A well-worn transcontinental route


Source: fmlight.com

Source: fmlight.com

While reading the fabulous book entitled Mavericks of the Sky, I was intrigued by how the route chosen for the first transcontinental airmail trip was nearly identical to an overland route so often tread by foot, hoof, wagon wheel, rail, electronically, and tire between New York City and San Francisco.  The fact that New York City, Cleveland, Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and San Francisco are situated in close latitude proximity to one another helped secure this route as the first across North America for many forms of transportation. The discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento didn’t hurt any either during the 1840s and 1850s.

Below are a series of maps of the California and Mormon Trails, the Pony Express Trail, the transcontinental telegraph and railroad lines, Lincoln Highway, and Interstate 80.  Each of these transcontinental passages follow a virtually identical course, as did nation’s first transcontinental airmail route, which is also depicted.

California Trail (1841)

Source: legendsofamerica.com

Source: legendsofamerica.com

Mormon Trail (1846)

Source: legendsofamerica.com

Source: legendsofamerica.com

Pony Express Trail (1860)

Source: ponyexpressnevada.com

Source: ponyexpressnevada.com

 Transcontinental Telegraph Line (1861)

Source: telegraph-history.org/transcontinental-telegraph

Source: telegraph-history.org/transcontinental-telegraph

Transcontinental Railroad – Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads (1869)

Source: tcrr.com

Source: tcrr.com

Lincoln Highway (1913)

Source: lincolnhighwaynews.wordpress.com

Source: lincolnhighwaynews.wordpress.com

First Transcontinental Telephone Line (1914)

No map was found, but it connected New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. The photo is from Wendover, Utah.

Completion of phone line in 1914 - Source: corp.att.com/history/nethistory/transcontinental

Completion of telephone line in 1914 – Source: corp.att.com/history/nethistory/transcontinental

First Transcontinental Airmail Route – United States Post Office (1920)

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Source: mavericksofthesky.com/the-air-mail-planes/

Source: mavericksofthesky.com/the-air-mail-planes/

Interstate Highway 80 (started in 1952)

Source: i80highway.com

Source: i80highway.com

An interesting footnote to this list is the nation’s first transcontinental stagecoach service did not follow this same well-worn route. Instead, as the map depicts below, the first transcontinental stagecoach line took a much longer and circuitous southerly route from St. Louis to San Francisco by way of cities like Fort Smith, El Paso, Tucson, Yuma, and Los Angeles.

Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Line (1858)

Source: aboutusps.gov

Source: aboutusps.gov

 
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13 Responses to A well-worn transcontinental route

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    An excellent article! Would be interested in seeing if the Butterfield Trail (connecting our Midwest with Southern California versus San Fransisco) were followed by another telegraph route, partly through the Santa Fe Trail (maybe), US 66, and I-44; I-40, and I-15, as well as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF)…just a thought for further consideration, Rick.

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  2. basil berchekas jr says:

    Sorry for the postscript (“ps”) here, Rick. The National Road (US 40), the Pennsylvania Railroad/Missouri Pacific/Union Pacific Railroads, and I-70/I-80/I-15 (depending on whether you’re going north to Salt Lake City or south through Las Vegas; I-70 doesn’t extend due west from I-15 south of Salt Lake, unfortunately)…that would be an interesting one to explore….the “National” or “Cumberland” Road, an excellent example of domestic Federal Aid (plus donating townships in Federal territories to states for support of public education..and, say, a Federal donation for future state capitals like Indianapolis and Columbus Ohio.as I understand it, unless I’m wrong).)

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  3. Good post. I study one thing more difficult on completely different blogs everyday. It can at all times be stimulating to learn content from different writers and apply somewhat one thing from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a hyperlink on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Wouldn’t the Butterfield Stage route have had to respect the danger of the Indian conflicts still happening to a dangerous level on the more northern Plains?
    I guess many of us readers dream of seeing these maps in an interactive overlay. But I’m no geek with any skills to do this.

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  5. Selma Dunlap says:

    While construction was under way on the transcontinental route over the Sierra and across Nevada to Promontory, Utah, the Big Four began extension of the line between Sacramento and the San Francisco bay. This line through Stockton and Niles Canyon was over a route originally projected by the Western Pacific Railroad (no connection with the later company of the same name) whose federal authority for construction had been taken over by the Central Pacific. Transcontinental trains reached San Francisco Bay over the pioneer Oakland and Alameda “local” lines whose rail-ferry service to San Francisco had been in operation since 1863-64.

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