Map Showing The Pacific Railways and Their Branches. Prepared for the United States Pacific Railway Commission

Date: 1887
Place: New York
Dimensions: 83.8 x 58.4 cm (33 x 23 in)
Condition Rating: VG

Out of stock

SKU: NL-00224 Categories: ,

Detailed 1887 Colton railroad map with color-coded routes


Highly detailed map of the Western United States, illustrating the railroads in operation and under construction west of the Mississippi River.

The key at the lower left identifies the Central Pacific and its Branches, the Union Pacific and its Branches, the Central Branch of the Union Pacific, the Sioux City and Pacific, the Southern Pacific and its Branches, and the maps funded by U.S. Bonds.

This handsome map of the Transmississippi West was published by the Colton firm in 1887 to accompany a massive report issued that year by the United States Pacific Railway Commission. The commission was created by an act of Congress that authorized President Grover Cleveland to appoint three commissioners to investigate the affairs of those Pacific railroads that had received federal aid. After many years, the amount and timing of the repayment to the government of the principal and interest of U.S. Pacific Railroad Bonds had generated much controversy. The scope of the investigation “included a history of these roads, their relations and indebtedness to the Government, and the question whether in the interest of the United States an extension of time for the performance of the obligations of said roads to the Government should be granted.”

Among the most significant records generated by the investigation are those in the files of the U.S. Senate, particularly the materials of the 50th, 51st, 53rd, and 54th Congresses. The present map accompanied a Senate report for the 50th Congress, and it shows by color coding the main branches of the Pacific Railroad and “Portions aided by U.S. Bonds” in red.

The map is quite attractive and well executed in the manner for which the Colton company was known. It shows the Central Pacific, the Union Pacific, the Central Branch of the U.P.R.R., the Sioux City and Pacific, and the Southern Pacific. The routes begin in Sioux City, Omaha, St. Joseph, Atchison, Leavenworth, and Kansas City, and terminate in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Portland.

The details of the western states are numerous and include relief shown by hachures, drainage, cities and towns, Indian reservation, and military posts.


George Woolworth Colton and Charles B. Colton

Colton & Co: The Colton mapmaking company was founded by Joseph Hutchins Colton in 1831. A native son of Massachusetts, Colton set up his firm in the metropolis of New York, drawing at first on established cartographers and engravers (e.g. David H. Burr and Samuel Stiles) to license maps. By the 1840s, however, the Colton firm was producing its own maps. They produced anything the market desired, from massive and impressive wall-maps to pockets guides, folding maps, immigrant guides, and atlases. One of the things that set the Colton company aside from many of its contemporaries in terms of quality, was the insistence that only steel plate engravings be used for Colton maps. These created much more well-defined print lines, allowing even minute features and labels to stand out clearly.

In the 1850s Colton’s two sons, George Woolworth and Charles B., were brought on board to the firm. This inaugurated a process of expansion in which the company began taking international commissions and producing wholly independent maps and charts.

Condition Description

Paper loss in the margins; see image.