NEH Gives Newberry $300,000 for Railroad Archive Project

Grant Enables Newberry to Increase Public Accessibility to 125 years of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Materials

Esther Bubley. Young commuter bound for school on suburban train.
Esther Bubley. Young commuter bound for school on suburban train. 1948. CB&Q Archives.
October 2011

The Newberry Library is pleased to announce the start of a $300,000, two-and-one-half-year project to arrange, describe, and make electronically accessible the archives of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company (CB&Q), which comprise 2,760 linear feet of correspondence, minutes, photographs, land records, maps, promotional publications, financial records and other materials documenting company activities from 1840 to 1965. The project is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access.

Headquartered in Chicago, the CB&Q was one of the nation’s largest and most significant railroads, controlling transportation over much of the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. The firm’s records are an important resource for studying this region, where in the post-Civil War era the railroad employed thousands, settled entire regions, fostered and connected economies, and spurred the growth of important urban centers, most notably Chicago. According to historian Richard White, the CB&Q records “are one of the treasures of the Newberry … one of the most valuable sources on nineteenth-century American history anywhere in the country.”

In addition to improving access with standard archival web-based inventories and catalog records, Newberry archivists will create a number of web galleries focusing on topics like labor and employees, the environment, advertising and design, and travel and tourism. Linked to the inventories, the galleries will open up the massive CB&Q archive, introducing scholars, local historians, railroad enthusiasts, and genealogists to the collection’s diverse content and directing them to the information they need.

To view and comment on the archivists’ progress and the interesting materials they uncover, please visit the CB&Q project blog.