Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 7 Pacific Railroad

Table of Contents

Chapter 7. Records of the Committee on Commerce and Related Committees, 1816-1968

Records of Committees Relating to Commerce, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on the Pacific Railroad, 1863-73

7.38 On July 7, 1861, the Senate established a Select Committee on the Pacific Railroad to deal with two bills to authorize construction of a transcontinental railroad. In 1862, this select committee reported on the bill that the Congress enacted granting a charter to the Union Pacific Railroad Company to construct such a railroad and providing Federal support in the form of land grants and bond subsidies. At the beginning of the 38th Congress, the select committee was made a standing committee, which it remained until 1873, when it was replaced by the Committee on Railroads.

7.39 The records of the Committee on the Pacific Railroad consist of committee papers, 1867-71 (1 ft.), and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures that were referred to the committee, 1864-71 (5 in.). Most of the records of both series concern the Union Pacific Railroad Company and the northern, central, and southern transcontinental railway routes. Within the committee papers are an original 1864 report of the railroad's geologist, James T. Hodge, and other papers relating to the construction of the transcontinental railroad (40A-E10); a copy of a secret agreement by stockholders of the Union Pacific Railroad, October 16, 1867, and various papers related to the Credit Mobilier (41A-E12); and an 1870 letter from former President Millard Fillmore, the president of the Louisville (KY) Commercial Convention, transmitting that organization's report on the Southern Pacific Railroad (41A-E12). Most of the petitions referred to the committee advocated particular routes and station stops for the transcontinental railroad. One petition, from William Napoleon Walton in 1864, proposed construction of what he called a "pneumatic aerograph," basically a 12"-15" diameter vacuum tube by which letters and small packages could be sent around the country (38A-H14).

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.