Columbia Library columns (v.7(1957Nov-1958May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.7,no.2(1958:Feb): Page 13  

Hie Parsons IVansportation Prints


'F are apt to forget that the century which was brought
to a close on New Year's Eve in the year 1900 was
pre-eminently a Century of Transportation—pre¬
eminently the century of rails and locomotives. Our great-grand¬
parents had, of course, ushered it in with tallow candles while we
saw it out with electric light. They had begun it with hand tools
and home industries but it had ended w ith process machinery and
mass production. They had draw n their water supply from the old
oaken bucket—we opened a tap which gave us rain collected on the
slopes of mountains a hundred miles away. These changes were
certainly revolutionary but, in these United States at least, the
nineteenth century was first and foremost the century of railroads
and railroading. The .American nation was spreading over a con¬
tinent and, just behind the Conestoga wagon and the prairie
schooner, came the railroad and the locomotive. Transportation
was the keynote of progress.

In the early years of the century, like I'rancc and England,
America had taken a fling at canal building. The great success of
the Erie had stimulated this movement. As early as 1812, however.
Colonel John Stevens of Hoboken (King's College 1768), had
pointed out that the engine w hich had already been successfully
applied to the steamboat, could and would be applied to rail trans¬
port, and that the railroad would supersede the canal as a means
of transportation. Although this was some fouttcen years before
Stephenson's 7^ofto demonstrated the possibilities of "locomotion"
at Rainhill, the Colonel's vision was prophetic. By 1840, the end
of the Canal Era was certain. America then had more miles of
railroads than Great Britain, the mother countt)' of the loco-

  v.7,no.2(1958:Feb): Page 13