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Rare Early Promotional Map for the Northern Pacific Railroad with Jay Cooke & Company Imprint

Rare separately issued promotional map of the Northern Pacific Railroad, lithographed by M. Traubel in Philadelphia.

The present example includes the stamp of Jay Cooke & Company, who used this map to promote the sale of bonds to fund construction of the Northern Pacific.

This remarkable map depicts the United States north of the 35th parallel as well as most of Canada, with concentric circles showing distances from Duluth, Minnesota in 100-mile increments. It shows the proposed route of the Northern Pacific from the Great Lakes to the Pacific coast, along with numerous other rail lines (completed, proposed and under construction), wagon roads and mail routes, and even a proposed "International Telegraph" through Canada. A number of western forts are identified, and much attention is given both to areas conducive to agriculture and to others offering opportunities for extraction of coal, copper, gold, quicksilver and silver.

One of the map's more curious features are the several isothermal lines arcing across the continent, presumably included to indicate the growing seasons of different regions. These isothermals were an aggressive part of the sales pitch for bonds promoted by railroad financier Jay Cooke. The idea was to persuade buyers that the route went through much more temperate climates and therefore, much more productive land, than American investors might otherwise associate with Canada and the Northern Tier of the United States. In short, a "climate warm enough to ripen crops, and secure the comfort of man and beast" was one of the principal "facts" behind "the need, the feasibility, and the assured success of this great enterprise." Jay Cooke & Co., The Northern Pacific Railroad: Its Route, Resources, Progress, and Business, page 4 (1871).

The map may be equally interesting for what it doesn't show, namely the incredibly difficult route the Northern Pacific was to traverse through the Dakota Badlands, across the Continental Divide in Montana, and over the Cascades in Washington. This, along with the Panic of 1873, largely explains why construction began in 1870 but was not complete until 1883.

The map depicts the Northern Pacific in "proposed" rather than completed form, suggesting that it was published some time between its chartering in 1864 and the beginning of construction in 1870. The Transcontinental Railroad is shown as completed, however, indicating that the map appeared toward the very end of this range. In any event it is extremely rare, and we have located only four examples in American institutions.

The map shows a number of other railroad lines (completed and proposed), along with Gold, Quicksilver and other mining regions in Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado.

The map is rich with a diverse assortment of other information, including:

  • Isothermal lines intended in part to compare North American and European growing regions
  • Annotations identifying prospective agricultural regions in Canada and the US
  • The proposed International Telegraph Line through Canada
  • Early exploration notes and the Overland Mail Route
  • Buffalo herds
  • Indian tribes
  • American and Canadian Forts

An exceptionally rare and unusual promotional railroad map, not in Modelski, although the map does appear in Phillips (p.622). The Library of Congress website dates the map as circa 1870, likely based upon Traubel's address. The Portal to Texas History dates the map as 1867-1882.

Condition Description
Evidence of old repairs and minor abrasions and loss along old folds.
Not in Modelski, Railroad Maps, but the map does appear in Phillips, List of Maps of America (p. 622). OCLC gives examples at UC-Berkeley, UT-Arlington and Montana State University only.