By: O.H. Throop Published By: Asa Whitney
Date: 1845 (Issued as 29th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Doc. 161 in 1846)
Dimensions: 9.5 x 16 inches (24 x 40.5 cm)
This is a rare map made to promote the idea and route of a transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to the Pacific, twenty-seven years prior to the Golden Spike.
In June of 1842, an importer and dry goods merchant by the name of Asa Whitney traveled to China during the Opium Wars. As the violence subsided, he made a lot of money as one of a few American exporting tea, spices, and other goods. His initial journey to China from New York took over 150 days at sea. Upon his return to America, he was determined to shorten the time and distance of travel to the Orient in hopes of increasing international trade and expanding the country.
In 1846 he proposed to congress for a grant of public land to be used to build the nation's first ever transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to the Pacific. He pushed the idea of Irish and Chinese immigrant labor to help build the railroad, of which worker would be paid in land throughout the western frontier. His proposal was turned down, but Asa Whitney lived long enough to see his dream come true when the Golden Spike was driven into the soil of Ogden Utah in 1872. He died a few years later of Typhoid Fever.
This map accompanied Whitney's proposal. It shows railroads already completed a those still under construction. The timing of this map's printing offer an view into an interesting period in American history. Texas had recently won its independence from Mexico and is shown in its largest for as a Republic. The more completed railroad system depicted within the Northern States would play to the advantage of the Union Army during the outbreak of the Civil War, that would occur sixteen years later. The geography of the Pacific Coast is very crude, especially with regards to the San Francisco Bay area. This would soon change with the discovery of Gold in 1848.
The focal point of this map is the proposed railroad that runs West, from Prairie Du Chien in the Wisconsin Territory, through the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, ending just east of Fort Hall (present-day Idaho) located on the Snake River that would connect to the Columbia River and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. Astoria, one of the earliest white settlements on the Pacific Coast is noted as it was located at the mouth of the Columbia River, very close to where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805/06.
Though not very decorative, this map serves as an interesting piece of history for many reasons and is a surviving relic of a vision by Asa Whitney of international trade with the east and joining the young country of America from coast to coast. A vision that in the 1840's as still ahead of its time, but not for long...
Condition: This map is in A condition, originally folded, now flat with full margins and no tears or holes.