental railroad.

Today in History

May 10, 1869

Officials and workers of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railways met on Promontory Summit, in Utah Territory to drive in the Golden Spike on May 10, 1869. This spike symbolized completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

American Experience: Transcontinental Railroad, PBS

Congress and the American West: The Transcontinental Railroad, National Archives and Records Administration

Driving the Last Spike, Museum of the City of San Francisco

Lesson Plan: The Transcontinental Railroad, PBS

Our Documents, Pacific Railroad Act, National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Ambrose, Stephen E. Nothing Like it in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental railroad, 1863-1869. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2000. [Catalog Record]

Bain, David Haward. Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad. New York: Viking, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Best, Gerald M. Iron Horses to Promontory. San Marino, Calif.: Golden West Books, 1969. [Catalog Record]

Haney, Lewis H. A Congressional History of Railways in the United States. New York: A.M. Kelley, 1968. [Catalog Record]

Mayer, Lynne Rhodes. Makin' Tracks: The Saga of the Transcontinental Railroad. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1995. [Catalog Record]

Williams, John Hoyt. A Great and Shining Road: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Barter, James. Building the Transcontinental Railroad. San Diego, Calif.: Lucent Books, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Blashfield, Jean F. The Transcontinental Railroad. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Dolan, Edward F. The Transcontinental Railroad. New York: Benchmark Books, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Evans, Clark J. The Central Pacific Railroad. New York: Children's Press, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Rach, Julie. The Transcontinental Railroad. Broomall, Pa.: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Stein, R. Conrad. The Transcontinental Railroad in American History. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1997. [Catalog Record]

Uschan, Michael V. The Transcontinental Railroad. Milwaukee, Wisc.: World Almanac, 2003. [Catalog Record]

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  July 30, 2010
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