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Boston and Albany Railroad survey profiles from Boston to New York State line at Canaan

American Railroad Maps, 1828-1876

by: Gerald A. Danzer with James R. Akerman

Nineteenth-century railroad maps occupy a pivotal, transformative place in the history of North American transportation and travel cartography, not unlike the railroads they mapped. Railroads enjoyed an outsized place in the history and mythology of Western expansion during the nineteenth century. In the United States the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, for example, is even today viewed as an event that not only brought two coasts closer to each other, but which also bound together a nation broken by a destructive civil war, and pointed its fractured people towards a future of union, progress, and prosperity. Samuel Bowles journeyed across the continent in 1865 to prepare a guide for those who would follow the transcontinental route. Significantly, Bowles’ The Pacific Railroad—Open: How to Go. What to See (Boston, 1869) described the completion of the transcontinental route in cartographic terms, as “the unrolling of a new map…a revelation of new empire, the creation of a new civilization.” Bowles’ imaginary map embodied a vision of unity and progress, but in reality, railroad maps of many varieties, while echoing these major themes, also served more mundane purposes. Indeed, the specific goals of these utilitarian devices created a new cartography.

All maps, of course, are rhetorical in nature, selecting, portraying, centering, and phrasing in a way to achieve their purposes. But few have done so in a more striking way than nineteenth-century American railroad maps. A decade after Bowles announced the prospect of epic journeys from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Rand McNally Company, a newcomer to map publishing, looked at railroad cartography in a different light. A pamphlet published in 1879 by this Chicago printing firm specializing in on railroad work, explained how railroad officials realized the importance of map design in structuring a map to achieve their purposes. An experienced draughtsman played a key role in railroad cartography because “the ‘designing’ of a good map involves the exercise of tact and ingenuity” in addition to the considerable skills that went into the drawing of any map. “The majority of railroad maps have some ‘peculiar design’ hidden under the careful pencil of the draughtsman.…The various friendly interests must be shown to best advantage, and the rival interests disposed of in a manner that ‘no fellow can find out’” (quoted in Modelski, Railroad Maps of North America, xix; see Maps 5, 9, and 10). Railroad mapping, in other words, often involved manipulating geography for commercial advantage.

On the other hand, certain types of railroad maps often demanded high levels of accuracy and consistency. The “blueprints” which guided the construction of a railroad landscape drawn by engineers and surveyors demonstrate close attention to topography and precise measurement. The operation of any railroad also depended on trustworthy maps. In 1854 the Board of Directors of the Sacket’s Harbor and Saratoga Rail Road, then under construction, questioned whether the railroad grades shown on the engineering maps they had commissioned (see Map 1 for a similar example) were too steep to economically haul freight in a competitive market. The maps, in the words of the committee, raised the question “if the road when done would be good for nothing?” (Report of the Committee to Investigate the Affairs of the Company, 1854). Given the capital resources at risk, these types of railroad maps deserve a high level of confidence as guides to past geographies. We thus have two ideal types of railroad maps, those willfully distorted contrasted with those made to be as accurate as possible. But there are many stations between these two terminals.

As documents of the place of movement in American history and culture, railroad maps have at least three major strengths. First, and most straightforwardly, they assist us in reconstructing past geographies. Nineteenth-century examples are superb records of the evolution and growth of the nation’s transportation network during a period of rapid expansion. At the smallest map scales, some (Maps 2, 5, 7, and 9) provide an excellent overview of the projected and actual growth of the national rail network, its relationship to other forms of transportation, and to economic and political history. At larger scales (Maps 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8) we gain a more intimate sense of their influence upon local and regional landscapes and events. Second, as we have seen, they are remarkable windows into the rhetorical nature and instrumental nature of maps, and by extension into the commercial and economic history of American railroads. Third, and more broadly, they illustrate the many roles that transportation and cartography played in the spatial transformations of American society that followed from the emergence of the United States as a transcontinental nation with an industrial economy. A modern reader of nineteenth-century railroad maps needs only to put on the shoes, so to speak, of those people who conceived, built, financed, operated, rode, used, administered, regulated, or benefited by the trains to see how much maps were part of this story.

Four keys are required to unlock the secrets of these old documents. First, the reader needs to place the document at hand into the proper category. This is not always easy, because any map might be used in a variety of ways. But start with the apparent intent: “Why was this map made?” The second key relates the map under consideration to the land itself. Here other maps, such as topographic maps, should be consulted to enrich our understanding of the geography behind the railroad map. Pictures, drawings, diagrams, sketches and the like are also useful in this respect. Indeed, a site visit, if possible, might also bring rich rewards. Third, other documents will need to be consulted to construct a historical context for the map. Here secondary sources will be helpful and dry statistics should not be overlooked. A map sometimes brings these dry bones to life. Indeed, by combining data and observations drawn from the map itself, and combining it with other information, a researcher is on the way to integrating the cartography into the general narrative. Finally, the fourth key unlocks the door by bringing insights garnered from the history of cartography to bear on the map. These perspectives remind the reader of the nature of maps, their advantages and limitations, their factual appearance and yet highly rhetorical structure, their selective nature and inevitable distortions, indeed, how purpose, intent, and argument shape their context and appearance.

The history of American railroad mapping is complex, and it may be useful to organize our appreciation of it through the suggestion of a general chronology (see the railroad timeline) and a typology.

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Carte des États-unis d'Amérique, 1836


The earliest American railroad maps, made roughly from the late 1820s to the early 1850s, illustrate early efforts to finance and construct railroads. Most were of limited geographical extent. These early routes were concentrated in the Atlantic states, though construction of outliers beyond the Appalachians, such as the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Chesterton Rail Road, accelerated in the 1840s. General maps from this period (Map 2) show that railroads competed with and were often conceived as connections to canals, waterways, and turnpikes. Perhaps of greatest interest to the researcher are the more detailed maps made by the surveyors of these early rail routes (Map 1). These detail the obstacles that terrain and finance presented to advocates of this new technology. General maps of the national transportation system made as accompaniments to guides for travelers and migrants were fairly common by the 1840s, and interest in rail travel was sufficiently well developed in the eastern states to support the publication of detailed maps and guides to specific routes (Map 3).

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Connecticut River Bridge at Springfield, Massachusetts


The 1850s were a pivotal period in American railroad and railroad map history. In the eastern states and in much of the Midwest the rail network expanded rapidly and had begun to shoulder aside the dependence of travelers and many shippers on canals and waterways (Map 7). The acquisition of the Oregon Country and former Mexican lands from Texas to California by the late 1840s pushed the federal government to promote the extension of the national railroad network into the Great Plains and thence to the Pacific. Congress acted decisively in two ways. First, it established the practice (which would continue into the early 1880s) of granting fledgling railroad companies large tracts of federal land, the sale of which would support railroad construction and promote the settlement and development of the regions the railroads served (Map 4). Second, Congress authorized a massive exploration of the Trans-Mississippi West by the War Department to determine the best possible routes for a transcontinental railroad. These Pacific Railroad Surveys (1853-55) (Maps 5-6) mark the beginning of a great era of systematic scientific exploration of the West, stalled, if only temporarily, by the Civil War. These surveys set the stage for the actual construction of several transcontinental routes in the 1860s-1880s, a period of great vigor in railroad expansion. We find the first examples in this decade of railroad maps designed specifically to promote the activities of and points-of-view of specific railroads and regional interests (Maps 4-5), a process that would accelerate in the decades after the Civil War.

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Railroad and township map of the Chicago region

Continental and Market Expansion

The decade immediately following the Civil War saw the realization and extension of the ambitious plans made before the war. The first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, and additional transcontinental routes were underway by the centennial year of 1876. Some rail investment went to the reconstruction of southern railroads destroyed and disrupted by war (Map 8), but the greatest growth took place on in the Trans-Mississippi West. Fueled by the stimulus of the federal land grants, railroads were now playing a major role in the migration to and settlement of the Great Plains (Map 9), and the mountains and Pacific coast beyond. Speculation, fierce competition, the high costs of rail construction among these railroads resulted in several spectacular financial failures among railroad companies, notably the bankruptcy of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1873, but other railroads, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad (Map 10), thrived by absorbing or working cooperatively with their rivals. Cartographically, this was a period of great experimentation and innovation in the design and use of maps in railroad advertising and promotion (Maps 9-10). These innovations were spearheaded by new publishers specializing in the field such as Rand McNally.

Another way of thinking about railroad cartography is to arrange the entire corpus of such materials into categories according to their purpose. In developing such a classification morphology naturally emerges because purpose directly influences the structure, form, and format of the maps. We might posit five broad categories of maps: (1) Initial maps, those used before a railroad is put into operation; (2) Working maps used to keep the trains running; (3) Promotional maps published to bring a particular railroad to the attention of the general public; (4) Travelers’ maps produced by commercial publishers that treated all railroads equally; and (5) Booster maps produced by states, cities, and towns in the railroad age which promoted the interests of the sponsoring organization. Most railroad maps would fit into one of these categories, but a stubborn minority might resist easy pigeonholing: News maps or maps of abandoned routes, for example. And then there are general maps of many types produced during the railroad age which used the tracks to give shape to the American landscape on a national, regional, state, and local level.

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Map of the proposed northern route for a railroad to the Pacific

Initial Maps

All railroads started with an idea, and as such owe their conception to a mental map. To convey the idea to others, however, paper came into play. At first it might have been a sketch on the back of an envelope but as the proposal took shape and the project attracted some support, a civil engineer or a surveyor was often hired to head a team to compile an accurate survey. The data gathered by these efforts usually appeared in a printed report, often summarized by a map (Map 1). Profiles illustrating the grade and elevation of the route normally accompanied the map. Employing a large enough scale to portray necessary details, the mapmaker, often the engineer in charge of the effort, focused on the right-of-way, excluding most details beyond the immediate vicinity of the proposed route. Sometimes several alternative routes were presented to compare costs involved in initial construction versus the operating expenditures expected down the road. More bridges, for example, might reduce grades and straighten routes, but they were expensive to erect.

The initial survey provided only a general idea for a route. The actual process of construction required more detailed plans. Construction plans on paper seldom survived the rough use in the field and the continual process of revision, however. Although multiple copies might have been made at the time, they were usually not printed because they were so large and unwieldy. The usually smaller initial surveys were better suited than construction documents to attract investors or to inform the general public about the route and how it fitted into the territory. Sometimes they were hand colored and transformed into attractive presentation copies. Copies could also be folded and tipped into a prospectus or an annual report and hence enjoyed a greatly enhanced chance of survival.

Thus the initial survey maps often saw double duty, addressing the engineering concerns for which they were made, but also persuading investors to take up stock in the company. Later, companies with some resources at hand would produce more elaborate prospectus maps, often to solicit financial support from the towns located along the right-of-way. These maps usually covered much more territory on each side of the route, perhaps suggesting branch lines or even an alternative route if enough financial assistance was forthcoming from towns originally left off the main line. Once a railroad was built and in operation, however, financial interests sought maps from independent sources such as Henry Varnum Poor (Map 7). Prospectus maps often addressed the general public as well, especially when the prospective railroad hoped to sell stock or bonds to cities and towns along the way. Connecting the trackage with a potentially supportive community became an essential purpose of these maps.

Two additional types of initial survey maps should be noted, both of which are most clearly noted in the early proposals for a transcontinental railroad. Individual promoters saw railroads as a means of advancing national power and economic progress. One type of survey map projected individual railroads developing into a national system, embodying the vision of a contemporary school of political economy. (Map 2). Edwin F. Johnson’s propagandistic “Map of the Proposed Northern Route” for the transcontinental railroad in 1853 (Map 5) would fall into this category.

The maps produced by the various Pacific Railroad Surveys (Map 6) constitute a second special type of initial map. Conceived on a much broader canvas than the typical railroad survey, these efforts, following four wide pathways from the Mississippi Valley to the Pacific Ocean, gathered data on the history, botany, zoology, geology, ethnography, and paleontology of the Great West, and produced maps more akin to those published by scientific expeditions than engineering surveys. Funded by the US Government, these surveys underscored the developmental nature of much of the railroad building in the United States, especially on the Western routes. These tracks did not tap existing economic resources but provided a means to create them. In a real sense, the Pacific Railroad Surveys penetrated distant lands and opened up new visions of what America was and what it could become.

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Explorations and surveys for a rail road route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean route near the 35th parallel. Map no. 1, From Fort...

Working Maps for Internal Use

Once the tracks were set in place and the trains started running, a variety of maps facilitated their operation. Each task required a special type of map. Depot agents selling tickets needed a picture of the entire line and its various connections. Trackage maintenance supervisors, on the other hand, needed detailed, large-scale maps to plan their work. Railroad archives are sometimes crowded with plans, blueprints, diagrams, and the like for specific structures such as stations, bridges, and freight-houses. These were kept in the main office in case they would be needed at a later date.

Large-scale track charts, usually in manuscript form, were often bound into large trackage atlases. Copies sent to the main office may not have been used very often and were soon out of date. Working documents in the field, however, seldom survived because they were literally worn out by continual revision and constant use. When they do survive, these detailed maps are very useful in reconstructing railroad corridors of the past, especially as they incorporate notes and images on the surrounding landscape (Map 8).

All railroads were major landowners, and most had special land departments in charge of buying additional parcels, selling others, and generally looking after the company’s real estate. These offices depended on surveys, subdivisions, boundary maps, and plats of railroad and adjacent properties of various types. Legal necessities dictated carefully maintained files of these documents, occasionally augmented by specially created display maps if a legal dispute should lead to court.

From the start, railroad companies published maps addressed primarily to stockholders, prospective purchasers of the company’s bonds, and public officials who might be in a position to advance the interests of this particular railroad. Many of these maps took up large sheets to be displayed as wall maps or folded into annual reports. Presentation copies were often hand colored and pasted onto canvas to hang on rollers, or folded within ornate covers. These maps almost always showed the entire route over which the particular company operated trains and often placed the company’s trackage into a wide geographical context indicating connecting routes. Eventually, travelers could expect to find this type of a wall map exhibited in all passenger depots.

These system maps had cousins in the legal files in the main offices of a railroad company. As a railroad built branch lines, purchased other railroads, or secured operating rights over other lines, maps became a convenient way of visualizing these legalities. Although prosaic in appearance, these maps clarified who owned which segments of the system, how far operating rights extended, or which parts of the railroad’s real estate secured loans and mortgages. In addition, managers sometimes required special maps such as those made in response to natural disasters such as floods, or traffic flow maps made to help plan future improvements.

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Map of the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad track leading to Jackson, Mississippi

Promotional Maps

Railroads in the United States were almost always private concerns, conceived, financed, built, and operated by joint-stock companies. Their success depended on attracting patronage from the general public. It is not surprising, therefore, that advertising to encourage use of particular routes by passengers and shippers appeared at an early date, especially in newspapers. Because the earliest trains ran between a limited number of places, notices placed in each newspaper along the way would reach almost the entire supporting public. Posters, broadsides, and leaflets also reached out to this audience, often employing graphic embellishments to attract attention.

Maps, however, did not seem to fit into these early railroad promotional materials for several reasons. First, there was little need for a map showing the route from Boston to Lowell, for example, only twenty-six miles away. Maps were also costly to produce and took up expensive space, especially in newspapers where one paid by the line. Moreover, if one wanted to use an illustration to attract attention, drawings of locomotives puffing smoke and pulling cars would be better than a map.

Maps did not usually appear on company-sponsored publications until the 1850s and 1860s. The emergence of maps to promote and facilitate travel by rail came first as supplemental information on travel guides that centered their attention on canals, steamboat routes, and turnpikes. The 1834 “Map of the Railroads and Canals, Finished, Unfinished, and in Contemplation in the United States” produced by William Morris for the Railroad Journal is a case in point. One of the earliest comprehensive transportation maps of the nation, it emphasized canals. Eleven profiles at the edges of the map show the elevations of canals and only three feature railroads, usually as an extension of a canal. There is no map on the earliest surviving separately published piece of American railroad advertising, also published in 1834, a handbill promoting New York’s Mohawk & Hudson Railroad, a short line providing passengers more direct access from Albany to the Erie Canal. But as the length of the railroad lines increased and as branch lines and connecting routes multiplied, maps, especially simple ones, became useful features on advertisements. Timetables became necessary as railroads increased the frequency of their daily operations. As railroads expanded their destinations or points of connection, maps became desirable timetable supplements.

With the growth of America’s railroad network, the increasing wealth of the railroad companies, and the stimulus of heightened competition, railroad maps became more elaborate. Advances in printing press design and paper manufacturing were accompanied by the introduction of lithography, wax engraving, and knowledge of ways to shape maps to the advantage of particular routes. Technological advances, acuity in designing maps for advertising purposes, and consumer needs for informative guides to rail travel all came together in the 1860s to create a revolution in the industry’s advertising. The result was the railroad map as we have come to know it. These often enthusiastic expressions of nationalism, American progress, and prosperity became classic Americana, trophies for map collectors and scholars, and loaded with imagery and data for historians and historical geographers. Rand McNally in Chicago perfected the type, but other firms around the country also supplied the market.

In 1874 the Chicago firm produced its first railroad promotion map on a grand scale for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway (CM&StP). The 13½ x 17½ inch sheet was folded so that the verso contained ten sections, six of which were devoted to the tabular timetables which had become standard railroad fare. One panel advertised the ease of connections to New York and points east, highlighting the convenience of using one of the company’s own “superior palace sleeping cars” which would switch lines in Chicago so passengers from the East would have no need to change trains on their way to the inviting scenery pictured on the two cover panels: Views of the Wisconsin Dells. The remaining panel featured a map of the “Business District of Chicago,” pointing out the various railroad terminals in the city for passengers wanting to make other connections. The front side of Rand McNally’s sheet featured a colorful map of the CM&StP and its connecting routes, with the company’s tracks marked by bold, dark lines. All the stations are labeled on the map, placed at an angle with the names repeated in alphabetical order in columns flanking the map.

The classic Rand McNally production of this era might be the “General Map of the Pennsylvania Railroad,” which was tipped into a pamphlet given away at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (Map 9). It pictures the United States railroad system in its entirety with an inset world map centered on the Los Angeles meridian.

A special type of promotional map issued by land-grant railroads accompanied the companies’ efforts to sell lands to farmers and ranchers. Often called “settlers’ maps,” these resembled time-tables in that one side would feature an attractive state or regional map showing the location of the real estate while the panels on the verso would describe and picture the land in very favorable terms. In place of time tables, a detailed text provided specific directions on how to reach the area, select a farm, purchase the land, and get started in a new location (Map 10).

The Illinois Central, the nation’s first major land-grant railroad, pioneered in developing settlers’ maps of various types (Map 4). Many of these were published in foreign languages for distribution overseas or in ethnic neighborhoods in America cities. Railroads without land grants such as the older eastern companies also sought to attract factories and businesses to their service areas, setting up development offices to promote economic expansion which would benefit the lines down the road. Maps showing available sites for manufacturing facilities or lots for sale in business districts also often appeared under railroad sponsorship.

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General map of the Pennsylvania Railroad and its connections

Commercial Maps for Public Affairs and Travelers’ Aids

Commercial publishers issued “railroad maps” before individual companies used cartography to reach the general public. Morris’s 1834 “Map of the Railroads and Canals…in the United States” might be the patriarch of this type of map, but it probably served more in the area of public affairs than aiding travelers, alerting the nation to the emergence and availability of a nascent transportation system rather than helping travelers get from one place to another. General guides for travelers published by New York- and Philadelphia-based publishers such as H. S. Tanner, Samuel Augustus Mitchell, John Disturnell, and J.G. Colton included similar maps of the transportation system from the late 1830s. Some of the various railroad guides (collections of timetables for various routes) that appeared around 1840 began to include maps of individual lines as well as a comprehensive national map when the competition between these publications intensified in the 1850s.

After the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, a map publisher’s catalogue was not considered complete without an entry for a large-size national railroad map. Gaylord Watson published several such items in New York in the 1870s, the most elaborate of which was the huge (thirty-five by fifty-seven inches) hand-colored “Centennial American Republic and Railroad Map of the United States” (1875), an expensive wall decoration similar to the one the Pennsylvania Railroad was giving away for free (Map 9). Watson’s sheet included the complete text of the Declaration of Independence, a view of the national capitol, and a portrait of George Washington, among other national symbols, while the Pennsylvania Railroad made a corresponding point by simply including a world map as an inset.

Passengers had been served by a variety of local compilations of timetables since the 1840s but these were dwarfed by the Travellers Official Railway Guide, which began its long publishing career in New York in 1868. This guide aimed to be national in scope and included many maps. Soon afterward Rand, McNally entered the field, ensuring that maps would become a regular feature in these comprehensive railroad guides, eventually appearing alongside almost every timetable, and pushing the size of these volumes to over a thousand pages.

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Railroad lands in central and southwestern Kansas on eleven years' credit : the government grant of 3,000,000 acres to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa...

Booster Maps

Because the United States was so large and its railroads so numerous, national railroad maps had only limited value to prospective passengers. More typically, commercial railroad maps focused on one region, a particular state, or even a particular vacation spot such as Niagara Falls. Here the field was soon dominated by free booster maps given away to prospective visitors or settlers by particular cities, states, and attractions. Such maps tended to emphasize the accessibility by rail and centrality of the sponsoring institution or destination, even when these locations were geographically marginal. Edward D. Mansfield’s pamphlet, Exposition of the Natural Position of Mackinaw City (1857), included an early example, a large foldout “Map illustrating the Canada and Northern Pacific and Other Proposed Railroads” produced by John Disturnell in New York. Mansfield assured his readers that Mackinaw City was “the most reliable point for investment and settlement now available in the West or North.” Although a few railroad maps of this type appeared before 1876, the golden age of the travel brochure and the booster pamphlet accompanied by one or more railroad maps, lay ahead, reaching into the twentieth century.

When telling the story of the United States between 1828 and 1876, railroads take the center stage. As Michel Chevalier toured the United States in 1834 he marveled at the prospect of a nation crisscrossed by railroads. Everywhere he traveled Americans talked about railroads. “The benefits of the invention are so palpable to their practical good sense that they endeavor to make an application of it everywhere and to everything, rightly or wrongly,” he told his countrymen in France. He even produced a map to bolster his argument that the Americans were constructing a national railroad system (Map 2), something he wanted France to emulate.

Near the end of our period, George H. Daniels issued a prospectus for a new railroad, complete with an initial map. To put the weight of recent history behind The Chicago & Pacific Railroad (1873), Daniels quoted Schuyler Colfax, the recent Vice-President of the United States: “All experience in this rapidly-growing country has proven that the locomotive is not only the civilizer, but the developer of our States and Territories,” the Indiana politician concluded. As the railroads invite immigration, he continued, “villages and cities spring up, agriculture and mechanic arts thrive, water-power is utilized, manufactures are established, resources are developed, business is literally created,” and, we might add, one can see it all on the maps, if one has eyes to see. One map will not do. Every railroad has its own history and its own cartographic record. Each line must be seen as part of a larger national transportation system. In the end, as the Pennsylvania Railroad realized in 1876, one even needed a world map to tell the whole story.

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Boston and Albany Railroad survey profiles from Boston to New York State line at Canaan

Further Reading

Any study of American railroads is burdened by an immense storehouse of primary source material found in the archives of individual companies. These often include records of other lines taken over by the major trunk lines. Thus a document from a small entity such as the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Rail Road (NOJ&GNRR: Map 8) is found in the Illinois Central Railroad archives in the Newberry Library. Sometimes there are detailed finding aids to guide research in these collections, but the best way to get into them is a conversation with the curator. In some cases the annual reports to stockholders, read in sequence, will also provide helpful guidance. If one wants to develop an archival context for a particular map, consulting the relevant annual reports might be a useful place to start.

Most readers, however, will not want to spend the time and energy needed for primary research and will turn to secondary sources. Once again, the literature is enormous, divided into books and articles. Again, taking the Rothas track book as an example, one would consult general histories of the Illinois Central Railroad, which eventually acquired the NOJ&GNRR. Two such studies by Stover (1955) and Frey (1988) would bring Thomas D. Clark’s 1936 book on A Pioneer Southern Railroad: From New Orleans to Cairo to your attention. This monograph tells the story of how ten smaller lines eventually were combined to create a southern route for the Illinois Central Railroad. Chapter four is devoted to the NOJ&GNRR.

Articles are another useful secondary source but they are much more difficult to find, locate, and procure by interlibrary loan. Again, a research librarian would be helpful in suggesting bibliographies and search engines based on the histories of railroads in general as well as guides to state history, business concerns, and the like. In the case of the NOJ&GNRR such as search led to “A Strategic Railroad: The New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern in the Civil War” Louisiana History, 11:2 (Spring 1973) by Lawrence F. Estaville. Our search (in World Cat) also led to a special assemblage of source materials at the University of Texas, Austin: the Natchez Trace Railroad Collection that contains a rare map of the railroad “and its connections” dated 1856. Another “find” using the same finding aid was an on-line copy of the railroad’s Annual Report, dated January 1866, available through the New Orleans Public Library.

Sometimes one gets lucky. While researching this particular map we developed a habit of looking for our New Orleans railroad in the index of any book we picked up. Wow! There it was on page 117 of the Historical Atlas of the North American Railroad (2010) by Derek Hayes, featuring a map with the very same title as the one in Texas, but assigned a later date of about 1873. So, as you continue searching, more questions present themselves and new leads to follow keep appearing. Research never ends. Its root meaning is “to search again.” See the “Going Further” section of the module on “Railroad Maps, 1876-Present” for some additional suggestions.

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Carte des États-unis d'Amérique, 1836
  • Akerman, James R, et al. 1993. Two by Two: Twenty-two Pairs of Maps from the Newberry Library Illustrating 500 Years of Western Cartographic History. Chicago: Newberry Library.

  • Board of Directors of the Sacket’s Harbor and Saratoga Rail Road. 1854. Report of the Committee to Investigate the Affairs of the Company.

  • Bowles, Samuel. 1869. The Pacific Railroad – Open: How to Go. What to See. Boston: Fields, Osgood & Co.

  • Challis, David M., and Andy Rush. 2009. “The Railways of Britain: An Unstudied Map Corpus.” In Imago Mundi, v. 61, no. 2, 186-214.

  • Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. 1956. Henry Varnum Poor: Business Editor, Analyst, and Reformer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Chevalier, Michel. 1839. Society, Manners and Politics in the United States: Being a Series of Letters on North America. Boston: Weeks, Jordan & Co.

  • Colyer, E. 1856. Map Shewing the Connections and Intersections of the New Orleans Jackson, and Great Northern Rail Road.

  • Conzen, Michael, and Diane Dillon. 2007. Mapping Manifest Destiny. Chicago: Newberry Library.

  • Cupper, Dan. 1996. The Pennsylvania Railroad: Its Place in History 1846-1996. The Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society.

  • Daniels, George H. 1873. The Chicago & Pacific Railroad. Chicago: H.B. Horton.

  • Estaville, Lawrence E., Jr. Spring 1973. “A Strategic Railroad: The New Orleans, Jackson, and Northern in the Civil War. In Louisiana History, v. 14, no. 2.

  • Frey, Robert L, ed. 1988. Encyclopaedia of American Business History and Biography: Railroads in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Facts on File.

  • Guild, William. 1847. A Chart and Description of the Boston and Worcester and Western Railroads. Boston: Bradbury & Guild.

  • Hayes, Derek. 2010. Historical Atlas of the North American Railroad. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

  • Lomazzi, Brad S. 1995. Railroad Timetables, Travel Brochures, & Posters: A History and Guide for Collectors. Spencertown, NY: Golden Hill Press.

  • Mansfield, Edward D. 1857. Exposition of the Natural Position of Mackinaw City. Cincinnati: Wrightson & Co.

  • Middleton, William D., et al, eds. 2007. Encyclopedia of North America Railroads. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

  • Modelski, Andrew M. 1984. Railroad Maps of North America: The First Hundred Years. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

  • Modelski, Andrew M. 1975. Railroad Maps of the United States: A Selective Annotated Bibliography of Original 19th-century Maps in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

  • Mohawk & Hudson Railroad. 1834. Promotional handbill.

  • Morris, William. 1834 “Map of the Railroads and Canals, Finished, Unfinished, and in Contemplation in the United States.” New York: Cammeyer & Clark.

  • Musich, Jerry. 2006. “Mapping a Transcontinental Nation, Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth Century American Rail Travel Cartography.” In Cartographies of Travel and Navigation, edited by James R. Akerman, 97-150, 316-321. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Ogilby, John. 1675. Britannia. In facsimile, 1970. Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.

  • Perris, William. 1858. A New and Complete Rail Road Map of the United States. New York.

  • Rand McNally and Company. 1874. Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co.

  • Searles, William H., et al. 1880. Field Engineering: A Handbook of the Theory and Practice of Railway Surveying, Location, and Construction. Twenty-second edition by Philip Kissam, 1949. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

  • Stover, John F. 1999. The Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads. New York: Routledge.

  • Stover, John F. 1955. History of the Illinois Central Railroad. New York: Macmillan.

  • United States. 1861. Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

  • Watson, Gaylord. 1875. Centennial American Republic and Railroad Map of the United States and of the Dominion of Canada. New York: Gaylord Watson.

  • Woodward, David. 1977. The All-American Map: Wax Engraving and Its Influence on Cartography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.