The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was one of the largest and most significant railroads in the United States, controlling much of the transportation between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. Formed from the Aurora Branch Railroad in 1855, the company employed thousands, settled the country with immigrants from the United States and Europe, established towns, fostered agriculture, and spurred the growth of Chicago and other urban centers. The “Everywhere West” digital exhibit, based on an exhibition staged at the Newberry August 10 to October 16, 2010, contains a selection of unique black-and-white photographs portraying the lives of the CB&Q’s workers and the communities spawned by its sprawling rail network.
These photographs were commissioned for Granger Country: A Pictorial Social History of the Burlington Railroad (1949), published in honor of the company’s centennial. Only a small portion of the thousands of photos taken made it into the book; the rest languished in unpublished obscurity until their discovery, decades later, in the Newberry’s unprocessed twentieth-century Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad archives. “Daily Life Along the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad” presents a number of these forgotten photographs in a much-expanded gallery of images to that of “Everywhere West.”
The uncovering of images from the Newberry’s CB&Q archives represents one aspect of a larger NEH-funded processing project that has cataloged thousands of linear feet of nineteenth- and twentieth-century company records. Among the rich materials in the archives are payroll records; employee timetables; and pamphlets, brochures, and maps promoting emigration and tourism to destinations in the American West. The “Everywhere West” blog documents this major archiving initiative.