Historic Railroad Map of the Central United States - 1874

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Watson's New County and Railroad Map of the Western States and Valley of the Mississippi.

This relief map of the central United States was published in 1874 by Gaylord Watson. It displays counties, cities, towns, stations, waterways, and the railway system of the 1870's.

The State of Louisiana had been very prosperous in its early years leading up to the American Civil War. The farmers of Louisiana were proficient at producing sugar, raised cotton, and grazed cattle and hogs, during the early 1800's. The state’s economy suffered greatly during the civil war and didn’t recover fully until well into the 1900's.

In the years following the war, soybeans and rice became the state’s most popular crops. Agriculture eventually re-established Louisiana’s economy in the early 1900's, along with a valuable oil boom in the western part of the state and into Texas.

Chicago’s transportation importance began in the 1840's with the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal connecting the Mississippi River with Lake Michigan. The Galena & Chicago Union Railway was added for the shipping of the many agricultural products that were grown in that region. Cattle, hogs, grain and other farming products were abundantly grown and traded in Chicago, as well as a number of dependent branch manufactures such as milling, slaughtering, packing, rendering, soap and candle making, tanning, brewing and distilling.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 devastated the city. The disaster, which killed around 300, destroyed much of the core of the city and left over 100,000 homeless. Many considered the city to be uninhabitable during its years of reconstruction and relocated to nearby towns. Chicago was, however, quick to rebuild following the fire. In the summer of 1874 the unthinkable occurred. Another great conflagration swept through a Chicago neighborhood south of the business district, killing 20, and displacing hundreds. Like the fire three years earlier, the fire in 1874 was of unknown origin. It was aided by heavy winds, an over-use of wood in the building of structures, and the seasonal drought. Conditions enabled flames to fly from building to building very quickly. Chicago emerged from the ashes with an improved infrastructure and fresh water system. The city once again began attracting business endeavors of all kinds.

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