Thursday, December 22, 2011

New on the Shelf : Historical Atlas of the North American Railroad

Through a recent gift, we have added to the reference shelf the Historical Atlas of the North American Railroad, by Derek Hayes, published in 2010 by the University of California Press. 

Railroads were a large part of American 19th century life, similar perhaps to how automobiles are for us today. Traveling distances beyond a quick horse or buggy ride usually meant hopping a train.  The vast number of railroad lines required the employment of a legion of workers.  Train wrecks were common, often horrific tragedies, and there were those individuals who were maimed or killed while in the railroad's employ.  In addition, not to be overlooked is the fact that the formation of railroad lines meant the demise or boom of many communities.

For all of these reasons and more, it's helpful when studying our ancestors' lives to place them in historical context using books such as the Historical Atlas.  This oversize book is an absolute beauty, including nearly 400 detailed railroad maps, historical photos, posters & brochures, all in full color.  The chronology takes us from the years before the railroad, construction of the first lines in the east, extensions out and to the west like spider webs, and finally to the present day with a discussion of the computerization of the system.

Many of the individual railroad lines are discussed including the Pere Marquette and the Michigan Central which ran through the State of Michigan.  Sources for the maps are provided as well as a nice bibliography and index.  From the forward, "Historical Atlas of the North American Railroad also explains how the railroad transformed the economic and social life of a continent, fundamentally changing the two North American nations it linked from the Atlantic to the Pacific."

For those of you who are truly last minute Christmas shoppers and who have a railroad historian in your family, consider giving a copy.  It would also be a great addition to your Personal Reference Library.  To view the book in person, visit the Local History Collection any time during regular business hours.  

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown group of girls, Paw Paw Lake

M1842

Can you identify any of the swimmers in this fun real photo postcard taken at Paw Paw Lake, Berrien County?   Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.