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The San Diego Land & Town Company Promotes The Soon To Be Completed Line of the California Southern Railroad in 1881-82

Rare promotional text and blue print maps promoting the route of the yet to be completed California Southern Railroad from National City to San Bernardino and on to Topeka and Kansas City via the Atlantic & Pacific Railway in 1881.

The present map and text is a foundational work for the modern history of San Diego, issued during the construction of San Diego's first link to the transcontinental railroad and 9 months prior to its completion in November 1882, the present item was one of the earliest and most visually compelling attempts to promote emigration and growth to what was little more than a sleepy village on the Mexican border.

Created at a time when the population of the City of San Diego was roughly 3,000, the promotional tract and maps pre-date the arrival of the telephone to San Diego (May 1882), John Montgomery world’s first “controlled flight” in a “heavier than air” craft (1883), Helen Hunt Jackson’s romanticized novel Ramona (1884), and San Diego's first electric street lights (1886).  By 1887, the sleepy little village of less than 3,000 would boom to a population which peaked at about 37,000, with the railroad line depicted here at the forefront of its explosive growth.

A remarkable survival, the present promotional tract and 3 maps, published by the San Diego Land and Town Company in 1881 and 1882, captures in a singular object, the culmination of San Diego's multi-decade quest for a rail connection the to the Transcontinental Railroad, a connection which would last from only November 1882 to March 1884, before the rains of 1884 destroyed the roadbed, ending San Diego's short-lived first connection to the east.  Dashed lines extending eastward also show the proposed routes of the Texas Pacific Rail Road line to Yuma and San Diego & Sonora Rail Road to Calabasas, Arizona, additional "dream lines" for urban San Diego planners and speculators, 

The main map, a heliotype by San Diego printer O.W. Sanford, illustrates the route from National City to San Bernardino and a connection to the main line from Los Angeles, via San Diego, San Luis Rey, Temecula, and Riverside.

The second map, "San Diego Bay and Vicinity," shows the three major Spanish land divisions, the Pueblo Lands, Ex-Mission Lands and Rancho de la Nacion, arrayed around a thinly populated San Diego, Old Town and National City.

The third map, a plan of National City, shows the town which Kimball created to benefit as the western terminus of his effort to bring the railroad to San Diego County.  Purchased in 1868 by Frank Kimball and his brothers Warren and Levi, who were then actively developing and building in San Francisco, National City was a part of Rancho de la Nacion, the whole of which was acquired by Kimball.  The Kimball's laid out the town, created roads and established the area's first post office and a wharf for sea-bound imports and exports. The town of National City would not be incorporated until September 17, 1887

The text on the verso is a comprehensvie work in boosterism, explaining how to reach San Diego (2 railroad lines and 2 stedamship lines), the timeliness of a move to San Diego as of February 1882, a brief history of San Diego and the Mission lands, Hotel Accomodations, Real Estate opportunities in San Diego and National City, its exceptional weather and lack of thunder storms, testimonial statements from Colonel Thomas A. Scott and Professor Agassiz, land, mining and agricultural opportunities (including oranges, lemons, olives and grapes).

California Southern Railroad / Connecting San Diego By Rail

Beginning shortly after arrival of Alonzo Horton in 1867, San Diego's prominent citizens worked to persuade the railroads to connect to San Diego.  In 1868, the San Diego & Gila Railway was planned, with the intent of connecting San Diego and Fort Yuma, a venture which failed to gain a land grant and ended in bankruptcy.  Frank Kimball, founder of National City, attempted to persuade Charles Crocker to bring the Central Pacific to San Diego, an effort which failed when Kimball refused to sell six miles of prime bayfront real estate to the Central Pacific. Crocker responded that Kimball would never live to see a railroad built to San Diego. Never would a competitor of the Central Pacific be allowed to interfere.

The first significant progress was in 1873, when Horton and Kimball made a pitch to Colonel Thomas Scott, president of the Texas & Pacific Railroad, to use San Diego for its western terminus While initially encouraging, the effort failed when the Southern Pacific completed its line to San Francisco via Los Angeles, Yuma, El Paso and New Orleans.

As noted by Lowell,

San Diego business leaders realized that they would have to gain a powerful ally to counter the tremendous power of the Central Pacific. Frank Kimball . . . [also] approached Jay Gould to help San Diego obtain a railroad. . . . Gould replied to Kimball’s inquiry: “I don’t build railroads: I buy them."

Undaunted, Kimball went to Boston to negotiate with the Directors of the [Atchison Topeka &] Santa Fe in 1879. They agreed, after sufficient promise of money and land, to make San Diego the western terminus of their line. Thomas Nickerson, President of the Santa Fe, promised to send representatives to San Diego to look over the proposed roadway. Kimball wrote to Nickerson, “For God’s sake send men who can’t be bought by Stanford."

*  *  *

Late in 1879 the Santa Fe railroad purchased a one-half interest in the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, and thereby became owners of the Atlantic and Pacific Company. This purchase gave the Santa Fe access to the Atlantic & Pacific land grant in California. The Santa Fe changed its expansion plans and decided to build to Needles. . . Kimball returned to Boston and renewed his offer to ensure the completion of the earlier planned route to San Diego. Kimball promised to give the railroad 10,000 acres of land, create a Land Company in San Diego to manage the railroad land sales, and offered an additional 6,000 acres to start that company.  An agreement was reached that the Boston directors would form a new company to build from the bay of San Diego to a connection with the Atlantic & Pacific road. On October 12, 1880 the California Southern Railroad was chartered. The Directors of the Santa Fe also sat on the Board of California Southern. Thomas Nickerson was president of both lines. Frank Kimball sat on the Board of Directors for the California Southern.  

Kimball's efforts were successful in part.  As noted by Dodge,

Kimball returned buoyant with hopes. Representatives George B. Wilbur, Lucius G. Pratt and Chief Engineer William R. Morley, the latter of  "Royal Gorge [Railroad War]" fame, were sent out from Boston. Morley reported that there were no serious physical obstacles in the way between San Diego and Yuma, so surveys were started for a line directly east from San Diego, only to be stopped by orders from Boston . . .

As a result of the planning, local investors and the San Fe formed the California Southern Railroad and  by the end of 1880, over $3,000,000 had been raised to build a railroad to San Diego and National City.  Work commenced in 1881, via a planned route from National City to Oceanside, then through Temecula Canyon north to Colton, near San Bernardino. The first locomotive for the new line was shipped east from Boston, arriving in National City on July 13, 1881,  with the line through to Colton completed on August 14, 1882.

The line operated from November 1882 to March 1884, with telegraph lines run and offices in National City, San Diego and Fallbrook. Unfortunately, the massive rainstorms of 1884 resulted in tremendous damage to bridges and the road bed, forcing the line to close on March 19, 1884. 

It would take until November 1885 and significant restructuring of debt and re-alignment of national railroad interests, before the line would be completed through to San Bernardino, ushering in the first real economic boom in San Diego.  By 1890, the population grew from 2,800 to 16,000, with unofficial estimates suggesting the real population peaked at closer to 30,000.


The map is of the utmost rarity.

OCLC locates 2 examples:  Yale / Beinecke Library (February 1882 edition) and UC San Diego (October 1881 edition).   The text seems to be identical, other than the date.

We note a single example offered for sale (Goodspeed's 1982, Catalog 594, #32) offered for $320.00.

Blueprint & Blue Line maps (Cyanotype Printing)

Blueprint and blue line maps were among the most popular means for the swift printing of maps for which there would be a limited demand. A blueprint or blue line map could be made and/or revised much more quickly than a lithograph, cerograph, or other printing method, and at a much lower cost.

This method of printing was invented in 1842 by John Herschel, a chemist, astronomer, and photographer. A cyanotype process, one starts by drawing on semi-transparent paper, weighted down by a top sheet of paper. The paper would be coated with a photosensitive chemical mixture of potassium ferricyanogen and ferric ammonium citrate. The paper would then be exposed to light, wherein the exposed portions turned blue and the drawn lines, protected from exposure, would remain white.

The cyanotype printing process was an improvement on the expensive and time-consuming method of hand-tracing original documents. The technique was particularly popular with architects; by the 1890s, a blueprint was one-tenth the cost of a hand-traced reproduction. It could also be copied more quickly.   

Blueprint and blue line maps began to appear as early as the 1850s and 1860s, but they really began to become the standard for mining and similar limited-purpose maps by the 1880s. The ability to create these maps quickly and at a low cost made them the standard for short-run prints, ideal for mapping mining regions in the West and for similar purposes.

The method still exists today, but in a very limited fashion. In the 1940s, diazo prints (whiteprints or bluelines) became more popular, as they were easier to read and faster to make. The blue lines on a white background of these prints are now what most people call blueprints.

The San Diego Land & Town Company

The San Diego Land & Town Company was initially set up in 1880 to sell land to finance the California Southern Railroad, a thwarted attempt to make San Diego a Pacific terminus of a transcontinental railroad. Despite California Southern's failure to directly link San Diego to the East Coast, the well-financed Boston-based syndicate that controlled the SDL&T Co. shaped the company into a major force during San Diego's 1880s land boom. 

Condition Description
Some separations at folds, with some most small sections folded back but still present as shown on verso. Minor staining.