Currier & Ives Celebrate Progress
Although today we associate Currier & Ives with quaint images on cookie tins, no other publisher so enthusiastically captured the thrill of American industrial progress during the 19th century. The Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division has a fabulous collection of Currier & Ives prints, including this one from 1874 that expresses the wonder of high-speed travel: "American Railroad Scene: Lightning Express Trains Leaving the Junction."
Railroads in the United States
A mere 37 years earlier, when railroads had just begun to spread across the continent (see Cooper), this was the "high speed" train run by the Erie Railroad.
Mass transit? Hardly. Faster and more comfortable than a horse and buggy? Definitely.
Vanderbilt became involved in the Erie Railroad in the 1860s, when he waged a widely publicized battle for control of it with Daniel Drew, James Fisk, and Jay Gould. In this cartoon, Vanderbilt and Fisk are shown as cowboys riding locomotives.
Vanderbilt's Obituary in the New York Times
When Vanderbilt died in 1877, the New York Times praised him for all the right reasons:
What he bought he bought to keep, to build up, and to make more productive. ... It required skill, patience, and that mental quality which we call forethought, to conduct successfully such vast concerns as those which employed Vanderbilt's energies. Every movement of his will was perceptible in the fleets which covered the waters, or in the network of rails which enmeshed the land. By him, therefore, the movements of population, the currents of trade and travel, and the requirements of commerce, must have been clearly seen and understood. It was his business, in a large way, to anticipate and meet all these requirements and changes. He did this so well that he is now set down as a highly successful man. (New York Times 1/5/1877)
Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante