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Grolier Club Exhibitions

The Railroads Triumphant Part II

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Albert Berghaus.
“Across the Continent on the Pacific Railroad: Dining Saloon of the Hotel Express Train.”
New York: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News, 1870.

This 1870 image shows the quality enjoyed by first class passengers on the nation’s railroads. Dining service and drinks were served in a bright, airy, and comfortable car. These amenities were available only to those passengers who could afford them. Other passengers had to either bring their own meals or buy food during brief meal stops in stations.

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R. T. Zogbaum.
"The Modern Ship of the Plains."
New York: Harper’s Weekly, 1886.

This 1886 image shows the conditions for the vast majority of railroad passengers in the United States. This plain and crowded wooden car was typical of those which carried immigrants and other less affluent passengers across the country. Ventilation was poor, heating was inconsistent, and the ride was rough. Despite these conditions, trains remained the only way to travel long distances in a relatively short period of time.

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Lehigh Valley Railroad.
Lehigh Valley System.
Bethlehem, PA: The Company, ca. 1896.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad was one of several “Anthracite Roads” that operated in Northeastern Pennsylvania. While it made a great deal of money moving coal to market, this chromolithograph promotes the Pocono Mountain resorts served by the company. Note that the only trains shown are for passengers, and the scenery is lush and green. The line also makes a point of showing several tourist destinations like Niagara Falls and the Glen Summit Hotel.

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Joseph Keppler.
The Modern Colossus of Roads in Puck.
New York: Keppler and Schwarzmann, 1879.

William Vanderbilt stands astride a network of railroad tracks with Cyrus Field and Jay Gould on his legs. Vanderbilt controlled the New York Central System, Field owned the New York Elevated Railway, and Gould owned the Union Pacific and other railroads. Together, the three men wielded influence over the lives of thousands of railroad customers, travelers, and employees.

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Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine.
Dayton, OH: The Brotherhood, 1877.

This issue of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine is from 1877 after the Great Railroad Strike was over. The Brotherhood and its contemporary labor organizations like the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers were some of the earliest labor unions in America. The magazine reports on the aftermath of the strike and states the continuing grievances of the unions against the railroads.

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Southern Railway.
To the Engineers and Firemen, Conductors and Trainmen, of the Southern Railway Company, February 9th, 1895.
Washington, DC: Publisher not identified, 1895.

Wall Street financier J.P. Morgan saw that there was a great deal of unnecessary competition in railroading during the second half of the 19th Century. He began to consolidate small companies into larger ones, like the Southern Railway. This pamphlet is a statement outlining the new corporate identity and objectives for the employees, all of whom had once been employees of smaller regional lines. Now they were part of a transportation giant, and Morgan wanted unity.

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Railway Mail Service.
Instructions to Railway Postal Clerks.
Washington, DC: United States Government, 1894.

Railway mail was highly organized and efficient, and railway mail clerks processed millions of pieces of mail sent via trains. This book of instructions provided clerks with a set of rules and procedures to efficiently process mail in the railway post office car and to protect the mail while it was in transit.

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Chicago and North-Western Railway Co.
Regulations for the Guidance of Conductors, Cooks and Waiters of the Chicago & North-Western R'y Co.'s Dining Cars.
Chicago: The Company, 1883.

As railroads standardized the use of dining cars, standards of service became paramount. This rulebook from the Chicago and North-Western provides detailed procedures and rules for all employees associated with the operation of the dining car on the line. The objective was to provide a superior passenger experience to passengers that was replicated on every train on the railroad.

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John Bigelow, Matias Romero.
Construccion de Ferro-Carriles en Mexico.
New York: The News, 1882.

John Bigelow and Matias Romero were American and Mexican diplomats in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Bigelow had visited Mexico and reported critically on the liberal terms given to and the myriad of railroad companies developing in Mexico. Romero’s response, included in this pamphlet, points out that Mexico is being unfairly criticized by an individual whose own nation did the same thing to its earliest railroads, and most of these new railroads were being built by American investors.


United States Congress.
Use of Portion of Yakima Reservation for Railroad Purposes February 19, 1887.
Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1887.

Native Americans continued to see their lands encroached upon or taken as treaties and agreements were altered by the progress of the railroads. The Yakima Reservation in Washington saw the Northern Pacific request lands to build its railroad line along the reservation’s border with the Yakima River. Congress approved this change in 1887, as shown on this document.

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Joseph Nimmo, Jr.
The Insurrection of June and July 1894, Growing Out of the Pullman Strike at Chicago, Ill…
Washington, DC: Age Printing Co., 1894.

Joseph Nimmo was an economist and statistician for the United States Government. This lecture examines the violent strike at Pullman, Illinois, in 1894. He believed in a symbiotic relationship between employers and employees. Nimmo’s lecture excoriates the laborers who he calls “anarchists.” He believed that this labor uprising put the livelihood of thousands of other laborers across the country at risk and felt that the use of the Army to suppress the strike was entirely justified.

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The Union Switch and Signal Company.
The Union Switch and Signal Company, Manufacturers of Railroad Signaling Appliances of all Descriptions.
Pittsburgh: The Company, 1883.

George Westinghouse expanded his railroad equipment business from air brakes and other railroad car parts into railroad signaling. This catalog from his new company, Union Switch and Signal, shows all of the railroad signal and track switching apparatus manufactured by the firm. The company’s signal and communication systems allowed for safer operation of trains at a greater frequency. The firm would continue to expand its offerings as railroad technology improved over the ensuing years.

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Puck Publishing Co.
The Rioters’ Railroad to Ruin.
St. Louis: The Company, 1877.

This image from the August 1, 1877, issue of the German language edition of Puck shows the negative view that many Americans had of the violence that came about during the Great Strike of 1877. The striking imagery shows Death running roughshod over Columbia and violence and destruction following in its wake, illustrating the fears of labor violence from the middle and upper classes.


Joseph A. Dacus.
Annals of the Great Strikes in the United States.
St. Louis: Scammell, 1877.

Joseph Dacus was a newspaperman and author in St. Louis during the 1870’s. In July of 1877, when a series of strikes known as “The Great Railroad Strike” swept across the nation, Dacus chronicled the events in St. Louis and later wrote this piece on the strikes. Dacus’ own views were that the strikes were a warning of greater troubles if the underlying problems that led to the strikes were not addressed.