tv Railroads and American Culture in the 19th Century CSPAN May 4, 2019 10:45pm-11:43pm EDT
staff toured to palo alto. to watch video, visit c-span.org/citiestour. americanatching history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. a stanfordom historical society symposium anniversary150th marking the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad, history professor james campbell are vented talk titled, the celestial railroad revisited. in 19th century culture. it is a short story by nathaniel hawthorne. professor campbell uses the allegory to explore how the railroad transformed american culture.
>> the transcontinental railroad was, no doubt, a major disruptive form of transportation. truly changing the face of the nation. it may or may not have reached its potential. but for many years, it was talked about. we learned this morning, it may have had less of an impact initially upon completion than we thought. get a feel of how it affected the nation, we have professor james campbell. yous campbell is the great robinson professor of u.s. history at stanford university. he focuses on african-american history. he is also interested in problems of historical memory or the ways that society tells stories about the past. butonly in textbooks,
museums, memorials, movies, and political movement. the african methodist episcopal , and african-american journeys. book on theting a mississippi summer project. he is one of our most distinguished historians at stanford. please welcome james campbell. [applause] prof. campbell: thank you very much for those are marks.
one of them feels quite fraudulent. on the same program as richard that thet to mention that worked on the extraordinary chinese railroad workers project. -- i say i am the person can assure you i am the person that knows least about the transcontinental railroad on your program. when they asked me to be on the program. and i said without a moments , it would be revisited. i spent a lot of the last couple of weeks thinking, what was i thinking when i gave that suggestion? i came to believe it might be that kind of title.
rationalism. there is a few ingenious commentaries on the scriptures. we follow the narrator through the hills of difficulty in the valley of humiliation. he and other passengers occasionally glance out the the commentse about the old-school plotting on the path prevents them from taking advantage. it occasionally goes to the basis. , a verio --op
veritable cornucopia of commodities brought in on the rails of steele. hawthorne writes, many passenger stopped to take their pleasure instead ofir profit going onto the less celestial city. charms in the place where are mere dreamers. that the fabled brightness of the celestial city lay but a bare mile before -- beyond the gates of vanity. they would not be fools enough to go thither. on reflection, i think this is precisely where i would like to start us. the point hawthorne was making, after all, was that the railroad was not simply a new mode of
transport, but a new way of being in the world. it promised fundamentally to transform human beings relationship to space and time, to thend commerce, natural world, and to one another. more than one another 20 years before the completion of the transcontinental railroad, he discerned the utopian promise of the railroad was not so much a myth as a partial truth. of the newmises technology, speed, prosperity, and material comfort also came at a cost. and here is an image of napoleon at the wheel in a 19th-century edition of the book. the railroad was the quintessential 19th-century invention. after millennia in which the movement of people and goods had
depended on wind or animal power, or people's own muscles, human beings had not only harness the power of steam, but they put it on wheels. they did radically alter our experience of space and time. i'm sure most of you know this. zonesset of standard time which we still operate on today are an innovation introduced in the 1880's by and at the behest of railroads. what is noon? for time immemorial, it is when the sun is overhead. is a different time for you 100 miles that way than it is for me. imagine trying to make a railroad schedule in those circumstances. this, there was the recognition for the need of some coordination.
had 22 time indiana zones. obviously, you can't run a railroad along these circumstances. in 1883, railroad barons met in chicago and as a resulted in -- , made the system that we have today. it radically transformed the power of nationstates. the railroad and the modern state were coproductions. the iron and leader steele rail that felt of the 19th century world gave governments new means to project power. to command a far-flung territories and wage war. it is a singular fact that the first battle of american civil war, what northerners call percival run took place in manassas.
and the federal victory was secured by the last minute arrival of brigadier joseph johnson's army of the shenandoah which arrived by rail. railroad was the equally profound. crystallizing new ideas about progress which would come to be like we do today with what we reflect upon with acceleration and speed. the railroad became a subjective examination by artists, writers, manet.de -- were not exclusively an american phenomenon. on the contrary, they were a global institution. the first global railroad in the
world was in england. fair, went to the world's england sent it here on a ship and drove it on the rails. by 1880, the continent of europe boasted more than 180,000 rail rate -- railway miles. is closest analogue we have the direction into late 19th century of the trans-siberian railway which was completed in the early years of the 20th century. a centralwould play role in the elaboration of european empire in asia and africa. and the pattern by which those rails were laid tells us a great deal about the nature of colonialism. dreamhstanding the great
of the transcontinental railroad running north and south, stretching from cape to cairo along what roads imagined would be a continuous access of british controlled africa. erected hadrailways a very different geography. and again, the nature tells us pretty much everything we need to know. these railroads have nothing to do with the developing political or even market economies. the deepwater ports controlled , the densest set of networks with some of the spur lines running and kimberly. to suckions designed
out material goods of africa as quickly and efficiently as possible. let me tell you the story briefly of just one line. the uganda line. it promised to connect the port of mombasa with lake victoria. and the river system effectively conjuring an african analogue to the american system in which steamnd water repelled by connected a vast internal market. promised to celebrate promised toon and facilitate the settlement of the kenyan high lands which would become home to 1000 white coffee and tea plantations.
it proved to be a deadly business. contemporaries called it the lunatic line. like the transcontinental railroad in the united construcd by indentured asian laborers, in this case from south asia. at least 2500 of them died along the way, a figure slightly less than the comparable figures of the transcontinental railroad. at least 100 of those died at the hands of a singularly clever pride of lions that learned to hunt railway workers. lions that work eventually shot and whose stuffed bodies you can still see in chicago's field museum of natural history. at least 500 people died and probably many more in a by theived rebellion land -- the people whose land
the railroad traversed the -- traversed. the line was held at his time as an emblem of european intrepidity and enterprise. consider the description of one passenger who rode the line in 1908, "the railroad, the embodiment of the masterful civilization of today, was pushed through a region in which nature, both as regards wild man and wild beast, this not differ more than it did in the european plasticine." roosevelt whoore had come to africa on a hunting expedition on behalf of missoni and institution -- behalf of the smithsonian institution.
members of his party harvested thousands of specimens. roosevelt himself shot more than 500 animals, including seven lions and 20 rhinoceros. many of them you can still see today when you visit the new york museum of natural history. the railway is a global story, but nowhere was its impact, economically and culturally, politically, more profound than in the united states. which by the end of the 19th century boasted more than 200,000 railway miles, about the same as the continent of europe as a whole. let me turn to the case of the american railroad, but not the transcontinental railroad. rather to the east and middle
west made it was there that the revolutionary possibilities of the railroad were most dramatically felt. the story, as i imagine you know, properly begins in the early national period come up with the propriety of federal support for internal improvements. initially for turnpikes, later for canals, eventually for railroads, all of which were seen by proponents as the central means not only to bind together the far-flung territories of the young nation to my but to support economic growth by helping farmers settling in the bounteous interior of the country gain access to urban markets. let us bind the country together with the perfect system of roads and canals, declared john c cal kuhn -- john c calhoun. recant such sentiments
out of fear that a strong federal government might reinstitute slavery, but he would find expression in the whig and later republican party. abraham lincoln served one term in the ohio state legislature, which he dedicated primarily to secure navigation improvements in a river to help his constituents gain access to the mississippi, and through it, to the markets of the world. abraham lincoln is the only american president who held a patent. the nature of the patent tells you a great deal about the world i'm trying to describe. it was a device he came up with that used a set of inflatable
draftns to help lift the of rafts so they could get over sandbars. lincoln knew a bit about that, having twice drifted to new orleans on a raft. he did not make any money on it. the most celebrated canal project, of course, and obviously the canal system obviates the need for the system, was the era canal -- erie canal. it traversed a system of some 30 and innd 363 miles, elevation gained over 500 feet. the great lakes and much of the interior of the united states to the hudson really valley -- hudson river
valley, new york, and the world food in some ways -- and the world. in some ways, it was equally important as the michigan canal. traffic in 1848. to lakected chicago michigan through the illinois river system to the mississippi. it ensured the entire mississippi drainage, virtually the entire united states east of the rocky mountains was now integrated into one steam driven market. slide of traffic on the illinois and michigan canal. an economic historian has argued that the entire railroad system
was superfluous in terms of explaining american economic growth. arguing counterfactual he that much the same could have been accomplished if the country had simply continued to build canals. i am not sure that is true, and in any event, it is not what happened. the canals would be displaced by the railroads. by significant coincidence, the completion of the illinois michigan canal coincided with two other singular developments. of first was the appearance the mechanical reaper, which enabled to men and of course -- and a horse to harvest as much wheat in a day as 10 men did in a week. also the completion of the first 10 miles of railroad moving
west-northwest out of the city of chicago. and would become the galena illinois united railway. a short line designed to connect farmers in chicago's northwest hinterland with the markets in the city. paid for not by federal grants, but by the local communities themselves. -- themselves, the galena illinois might seem like a quixotic venture, but something like a million bushels of wheat per year were carried to chicago on israel's. other rail -- on its rails. other railroads followed suit, something on the order of 30 networks converging on chicago, hauling on average several millions of bushels per week per day in the city. ofill show you maps of two
these networks, which gives you some sense of how the rail actually operated in -- and the density of the connections. this is the chicago rock island and pacific railway, but the pacific is very much an afterthought. this one, closer to my heart, is the chicago and northwestern. i say close to my heart because i grew up in that town right there. [laughter] prof. campbell: a little town called morrison, an agricultural community that owes its existence to that rail. ofo the county is the home ronald reagan, draw your own conclusions. this internet thing i am sure is , this oneatch on passenger thing -- one passenger
train a day used to pass through my town when i was a kid. shelley,lled the kate i remember that because it was quite an inspiring story. it was the story of a little girl who had gone out in a blizzard with the lantern to the bridgein that was out, saving the passengers. that was kate shelley. you could tell when it was coming because at night in the wintertime, unlike other trains, the light was not just a beam, it rotated. as a kid, you get the point. the point of all of this was that this, as in any -- in a number of other ways, turner was simply wrong. argued, the western so much aas not
refuge from the city as its offspring. to be sure the vast rest lands of the middle west and great plains were a phenomenal natural bounty, but what made them viable for settlement was their access to the markets of chicago , and through chicago to the markets of the world. it is worth dwelling on this point a little bit, because chicago would become the center not only of the nation's transportation network, but also the site of extraordinary economic innovation. grain, denominated in bushels, was traditionally sold in bags. like a bottle of single vineyard pinot noir, each bag was produced by an individual grower and sold through in individual individualan
producer. but the endless procession of hopper cars rolling into the city, each loaded with more than 300. grain, enabled and necessitated a different system. graded for quality, grain was mixed in rail cars and sucked up in towering grain elevators. using the archimedes screw that had been developed by ancient egyptian's. you still see these grain elevators all around the united states. they were marketed in bulk through the chicago board of trade. but we are talking about here is the beginning of what we would call commodity trading, which still operates for agricultural goods from the city of chicago. complete with an
innovation so familiar to us we sometimes forget how bizarre it is. included futures contracts. a world in which people routinely bought and sold rain actuallythey never possessed, never intended to possess, grain that in many cases have not yet been grown, grain routinely bought and sold 10 and 20 times before it even the ground.y into this is the chicago board of trade today. top, the goddess of cereal. similar tales about rail and commodities, about the ore in michigan, about
white pine and coal. preeminently about cattle. the union stockyard in chicago at the time of the civil war. part of what the railroads did, i will talk a bit about this momentarily, was allowed the ,radication of the buffalo opening the vast grasslands for cattle ranching. which enteredy, the american lexicon in these decades, did not refer to people who strummed guitars by a --pfire or thought indians fought indians, that it referred drovers, who drove
cattle. initially, the process of stock production was a mess. hogs and cows were driven through the streets. what you see here are the stockyards set up south of the city in 1865. it was an industry quickly controlled by a tiny number of meatpacking firms, and you will recognize the names. ,he philip armour company gustavus swift. they developed a factory system. the first to do so was the createdactory, that
steam hoists that allowed a carcass to be carried through and richard in a matter of minutes, effectively a disassembly line, extracting everything, one contemporary said, but the moo or squeal. producing not only meet but hides, gelatin. per yearillion cows were coming into chicago. eventually it was some 50,000 a day. had we more time, we can talk about the implications of all of this. readsure many of you have upton sinclair's "the jungle." what thisreflect on alter the human
relationship with food. meat historically is a local product. it is consumed near to where it is harvested. notwithstanding efforts with salt and smoke to preserve it. it is seasonal. tow you can have mea year-round. initially, one of the great innovations of the chicago stock houses was canning. canned meat. the distribution was further facilitated iv -- by the invention of refrigerated railroad cars. ice, the packed with flow of cold air as the train moved served to preserve the eat. -- m
this was developed by the germans for moving the year. -- moving beer. it is extraordinary to reflect on what this did. a cow that was on the hoof entering abilene on a tuesday, was in a refrigerated railcar in chicago by thursday or friday, and in new york by the weekend, and in europe the weekend after that. ais is a period that sees dramatic change in the european diet and a great increase in meat consumption by europeans. many of the recipes we associate young --pe, before can they become contemporary in the late 19th century and in most consumed beef being
has found its way from the grasslands of north america. of course railways run both directions. if you want a single idea to try to make sense of the extraordinary history of 19th century economic growth, you could do worse than start with the kind of for super cool relationship that exists or develops thanks to the railroad and the burgeoning urban markets in increasingly dense cities, for reduce a demand agricultural commodities, and at the same time, the way the tolways provide a means carry the manufactured goods being produced in these cities outward to the large world markets for the farmers are now -- who now have coin in their pocket. -- cgo is a central called og in the story.
montgomery ward is the first mail order business. i am sure many of us remember the massive sears catalog that came annually and allowed you to buy anything from a tenpenny nail to an entire house. time, the very idea of consumption, not as a kind of that yout necessity assign to your servant girl, but as something that people would do for themselves for pleasure, becomes a feature of this new cornucopia called chicago. the first department stores, this one still stands, marshall field's. give the lady what she wants, said marshall field.
the customer is always right, said marshall field. needs little imagination to connect this 19th century story with the world we live in today. not only with these photos, which are from chicago's magnificent mile, but with the stanford shopping center just up the road. celestial city indeed. spoken not at all about the transcontinental, so let me close with a few remarks about them. , just aboutay everything i have said previously about the impacts of railroads, in terms of stimulating economic development , does not apply to the transcontinentals, particularly to the central pacific line. you have heard about this already from my colleague richard white, and you can read
the story in greater detail in his absolutely wonderful book, "railroaded." these lines were built wildly prematurely, in response to know market need or incentive. betweenomic dynamism european -- between urban markets and countryside did not exist and carried little traffic. some estimate they carried less than 5% of traffic. the fact that they existed at all was not because of economic necessity but because of the availability for those with political connections to extract them of massive government subsidies come in the form of construction subsidies -- government subsidies. in the form of construction
foridies, $48,000 per mile miles built over mounds. they could determine for themselves what constituted a mountain. they also figured out ways to double bill the government for each mile they built. massive land grants essentially gave them some 20 square miles to sell on their own behalf for every rail mile they built. and as richard talked about, massive government loans, which toe never repaid or intended be repaid, but instead reproduced and recycled and it -- ind in hypoxic stocks. many times this house of cards threatened to bring down not just the railroads but the entire american economy. each time this happened, the
government bailed them out. these are the prototypical companies that were too big to fail. they did succeed in producing vast fortunes for a few people, one of whom of course was leland stanford, the man who pounded the golden spike at promontory point, who used his wealth to buy a seat and in an act of celebrated philanthropy, to create stanford university. footnote notg known to many people but to many of you in the historical society, is that this view we cherish today was not the view that would have greeted people as they moved up home drive -- palm drive at the time partially because there was a huge
steeple, and partly because it could not see it anyway because of a massive sandstone memorial arch that stanford had constructed on the dimensions of the arc de triomphe. freeze -- frieze of top created by a great sculpture depicted the progress of western civilization from antiquity to the stanford family personally. [laughter] prof. campbell: dragging the railroad over the rocky mountains. not trivializeht their compliments or significance of this railway, either. in the end, and this is merely a suggestion to ponder, it seems to me that part of the reason why the transcontinental
railroad had and continues to have the kind of purchase on the american imagination that it does is because it seemingly confirmed certain stories that americans love to tell about themselves. as richard white has written, this 1867 career and knives ives printurier and rrier and ives print is significant not because of , but because people imagined it to be. the same might be said of this produced a few years later, in which we see the metaphorical america, columbia,
pushing westward across the continent, accompanied by the wagon train, the stagecoach, three transatlantic lines, telegraph lines, spreading illumination with the buffalo and native peoples moving westward into darkness and extinction. these are images being produced at the time, and one of the geniuses of the associates who created the central pacific is that they understood this. they catered to it. thesea singular fact that rail lines had house photographers, and in the case of the central pacific, alfred hart later replaced by carleton are housedose prints here at stanford good in the
case of the union pacific, william henry jackson. tois worth taking some time sit at your computer and find some of these pictures. you can also find some of them here, and the originals, here at stanford. the secret town trestle from the west. part of theally right-of-way of interstate 80, about 50 miles north-northeast of sacramento, probably most of you have traversed it. a stereoscopic view by alfred hart. and in its way, extraordinarily beautiful trestle over 1000 feet long and nearly 100 feet high. a picture taken a few years later, which gives you some that thesee agony beautiful images hide, the same spot looking in the other
direction now, being filled up. it is the divide between the bear and american river drainages in the sierra foothills. what people have begun to realize is that the wood trestle bridges were fire hazards as sparks were belched out of the engines of the train. having built at the magnificent trestle, chinese workers were redeployed to fill it up. you can see them doing that here. again, kind of aesthetically beautiful, and yet you can see here now that there are probably 60 feet of fill that have already been laid by human beings to cover that up. it is still there over ground. you go over it when you drive on i-80. similarlyother
exquisite photo. this one by william henry jackson of the union pacific. tunnel number three, taken in 1869, extensively the year -- ostensibly the year the line opened in utah. anding at these photos thousands more like them puts a different spin on one of the classic works of american marx's machine in the garden. is enjoying he quiet reflection at walden pond, only to have it pierced by the sound of a train was good he argues that the disruptive disjunction, the tension between those two aspirations, be one of
the generating forces of american literature in the 19th century. for these purposes, i think he is actually wrong. what is remarkable to me about these photographs is not that they somehow show us a painful tension between nature and progress, but that they are beautiful to us. we do not see a daemonic machine belching fire and brimstone. we continue as americans to on scenic ride railroads, and send pictures and postcards of our trips experiencing nature from a rail car. these lines have become a kind of synecdoche for america as a whole, a wholesome amount of nature in progress. again, it is merely a suggestion, but it seems to me that one of the reasons why the
triumphant story of the transatlantic railroad has persisted so long is not simply because the associates burned their books. it is not something because the work of a-- generation of historians who recast these boorish, sometimes ignorant men as pathbreaking entrepreneurs. it is not simply because of the posthumous burnishing of their reputations through philanthropy. it is also because of the way in which it tapped into deep veins of american culture. the idea that the sovereignty of nature and technical progress, of a heroic past and beckoning future, of progress and nostalgia of what we call america. they created something beautiful literal set of images
and figurative that were beautiful not only to 19th century contemporaries, but tinted into us today cb appeared they created -- in sepia. celestialed the railroad. 150thas we mark the anniversary of the nominal completion of the transatlantic think, ignoret, i some of its more sober realities. we attend to the massive financial corruption that undergirded it. corruption that many of you know seems eerily to presage the
corruption of our own time. we acknowledge and seek to understand the nature of the labor regimes that created the railways, regimes whose indifference to human welfare and casual selling of racial animosity between white and nonwhite workers also presaged diseases of our own time. we can recognize and perhaps seek in some way to repair the ecological devastation the railways wrought. the destruction of the buffalo and ongoing devastation of the american grassland. we elect to see rather than ignore the people of the great plains. whose reduction to dependencyent and was greatly accelerated by the coming of the railways.
we can choose which stories to tell. thank you very much. [applause] prof. campbell: we were on time at the start and we no longer are so i only have time for a couple of questions. >> can you say a few words about the way in which the completion of the railroad affected the popular ideas about the civil war at the time? prof. campbell: hmm. elaborate a little bit more about what you are asking. because i have some thought about the transcontinental railroad and the war, but i am not sure it is in the sense you are asking. >> the war obviously toward our country apart and the railroad united it. prof. campbell: several things
about this are interesting, so forgive me, this is kind of a mishmash of reflections. one of the things was this was not a very well integrated network. not only did you have 30 different lines that were usually not connected, coming just through chicago alone, but you also have southern railroads which were, for the record, mostly constructed by slave labor, running on a different gauge than northern railways. so the story about kind of transcontinental unity taking place at this moment, you are right that there is a disjuncture there and i'm not sure how to reconcile it. that 11 southern states have left the union that allows the improvement project to be enacted. the862, it not only sees
legislation for the transcontinental railroad, although he was the 1864 bill after they had doubled the pot that got it moving, it also sees republican legislation creating a more liberal homestead policy, creating land-grant colleges. /republican whig vision of using the power of the federal government to create opportunity. in some ways they take advantage of the fact that there is a ump running the country. culturally, it is an interesting question, and i am sure people have written about it, but nothing occurs to me about the strange paradox of a nation , knitting a railroad together a society on an east-west access at the same the it is torn apart on
south-west axis. >> as a teacher, what can we do better to communicate what history really is? because now i realize i don't really know what appeared -- know it. [laughter] know, impbell: you spend a lot of time working on , typicallymaterials not related to this history but more to issues of race and slavery. i have some sensitivity to some of the questions you are asking. one of the things is that people at universities like this happen ourselves on the back that we have exposed these dark undersides of history and expect fourth-grade teachers to simply roll it out in their classrooms without thinking very carefully about how you do that. ways in which these
histories are traumatic, and who could object to a more inclusive representation that includes a history of slavery. when i was working with school teachers in mississippi, they said some of the greatest resistance they found was from black children who did not appreciate having the history of slavery and its approved realities -- and it's brute realities in the classroom because other students identified them with it. how do you do this in a way that is age-appropriate, sensitive to the kind of complicated issues you bring up? that is a really good question. i think one of the things i have learned from listening to school you try to tapt into the knowledge the children themselves have, and you ask them questions. how do you build that? here is how much steel you
needed, here is how each of those crossties had to have four bolts to hold it to the steel rail. ask students those kind of questions, which will allow them , i think, to unearth some of dumbingities without us them with it. [applause] prof. campbell: thank you much. on american history tv, sunday at 6:30 p.m. eastern, astronaut michael collins on the 50th anniversary of the apollo 11 moon landing. >> i think people in general want to go, to see, to touch, to smell, to understand, wherever that may be. on the surface of the planet, a little above it, to the moon, to
mars, whatever. i think it is somehow with in us to have this, not a need, but a will and desire to explore. 8:00, the sense of humor of abraham lincoln. through the woods, he met a lady on horseback and waited for her to pass, but instead she stopped and scrutinized him before saying, for land's sake, you are the holiest man i ever -- homliest man i ever saw. i cannot help it. i suppose not, so the lady, that you might stay at home. >> this weekend on american history tv on c-span3. guide tomplete congress is now available. it has lots of details about the house and senate for the current session of congress, contacts
and bio information about every senator and representative, and information about congressional committees, state governors, and the cabinet. the 2019 congressional directory is a handy, spiral-bound guide. order your copy from the c-span online store for $18 and five $18.95. >> up next, more from palo alto as we visit the hoover institution library and archives located on the campus of stanford university. >> here are the records of 40 years' service of the american people in battle with famine and pestilence during and after all these wars. here are the records of dictators, despots and great statesmen. here are the records of what might have been, might have brought peace to the world. and here are the records of the highest idealism and self-sacrifice fre