Petition for a National Rail-Road to the Pacific [caption title]. Railroads, George Wilkes.

Petition for a National Rail-Road to the Pacific [caption title]

[New York?]: 1846. Broadside, 16.5 x 10.5 inches. Previously folded. Small excision from one line of text, not affecting sense; lower, blank right corner torn away, with later, relatively sympathetic restoration. A couple of small chips and one short separation at edges. Light toning and scattered foxing. Good plus. Item #2470

A rare cartographic broadside that comprises an early petition to Congress, dated November 1846, for a transcontinental railroad across the United States, following a proposal by New York journalist and author George Wilkes in 1846. The year prior, Wilkes published his History of Oregon, one of the most important contemporary histories of the Oregon Trail and overland migration to the Pacific Coast, in which he advocated for a transcontinental railroad, an appeal that was subsequently published separately.

The present petition beseeches that the Congress, "Adopt measures for the early construction of a National Rail-Road from the Missouri River to the Pacific ocean. The said road to be built and owned by the Government...(as proposed by George Wilkes, of the City of New York), to the end that the immense patronage of the work may be distributed equally, and with a just measure of remuneration, among the artizans and laborers of the whole country, instead of being subjected to the invidious selections and arbitrary terms and sway of a company of chartered monopolists." It continues:

"The undersigned are moved to this petition by the full conviction that the rapid intercourse afforded by the National Rail-Road between the Atlantic and Pacific, will confer upon the United States the command of both oceans and the commerce of the East; that it will open our waste interior to agricultural emigrations and turn the desolate prairies into golden fields; that it will lead their teeming products to a western market of six hundred millions of people on the opposite coasts of Asia; that it will make us the common carrier of the world for the enormous commerce of the western ocean; and that, while it thus places in our hands the trident of the seas, it will bring the proudest nations of the earth as suppliants at our gates, for the benefits of this great avenue of nations...."

The lower fifth of the broadside is left blank for signatures. The upper half of the sheet contains a world map with the caption title, "Position of America Between the Oceans," which shows the continents, outlined in hand color, with the Americas at the center. Sea routes from both coasts of the United States are delineated, with an approximation of a proposed route from New York to Oregon drawn in red pencil. It is quite interesting that the imagined route at this early stage terminated in the Pacific Northwest, rather than California, whose fate at that moment was in question pending the resolution of the Mexican-American War. OCLC locates only one copy, at Harvard, and no copies appear in available auction records; a very rare broadside, and a fascinating document of the early push for a transcontinental railroad.

Price: $3,750.00