The Newberry’s Modern Manuscripts Department announces the completion of a three-year National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project to arrange, describe, and make electronically available the records of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company (CB&Q).
The CB&Q records at the Newberry measure over 2,300 linear feet, and include correspondence, reports, maps, blueprints, financial documents, advertising materials, photographs, and other items documenting the history of the railroad company. Accessible through standard archival web-based inventories and catalog records, the collection is now also illuminated by a subject web gallery: CB&Q: Building an Empire. The gallery, organized by theme and illustrated with stunning imagery, introduces scholars, historians, railroad enthusiasts, and genealogists to the possible avenues of discovery within the massive archive.
Commonly known as the Burlington, the CB&Q originated in 1855 from a small branch line connecting Aurora, Illinois, to Chicago. The company pursued an aggressive westward expansion in the post-Civil War era: by 1901, the railroad employed over 35,000 people and encompassed 7,500 miles of track, forming a web of connections throughout Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. It continued to operate independently well into the twentieth century and to expand operations, acquiring southerly extensions from Chicago into Kentucky, and a north-south through-route from Wyoming to the Gulf of Mexico.
The company’s growth and expansion, both organizationally as a corporation and geographically as it built westward, is well represented at the Newberry. The collection contains significant material related to CB&Q’s participation in the federal land grant program, the other railroads it absorbed, the company’s disputes and negotiations with organized labor, and other aspects of railroad management. Photographs include travel and tourist destinations along Burlington routes in the West and Midwest, as well as images of employees, property, and equipment.
The CB&Q records complement the Newberry’s robust holdings of midwestern business history materials, which continue to be an active collecting area for the Modern Manuscripts Department.