Skip to main content

Collection Railroad Maps, 1828 to 1900

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.

The maps were devised to serve as memory aids for employees of the Railway Mail Service and the U.S. Post Office Department in quickly locating counties, routes, and post offices in the several states. The maps were not published but were rented, on a fee basis, to practicing or prospective postal workers.

Railroad map production continued at a strong pace into the early twentieth century, until expansion of the network was completed. It declined, slowly, after the peak of railroad building. The largest decline was in individual promotional maps and surveys as lines became abandoned or consolidated. General railroad maps, depicting continental and national areas and using the basic style developed in the previous century, continued to be popular until the beginning of World War II.

Today, separately published maps of individual consolidated systems and small-scale maps printed in timetables and atlases, such as Rand McNally's Handy Railroad Atlas of the United States (Chicago, at least 11 editions from 1937-1980), continue to reflect the influence of mapping and printing styles set in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This introduction was adapted from Andrew M. Modelski, Railroad Maps of North America: The First Hundred Years (Washington: Library of Congress, 1984), pp. ix-xxi, which represented a revision of the "Introduction"to Railroad Maps of the United States, compiled by Andrew M. Modelski (Washington: Library of Congress, 1975), pp. 1-14.

 Back to top