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Trans-Continental, 1870

Masthead, Trans-Continental
Boston to San Francisco

May 23rd to July 1st, 1870.


An on-board newspaper accounting of


Published Daily on the Pullman Hotel Express, between Boston and San Francisco by Steele, W.R. (editor). Various places: 1870. Volume 1, No. 1-12 (all published). A distinct railroad oddity a newspaper published aboard the first American transcontinental charter train. The eight-car train was specially constructed by the Pullman Company and took 130 passengers, most of them members or families of members of the Boston Board of Trade, from Boston to San Francisco and back between May 23rd and July 1st, 1870. W.R. Steele brought along a small printing press and published 12 issues of this paper, one at each notable stop Niagara Falls, New York (May 24th), Omaha, Nebraska (May 26th), Cheyenne, Wyoming (May 27th), Ogden, Utah (May 28th), Salt Lake City, Utah (May 30th), the summit of the Sierra Nevadas, California (May 31st), San Francisco, California (June 25th), Promontory Summit, Utah (June 27th), Laramie, Wyoming (June 28th), Grand Island, Nebraska (June 29th), Burlington, Iowa (June 30th), and Boston, Mass. (July 4th). Each issue recounts the adventures aboard the train, interesting sites they saw, and telegraphic communications. Hardcover. 7.5"x10", title page + 48 pages; several b/w illustrations; bound in green cloth with gilt title and image of the train on the cover.
Edited description of a bound volume containing all twelve issues by Joslin Hall Rare Books.

Trans-Continental Cover

Part of the fascination of reading old newspapers is the glorious sense of reliving the past. Newspapers are the telling of history as it was made, for history is never more fascinating than when read from the day it was first reported.

The TRANS-CONTINENTAL was a stroke of historical genius in the mind of its editor, W. R. Steele. On May 24, 1870 over 130 passengers, most members and family of the Boston Board of Trade,* boarded a beautiful eight car Pullman train built under special orders of George M. Pullman specifically for this trip, the first chartered excursion by rail from Atlantic to Pacific. On board was carried a quartomedium Gordon Press which printed 12 issues of the TRANS-CONTINENTAL, each at a different point along the round-trip journey.

It was a glorious affair enjoyed by all, amid the splendor of the finest mode of living ever constructed on wheels. For their enjoyment, the passengers were lavished with the finest food, surrounded by a setting which few of the finest mansions constructed could rival, including two magnificent organs and two wellstocked libraries. Sites of the new West as well as extraneous news and anecdotes of the day were recorded in the pages of the TRANS- CONTINENTAL, witnessed by the passengers continually in awe of the splendor of the prairies, magnificence of the Rockies and the warmth and hospitality of the people they met along the way.

The TRANS-CONTINENTAL lasted but 42 days and 12 issues. Yet, it captured for generations to come the spirit of exploring a grand, new country on board a 40 mile per hour mechanical carriage. In eight days its readers transversed a territory which at that time was thought a hazardous stretch of enchantment, known only through books and fabled accounts of yesterday's pioneers.

Few issues of the TRANS-CONTINENTAL remain. This reprint is provided to tell the story of one of America's early accomplishments, for the many who find fascination in yesterday's news.


*The Boston Board of Trade was established in 1855 and lasted until 1884. It was created to concentrate energies of a multitude of businesses for the benefit of the city, hoping to return the maritime commerce of Boston to its former glory. It never really accomplished this end, although it was successful in maintaining a fraternal spirit and interest in commerce both foreign and domestic, as it related to the Boston economy.

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"And as this train speeds swiftly on,

May harmless mirth flow freely from

Lips ever true, yet sentimental,

And ably fill the TRANS-CONTINENTAL"

Courtesy Timothy Hughes Collection.  Reproduced by permission.
Printed copies are available.

Regarding another transcontinental railroad newspaper, with a racist editorial position, published by a captured former Confederate telegrapher, Legh R. Freeman, given amnesty to enlist and go west in the Union Army, who, with brother Fred Freeman, took over and renamed the former Nebraska newspaper the Kearney Herald in 1865, and by 1868 had worked their way across Wyoming, the American Antiquarian Society states that: "A Union Pacific baggage car carried a printing press on which Legh Freeman published the Frontier Index, at twenty-five different locations along the route. The issues from Julesburg, Colorado, and Fort Saunders, Wyoming, are in the Society's newspaper collection."

Soule #1116. Pullman Palace Cars, at Sacramento.  Courtesy Saddy Auctions.
Soule stereoview #1116. Pullman Palace Cars, at Sacramento. Courtesy John Saddy & Jefferson Stereoptics.

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