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Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, made under the direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-4. Volumes I-XII.
Washington, Government Printing Office, 1855-61.
PacRR_Surveys_JHRB (12007 bytes)
Assembled set of final 12 volume edition
(13 quatro books) as issued by both the
House of Representatives (cloth) and Senate (leather).

Description and illustrations of the Pacific Railroad Survey Reports
by Forrest Proper, Joslin Hall Rare Books.
With additional Library of Congress links to the
University of Michigan, Making of America,
On-line Facsimile of the entire completed final set, except the map volume.

The drive to build a transcontinental railroad was complicated by the important question of where to build it. Political and business rivalries contended to stop any project, or even preparation for the project, for a number of years. Which states would it traverse and, most importantly, where would it start and end?  Did the Constitution even allow the Federal Government to be involved in the project?  Finally, in 1853-4, Senator Gwin of California got an appropriation into the War Department budget to allow the Secretary of War (Jefferson Davis) to send out surveying parties.  The trouble was just beginning...

After the political and sectional dust settled there were four routes to be surveyed— a northern route along the Missouri River, over the northern Rockies and to Puget Sound, along the 47-49th parallels.  A middle route, favored by Senator Thomas Hart Benton, following the Kansas River to the Arkansas, through Salt Lake, along the 37-39th parallels. Another route, the 35th parallel route, went from Arkansas through New Mexico and Arizona and across the Mojave Desert.  The fourth route, the southern-most and the one favored by Secretary of War Davis, traveled from Texas along the Gila River to San Diego.  There were further surveys on the Pacific coast, outlining routes to link San Diego with San Francisco, and San Francisco and the Pacific northwest.  Originally the project report was envisioned as taking up three or four volumes.
[See:  Introduction and map of explored routes and a Summary of the Routes Surveyed.]
[Note:  A smaller rare original 3 volume octavo set (including a map volume) was superceded by the larger complete 12 volume quatro set finally issued in 13 books as described here.  For an even more detailed collation of both editions, see "Pacific Railroad Reports" pp. 461-507 in "Wagner-Camp:  The Plains & the Rockies, A Critical Bibliography of Exploration, Adventure and Travel in the American West, 1800-1865" 4th Edition, edited by Robert H. Becker.  San Francisco, John Howell Books, 1982. ]

By the time the final volume was published in 1861 the number of volumes had swelled to twelve and the country had other problems to deal with.  Unavoidably, with this complex a project, not all the reports arrived on time and a certain amount of confusion ensued in the publications.  The Zoology reports were late, and were put into a volume of their own, except some of the plates which were put in their regional volumes, and some other zoology reports which went into... oh well.  Frankly, the chaos could have been a whole lot worse.  And the breadth and detail which this report provides, encompassing as it does such wide sweeps of the almost-unexplored American West, makes the chaos worthwhile.  "Forbiddingly disorganized"?  How about charmingly eccentric?  The project report provided details not only on the topography of the land, but the scenery, animals, plants and inhabitants.  It remains a cornerstone piece of Americana, and a delight to go through.

Note:  The University of Michigan's Making of America Project has scanned the entire set of reports which are available online (click on the links below) and the Library of Congress has also prepared a page linking to the contents and has related maps online.  (Also see the CPRR Museum's books on-line page for further information and a map of the routes explored, and also reproductions of some of the colored Engravings.)

VOLUME I:

The introductory volume
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Volume I-  Washington; Government Printing Office: 1855.  The first volume of this massive report and, although it contains no illustrations, it does contain much of the correspondence and reports summarizing the effort — including the various reports concerning the practicability and a full description of each route. There are reports by Jefferson Davis and others, including the "Memoranda on Railways, Office of Pacific Railroad Surveys" by Brevet Captain George B. McClellan of the Corps of Engineers.   Hardcover. 9.5"x12", viii + 651 pages. 

Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

Supplement. Report of Explorations for a Route for the Pacific Railroad, near the Forty-Seventh and Forty-Ninth Parallels of North Latitude from St. Paul to Puget Sound by I. I Stevens.

VOLUME II:

The Kansas-Colorado-Utah
route
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Volume II- Washington; Government Printing Office: 1855. This volume covers the routes through Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, including the report on the route on the 38th and 39th parallels, written by Captain J.W. Gunnison in Salt Lake City shortly before he was killed by local Indians. This report is accompanied by a number of beautiful colored lithographed plates of western scenery. There are also 20 botanical plates showing flora from the 38th, 39th and 41st parallel routes, as well as several plates of fossils. Hardcover. 9.5"x12", 128 + 132 + 45 + 185 + 50 + 28 + 22 pages; 12 color lithographed plates, 20 lithographed botanical plates, 4 lithographed geological plates, and 1 color map. 

Report, by Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith, Third Artillery, upon the Route near the Thirty-Eighth and Thirty-Ninth Parallels, Explored by Captain J. W. Gunnison, Corps Topographical Engineers.

Report of Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith, Third Artillery, upon the Route near the Forty-First Parallel.

Report of a Reconnaissance from Puget Sound, via South Pass, to the Mississippi River, by F. W. Lander, Civil Engineer.

Report of Brevet Captain John Pope, Corps Topographical Engineers, upon the Portion of the Route near the Thirty-Second Parallel, Lying between the Red River and the Rio Grande.

Report on the Geology of the Route near the Thirty-Second Parallel: Prepared from the Collection and Notes of Capt. Pope, by William P. Blake, Geologist of the Office of the United States Pacific Railroad Surveys.

Report of Lieutenant John G. Parke, Corps Topographical Engineers, upon the Portion of the Route near the Thirty-Second Parallel, Lying Between the Rio Grande and Pimas Village, on the Gila.

Extract from Report of a Military Reconnaissance Made by Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Emory, U. S. Army, of the Portion of the Route near the Thirty-Second Parallel, Lying Between the Mouths of the San Pedro and Gila Rivers.

VOLUME III:

The 35th parallel route,
along with the
Ethnographic report
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Volume III- Washington; Government Printing Office: 1856. The ethnographic volume. This report described the route explored along the 35th parallel by Lietenant Amiel Weeks Whipple, from Little Rock, Arkanas, through Oklahoma, past Amarillo, along the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers, through New Mexico and Arizona, to Los Angeles. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this report is the section about the Indians of the region, which includes many b/w illustrations and 8 colored lithographs, and a section on the geology. Hardcover. 9.5"x12", 36 + 136 + 77 + 127 + 175 pages; with many b/w illustrations in the text and 21 colored lithographed plates, 8 graph plates, 2 geology plates, a folding map, a folding chart of elevations, and a folding chart of geological cross-sections.

Extracts from the [Preliminary] Report of Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, Corps of Topographical Engineers, upon the Route near the Thirty-Fifth Parallel, with an Explanatory Note by Captain A. A. Humphreys, Corps of Topographical Engineers.

Part 1. Report. Explorations for a Railway Route, near the Thirty-Fifth Parallel of North Latitude, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean: By Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, Corps Of Topographical Engineers Assisted by Lieutenant J. C. Ives, Corps of Topographicatl Engineers.

Part 2. Report of the Topographical Features and Character of the Country.

Part 3. Route near the Thirty-Fifth Parallel, under the Command of Lieut. A. W. Whipple, Topographical Engineers, in 1853 and 1854. Report upon the Indian Tribes, by Lieut. A. W. Whipple, Thomas Ewbank, Esq., and Prof. Wm. W. Turner.

Part 4. Route near the Thirty-Fifth Parallel, Explored By Lieut. A. W. Whipple, Topographical Engineers, in 1853 and 1854. Report on the Geology of the Route.

Part 5. Route near the Thirty-Fifth Parallel, Explored by Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, Topographical Engineers, in 1853 and 1854. Report on the Botany of the Expedition.

VOLUME IV:

The botanical report
on the 35th parallel route
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Volume IV- Washington; Government Printing Office: 1856. The botanical volume. This report describes the botany on the route explored along the 35th parallel by Lieutenant A.W. Whipple, from Little Rock, Arkanas, through Oklahoma, past Amarillo, along the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers, through New Mexico and Arizona, to Los Angeles. This volume was devoted almost entirely to botanical studies, mostly conducted by Dr. J.M. Bigelow. It includes reports on trees by Bigelow (no pics), Cacti by George Engleman (24 plates), a description of the general botanical collections brought back by Bigelow, by Gray (25 plates), and mosses and liverworts by W.S. Sullivan (10 plates). This is followed by an unillustrated summary section of the zoology report, with a note that the full report will appear later, and appendices on astronomical, magnetic, climatological, and barometric observations, Hardcover. 9.5"x12", 193 + 288 pages; large folding colored chart; 24 lithographs of cacti; 25 botanical lithographs and 10 lithos of mosses & liverworts.

Part 6. Route near the Thirty-Fifth Parallel of North Latitude, Explored by Lieut. A. W. Whipple, Topographical Engineers. Report of the Zoology of the Expedition.

Appendices to Report by Lieut. A. W. Whipple.

VOLUME V:

The first Southern California volume
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Volume V- Washington; Government Printing Office: 1856. The Southern California volume. A report highlighting the geology, deserts, valleys and flora of southern California, as far north as San Francisco. There are views of the settlements of Los Angeles and San Diego, many lovely views of the deserts, valleys and mountains, and discussion and illustrations of the botany of the area, as well as many plates of fossil shells. Hardcover. 9.5"x12"; 43 pages plus 12 colored lithographs; 370 pages plus 14 colored lithographed plates, geological cross-section plate, large folding map of southern California, and three colored map plates; 7 folding geological tables showing elevations, several colored; 11 lithographs of fossils, mostly shells, numbered 1-9, 1-12, with no reference to any plate 10 in the text to indicate that there ever was one; 10 lithographed botanical plates; 15 pages plus 18 botanical plates; 14 pages.

Part 1. Report. Explorations In California for Railroad Routes, to Connect with the Routes near the 35th and 32nd Parallels of North Latitude by Lieutenant R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers.

Part 2. Routes in California, to Connect with the Routes near the Thirty-Fifth and Thirty-Second Parallels, Explored by Lieutenant R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, in 1853. Geological Report, by William P. Blake, Geologist and Mineralogist of the Expedition.

Part 3. Routes in California, to Connect with the Routes near the Thirty-Fifth and Thirty-Second Parallels, Explored by Lieut. R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, in 1853. Botanical Report, by E. Durand and T. C. Hilgard, M.D.

VOLUME VI:

The California / Oregon report
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Volume VI- Washington; Government Printing Office: 1857. This is the California / Oregon volume, consisting of the report by Lieutenant Henry Abbot on the expedition, under the command of Lieutenant R.S. Williamson, to find routes from the Sacramento Valley to the Columbia River. The first section described the routes and terrain, followed by sections on the geology, the botany (with many colored plates illustrating trees, including the Ponderosa Pine), and the zoological report which included fishes, birds and mammals of the region. Hardcover. 9.5"x12"; 134 pages + 3 lithographic chart and 12 colored lithographs of scenery + 2 maps; 85 pages + 1 colored lithograph and 4 lithographs of fossil shells; 102 pages + 10 colored lithographs of trees, + 6 lithographs of plants; 114 pages, + 11 lithographed plates of fishes, + 2 colored lithographs of birds, + 3 lithographed plates of mammals; + iv + 64 pages and an errata sheet.

Part 1. Report of Lieut. Henry L. Abbot, Corps of Topographical Engineers upon Explorations for a Railroad Route, the Sacramento Valley to the Columbia River, Made by Lieut. R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, Assisted by Lieut. Henry L. Abbot, Corps of Topographical Engineers.

Part 2. Routes in California and Oregon Explored by Lieut. R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, and Lieut. Henry L. Abbot, Corps of Topographical Engineers, in 1855. Geological Report.

Part 3. Routes in California and Oregon Explored by Lieut. R. S Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, and Lieut. Henry L. Abbot, Corps of Topographical Engineers, in 1855. Botanical Report.

Part 4. Routes in California and Oregon Explored by Lieut. R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, and Lieut. Henry L. Abbot, Corps of Topographical Engineers, in 1855. Zoological Report.

VOLUME VII:

The second
Southern California volume
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Volume VII- Washington; Government Printing Office: 1857. The Southern California volume, consisting of the report by Lieutenant John G. Parke on the routes from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and also from the Pimas villages on the Gila River to the Rio Grande. Hardcover. 9.5"x12"; 42 pages plus 8 colored lithographed plates + 2 maps and 1 profile; + 204 pages plus 10 lithographed paleontology plates; plus 14 geological plates; plus 2 folding colored plans / maps; + 28 pages plus 8 lithographed plates of plants; + 116 pages plus 11 lithographed weather tables; + 37 pages and an errata sheet.

Part 1. Report of Explorations for Railroad Routes San Francisco Bay to Los Angeles, West of the Coast Range, and from the Pimas Villages on the Gila to the Rio Grande, near the 32d Parallel of North Latitude, Lieutenant John G. Parke, Corps of Topographical Engineers, Assisted by Albert H. Campbell, Civil Engineer.

Part 2. Report of Explorations for Railroad Routes San Francisco Bay to Los Angeles, West of the Coast Range, and from the Pimas Villages on the Gila to the Rio Grande, near the 32d Parallel of North Latitude, Lieutenant John G. Parke, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Geological Report, by Thomas Antisell, M. D., Geologist of the Expedition.

Part 3. Report of Explorations for Railroad Routes San Francisco Bay to Los Angeles, West of the Coast Range, and from the Pimas Villages on the Gila to the Rio Grande, near the 32d Parallel of North Latitude, Lieutenant John G. Parke, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Botanical Report: John Torrey, M.D.

Report of Explorations for Railroad Routes San Francisco Bay to Los Angeles, West of the Coast Range, and from the Pimas Villages on the Gila to the Rio Grande, near the 32d Parallel of North Latitude, Lieutenant John G. Parke, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Appendices.

Conclusion of the Official Review of the Reports upon the Explorations and Surveys for Railroad Routes from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

VOLUME VIII:

The first volume
of the Zoology report
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Volume VIII- Washington; Beverley Tucker, Printer: 1857. Finally, the first part of the Zoology Report, noted as "not ready yet" in prior volumes. This volume covers the mammals, and includes many lithographed plates of skulls and other skeletal parts, as well as illustrations of rodents fully-in-skin, so to speak... Hardcover. 9.5"x12"; 757 pages plus lithographed plates XVII - XXVIII and XXX - LX, as called for; the remaining plates, although described, were published with other volumes of the set (identified here).

Part 1. General Report upon the Zoology of the Several Pacific Railroad Routes.

VOLUME IX:

The second volume
of the Zoology report
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Volume IX- Washington; Beverley Tucker, Printer: 1858. The second portion of the Zoology report, covering birds (written by Spencer F. Baird). Hardcover. 9.5"x12", lvi + 1005 pages.

Part 2. General Report Upon the Zoology of the Several Pacific Railroad Routes. Birds: by Spencer F. Baird.

VOLUME X:

The third volume
of the Zoology report
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Volume X- Washington; Beverley Tucker, Printer: 1859. Parts 3 and 4 of the Zoology report, covering reptiles (by Spencer Baird -just the plates with a note that the Zoology section has become so large that the reptile report has been omitted), fishes (by Charles Girard) and short reports on Birds, Mammals, Fishes and Reptiles by Baird; Hardcover. 9.5"x12"; 16 pages + 13 lithographed plates of reptiles; 400 pages + 21 lithographed plates of fishes; 27 pages + 3 lithographed plates of mammals, + 7 colored lithographic plates of birds; + 4 lithographed plates of reptiles; + 6 lithographed plates of fishes; + 64 pages plus 6 lithographed plates of mammals, + 11 colored lithographs of birds, + 3 lithographed plates of amphibians; + 14 lithographed plates of fishes; plus 24 pages + 3 colored lithographs of birds and 1 lithographed plate of a rattlesnake; plus 97 pages + 9 lithographed plates of reptiles, + 7 colored lithographic plates of birds, + 10 lithographic plates of fishes; plus 13 pages + 4 plates of reptiles.

Part 3. General Report upon the Zoology of the Several Pacific Railroad Routes. Reptiles: by Spencer F. Baird.

Part 4. General Report upon the Zoology of the Several Pacific Railroad Routes. Fishes: by Charles Girard, M. D.

Report of Lieut. E. G. Beckwith, Third Artillery, upon Explorations for a Railroad Route, near the 38th and 39th Parallels of North Latitude, by Captain J. W. Gunnison, Corps of Topographical Engineers, and near the Forty-First Parallel of North Latitude, by Lieut. E. G. Beckwith, Third Artillery. Zoological Report.

Part 6. Report of Exploration for a Railway Route (near the thirty-fifth Parallel of North Latitude) from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, by Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, Corps of Topographical Engineers; assissted by Lieutent J.C. Ives, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Zoological Report.

Report of Explorations for a Railroad Route near the 32d Parallel of North Latitude, Lying between Dona Ana, on the Rio Grande, and Pimas Villages, on the Gila, by Lieutenant John G. Parke, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Zoological Report.

Part 4 Report of Explorations in California for Railroad Routes to Connect with the Routes near the 35th and 32nd Parallels of North Latitude. By Lieutenant R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Zoological Report.

Part 4 no. 4 Report of Lieut. Henry L. Abbot, Corps of Topographical Engineers, upon Explorations for a Railroad Route, from the Sacramento Valley to the Columbia River, Made by Lieut. R. S. Williamson, Corps of Topographical Engineers, Assisted by Lieut. Henry L. Abbot, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Zoological Report.

VOLUME XI:

The map volume

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Volume XI- Washington; George W. Bowman: 1861. The maps and views volume, with a brief history of the mapping of the West, Hardcover. 9.5"x12", 115 + iv pages, plus 4 engraved map plates, plus 8 lithographed view plates and 5 lithographed folding view plates, plus 21 folding maps and 10 profiles. Maps are rather fragile.

[Rare map volume not available on-line, except for selected maps,and the four maps that relate to the Volume II Beckwith Report, but see  related maps; also see the Gouverneur Kemble Warren map.]

VOLUME XII:

The Northern route report,
along with the summary
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Volume XII- Washington; Thomas H. Ford, Printer; 1860. The final volumes, containing a report by the Governor of Washington Territory on the Northern Route, up along the 47th-49th parallels, from St. Paul to Puget Sound. 2 volumes. Hardcover. 9.5"x12". First volume- 358 + 41 pages, plus 70 colored landscape plates. Second volume? 76 pages plus 6 lithographed botanical plates, plus xx pages plus 2 lithographed insect plates, plus 6 lithographed mammal plates, plus 8 colored lithographic plates of birds, plus 11 lithographed plates of reptiles, plus 20 (sometimes 21) lithographed plates of fishes.

Part 1. Narrative Final Report of Explorations for a Route for a Pacific Railroad, near the Forty-Seventh and Forty-Ninth Parallels of North Latitude, St. Paul to Puget Sound. Isaac I. Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory.

Part 2. Route near the Forty-Seventh and Forty-Ninth Parallels, Explored by I. I. Stevens, Governor of Washington. Botanical Report.

Part 3. Route near the Forty-Seventh and Forty-Ninth Parallels, Explored by I. I. Stevens, Governor of Washington. Zoological Report.

Courtesy Forrest Proper, Joslin Hall Rare Books.  Used by Permission.
Additional links to the University of Michigan, Making of America On-line Volumes, Courtesy Library of Congress.


California Map 1853
Geological Map of a part of the State of California Explored in 1853 by Lieut. R. S. Williamson U. S. Top. Engr. Prepared to accompany the report of William P. Blake Geologist of the Expedition.  From Volume V of the Pacific Railroad Surveys, [1855]. Delicate hand-coloring and patterns on this 22" x 16" lithographic map define the various geological regions of the state, primarily in the region from just northeast of San Francisco south to San Diego. Courtesy Andrea Woolfolk, Elkhorn Slough Foundation and, Steve Armistead, Deja View Antique Maps and Prints.


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