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The First Railroad Map Published In California--4 Years Before The First Operating Railroad In California

Fine example of this important and now virtually unobtainable early California Railroad Map illustrating the proposed route between San Jose and San Francisco, published in 1851 and printed in San Francisco by Britton & Rey and included in an early 23 page report of the Pacific and Atlantic Rail Road.

At the time the map was printed, the need for overland transportation to San Jose was significant. In 1850, the California Constitutional Convention had selected San Jose as the State capital, but there was virtually no reliable transportation between San Jose and the two most important California ports of Monterey and San Francisco. In 1850, San Jose was a leading candidate for the terminus of the transcontinental railroad.  Moreover, San Jose was a natural gateway for shipping food from the growing regions south and west of San Francisco, which was badly in need of reliable food sources.

There were also no towns between San Jose and San Francisco. The only town listed on the map is Mezesville, which would become Redwood City.  The line proposed was quite interesting.  Among other things, a segment of the road was proposed east of Visitation Valley,  traversing a multi-mile section which would have required very long bridge.  

Much of the proposed route traversed thinly populated parts of the Santa Clara County and San Mateo County, passing locations rarely seen on printed maps, including, French Tavern, Jose de la Cruz Sanchez (Rancho Buri Buri), Clara Sanchez and Mission San Mateo, before reaching a slightly more populated area north of Santa Clara, where the names of approximately 2 dozen local landowners are noted, along with the primitive lines showing the boundaries of the largest landholders.

First Railroad Map For A California Railroad

Discussions of a railroad from San Francisco to San Jose were under serious discussion as early as 1851, with William J. Lewis serving as Civil Engineer. As noted in the History of Santa Clara County:

The calculations for the building of a railroad between San Francisco and San Jose were, at the time, based upon the amount paid out over the route for transportation and freight. It was estimated that for the seven months ending January 31, 1851, there had journeyed between the two points ten thousand five hundred passengers, who had expended the sum of one hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars, the fare being sixteen dollars each; and two million feet of lumber to Alviso, the embarcadero, at fifteen dollars per thousand. Meeting after meeting was held, though no official action was taken. By the month of July, fifty thousand dollars had been subscribed; in December the road had been surveyed, and a report made by the civil engineer, William J. Lewis, that was published December 26,1851 . . .

William Lewis was a surveyor working in California in the early 1850s, primarily as a Deputy Surveyor for the US Surveyor General. By 1853, he had been elected county surveyor of Santa Clara County. He served as the Chief Engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific's attempts to create a railroad line from San Francisco to San Jose. However, Railroad passenger service between San Jose and San Francisco would not begin until October 1863, with the opening of the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad. While a number of railroads were organized in California in the first half of the 1850s, no railroad would commence operation until 1855, when the Sacramento Valley Railroad began its earliest service.

The Heckrotte catalogue entry notes:

The map seems to have been issued only in some copies - the Streeter copy was apparently the only one of the six copies cited by Greenwood to contain one. Warren Heckrotte notes that "A Report of the Chief Engineer on the survey of the route first appeared in late 1851 with the map. This map is the first railroad map to be published in California." Pencil name of S.S. Bridges, Esq., at top of front wrapper.

The present example has been laid in loosely with a copy of a pamphlet entitled: Report of the Chief Engineer of the Pacific and Atlantic Rail Road Co., January, 1855.


We are aware of no other examples of the map, with pamphlet, being offered at auction or in a published dealer catalog since the Streeter Sale in 1968 (where the pamphlet sold for $150.00).

Provenance: Warren Heckrotte Collection, PBA Galleries, December 2015; Butterfields, February 10, 1989.

Condition Description
23 pp. With folding map, lithographed by Britton & Rey. (8vo) 23x14.6 cm (9x5¾"), original pale yellow printed wrappers.