Head West!

At the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is), many corporations, investors, and capitalists wanted to share a little something wonderful with you: THE AMERICAN WEST. Anywhere west of the Mississippi River was a latter-day Eden, and for a few cents on the acre you could own a piece of this unique prize. Only a fool would pass on thousands of square miles of: Bountiful harvests! Spacious ranches! Amazing weather! And plentiful railroads!

California Is the Place You Want to Be!


Jerome Madden, Land Agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad (S.P.R.R.) Company, knew everything about California in 1890. His mission was to share that knowledge with you. In his publications, nary an acre of land nor the crops that flourished there were left unexamined (the orchards alone could conjure a man’s fortune!) No comparison to other regions was left unexplored, either. How did California compare to Europe? Madden knew this much: “the superiority of the climate of California over that of Italy has been mentioned by many noted travelers.” Why, even the London Spectator described California’s weather as “the nearest (to) perfection in the world,” comparable only to Tasmania!


Now that Mr. Madden had potential buyers’ attention, it was time to tell them how to find to this coastal paradise. Fortunately, there were only three railroads headed west (that bore the S.P.R.R.’s seal of quality, at any rate), keeping the move to California as simple as possible. Pick one, and profit!

Colorado, Here We Come!


California wasn’t the only paradise on earth in the United States, at least according to the Union Pacific Railroad. South Platte Valley, Colorado boasted soil vastly superior in depth and content to that of the “Eastern and Middle West States,” which was fortunate because there was cash money in that soil…in the form of sugar beets! “It is the belief of experts that the production of sugar beets will become the leading business of inhabitants of this valley” due to its “bright sunshine” and light summer rains. There were other financial opportunities in the area, to be sure, but for the discerning emigrant, beets were Coloradan gold.


Not to be outdone by competitors such as the S.P.R.R. whose helpful directions were undoubtedly inspiring Americans to move west by the gross, the Union Pacific line’s publications shared their extensive travel information. The Union Pacific Overland Route was, after all, “the only direct line to all principal points West.”

Hurry On Out to Sunny Texas!


The Caswell Brothers knew what the savvy homesteader really wanted: tillable land on the cheap! And, if you were feeling particularly cowboyish, there had a little ranch land to sell, too. But wait! Why not live in the city instead? After all, Fort Worth had boomed from a modest hamlet of 11,000 people with no railroad access in 1876 to a whopping 30,000 souls in 1880, every one of whom could boast that they now enjoyed eleven railroads leading out of town!


Texas held more temptations than just the railroad-clogged metropolis of Fort Worth. After all, weren’t folks tired of the incessant blizzards plaguing them in, presumably, every other part of the United States? Look no further than Texas for sweet relief! This image, helpfully provided by the Caswell Brothers in their promotional material, shows the truth of the matter. The shivering masses turn their eyes to the Lone Star and its abundant crops, cattle, and cowtowns. Why, who wouldn’t point their wagon toward sunny Texas immediately?

The Southwest Collection is full of a variety of curiosities such as these promotional land pamphlets, many of which can be found in digital format here. Our Reference Department would be happy to help you find any others if you, the interested researcher, would like to see them.

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