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Mapping The Proposed Route Northern Pacific Railroad

Fantastic early promotional map showing the prospective route of the Northern Pacific to Yellowstone National Park.

The map was issued a full decade before the Northern Pacific Railroad finally did reach Yellowstone. This map was part of the advertising material created in Philadelphia by the Financier of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Jay Cooke, in his attempt to duplicate the Union Pacific's success in using Yosemite as a promotional resort to encourage travel to the west. It is one of the earliest obtainable maps to outline to intention of the Northern Pacific Railroad to create a line from the Gallatin / Bozeman area to Yellowstone.

The map also provides fantastic detail in the region traversed, locationg many early towns and military forts and camps.

The Northern Pacific Railroad's construction timeline is characterized by significant events, reflecting both the ambitions and the challenges of building a major transcontinental line:

  • February 15, 1870: Construction commenced near Carlton, Minnesota, initiating the monumental task of laying track across the northern tier of the United States.

  • 1871-1873: Initial construction efforts pushed the line westward through Minnesota, reaching the Red River at Fargo in June 1872. By 1873, financial strains and the national economic downturn, known as the Panic of 1873, slowed progress significantly.

  • 1873-1878: The railroad faced severe financial difficulties, halting significant construction. It was a period of reorganization and struggle, with only minimal track extension due to economic constraints.

  • 1879: After emerging from bankruptcy under the leadership of Frederick Billings, construction resumed with renewed vigor. The Northern Pacific pushed westward from Bismarck, North Dakota, established as a key point on the line.

  • 1881: By this year, the railroad had extended to the Yellowstone River in Montana, marking significant westward progress. Additionally, construction began from the Pacific end, with tracks extending eastward from Tacoma, Washington.

  • September 8, 1883: The Northern Pacific Railroad was officially completed when the final "golden spike" was driven at Gold Creek in western Montana. This ceremony marked the end of major construction efforts, connecting Lake Superior to Puget Sound and establishing a continuous rail link from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean.


This is the second example of the map we have offered for sale in the past 30+ years (1992-2024).