With the benefit of 150 years, today we can recognize that the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869 was of greater importance to US residents, culturally, socially and economically, from inaugurating the steamer service across the Atlantic or laying the telegraph cable for the Atlantic.
In the era of interstate highways and fast air traffic, it's hard to imagine how isolated those parts of the United States were most distant from the oceans, even in the mid-19th century. The most optimistic of our early president, Thomas Jefferson, spoke of "huge deserts without traces" in purchasing in Louisiana. Researcher Zebulon Pike compared these countries with the "sandy wasteland of Africa". Daniel Webster has declared the territory of Wyoming "not worth a cent", in addition, "the area of savage, wild beast, sand movements, vortex of dust, cactus and prairie dogs."
North America's maps as far back as 1900, three decades after the launch of a railroad linking New York with San Francisco, showed 500,000 square miles of malignantly labeled "Great American Desert", a name invented by a 75-year-old state inspector. This wilderness covered nearly one-sixth of the 45 states of the young US Republic – along with still untamed territories of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, land received in the Union only after the twentieth century passage.
Jefferson deserves recognition that the first has taken steps to open a commercial road between the eastern states and the Pacific. While in France in 1779 as a US minister in Versailles, he asked John Ledyard to conduct a survey for him, but Ledyard was not able to implement it. Over the next seven decades, a distinct line of far-sighted Americans sought to bridge the American West with the US East, and their stories were preserved in several excellent 19th-century histories.
The records of the creation of the Panama Canal and the forging of the trans-continental railway were the best sellers in the Roosevelt and Taft administrations. Enough. Unfortunately, we forgot this part of the American fairy tale. And so it was my pleasure to understand the transformative nature of the rails connecting the two coasts of the North American continent of William Francis Bailey The story of the first continental railway, (Pittsburgh: 1906), Pittsburgh Printing Company. I read a book on Kindle, taken from the Gutenberg Project. I also downloaded a copy of the book from the Internet archive so I could look at the text and "feel" the book.
This is a story full of eccentric and visionary characters, including Asu Whitney, called "Father of the Pacific Railway". He was an American trader with wide experience abroad, mainly in China. He suggested to the Congress that the United States hand over the country's 60-mile stretch of railroad tracks to the spine, from Lake Michigan to the Pacific coast. Whitney suggested that the proceeds of "colonization" (his words) be used for this country with European immigrants (who will sell land along the railway line) to pay for the traces, retaining any surplus that remained for their private wealth. Whitney was tireless, traveling from Maine to the Missouri River at the time she visited Missouri, was similar to the Nile research.
Although the Senate Public Land Committee approved Whitney's proposal in 1848, the bill proposed to "Enable Asu Whitney, his successors or assignments, to build a railroad from any point on Lake Michigan or the Mississippi River, he can thus determine, in a series as almost as far as practically possible, to some point in the Pacific Ocean, where the port was "broken" by the voice of the full Senate, mostly because it was considered, along with the $ 4,000 annual pay that Whitney sought, is simply too rich a job for Whitney.
The Senator from Missouri opposed this measure as "to give the empire a greater proportion than eight of the original states with the sixty-mile ocean front, with contractual powers and patronage over the president of the United States." It was a fair critique. Asa Whitney did not get her "empire." If Whitney had succeeded in his plan, his "heirs and ministers" would now have more American surfaces than anyone other than the federal government itself. The Congress later decided to take over the railroad as a national venture, not as a private company controlled by a private citizen.
What actually connected two shores? What exactly do we mean by "Trans-Continental Railroad"? It appears only as a dream in people's minds such as Abraham Lincoln and his predecessors, often referred to as the "land route to the Pacific Ocean" or "Pacific Railroad". At that time, it was an ambitious technological venture as the moon landed a century later. It required the laying of some 1,905 miles adjacent tracks, starting from 1863 and continuing with the frenetic pace for six years, ended with a ceremony at the Promontory Summit in Utah on May 10, 1869, a meeting that was almost religious in its intensity, in which the last spike (this silver-made and carefully removed the same day for an exhibition at the railroad staff!) fell into the final lane to connect east to the western slopes. Soon the locomotive could pull a long train from New York to the port of San Francisco.
As cars began to move east and west, the nation suddenly had a fast, reliable and cheap mechanized technology for moving people and cargo anywhere in the country in terms of access, horses or cars, new stations along the railway route. The railroad "reduced the nation" and enabled Horace Greeley and other journalistic philosophers of that time to reasonably suggest claustrophobic origins to "go west" to make their fortune. Before the railroad, it meant that it took nine months or more in a car pulled into a maze to reach the Pacific. In the decades following the Atlantic and Pacific coastal linkage with the railways, remote and poorly populated "territories" were received in the Union as new states, largely adding the size and prestige of America.
Bailey's story is graceful and informative. It would be difficult to overestimate the significance of the trans-continental railway as a technological venture and perceptive economic development, surpassing, of course, the digging of the Erie Canal in the 1820s and the creation of these rays of the rails crossing the east coast. states that the US West is still considered "wild" and as unexplored as Central Africa.
It was a magnificent journey to trade and travel that directly led to the settlement and installation of California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Yute and Wyoming as States in an ever-growing US republic.
Bailey's history is also summed up, only 140 pages in the beautiful edition of Pittsburgh Press, which Google re-created in electronic format. What I enjoyed the most in Bailey's writing was the feeling of excitement that he conveyed about this incredible discovery of America, similar to the excitement that I felt as a teenager watching the mission on MTV.
This book should be read and read not as a difficult task, to get to know an important chapter in American history, but simply because it is attractive and fun. It is a story that deserves to be fresh in our consciousness of our country and the people who have settled it.