The Baltimore & Ohio: First Railroad in America

Introduction

World's Fair, railroad pageant locomotives. Locomotive I, from sideOn July 4, 1828 Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, ceremoniously broke ground for the start of the first railroad in the United States, the Baltimore & Ohio. The railroad, which at first utilized horses to pull its trains, introduced the first commercially successful steam locomotives to America. The railroad was considered important enough to the internal improvement of the United States that the government provided West Point engineers to oversee its initial surveying and construction.

The opening of the first thirteen miles of track in 1830 and the establishment of regular freight and passenger service to Ellicott’s Mills heralded the beginning of a transportation revolution, demonstrating to the world that railroads could conquer long distances and rough terrain and move goods and people faster than any other form of transportation. No less important than the first flight of the Wright brothers or the lunar landings of the “Space Race,” the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad changed the face of American - and world - transportation forever. 

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades K-4:

Topic 4: The History of Peoples of Many Cultures Around the World 

Standard 8: Major discoveries in science and technology, their social and economic effects, and the scientists and inventors responsible for them.

Standard 8B: The student understands changes in transportation and their effects. 

3-4: Trace the developments in rail transportation beginning in the 19th century and the effects of national systems of railroad transport on the lives of people. [Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration ]
3-4: Identify and describe the people who have made significant contributions in the field of transportation. [ Assess the importance of the individual in history]

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 4 Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)

Standard 2: How the industrial revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed the lives of Americans and led toward regional tensions

Standard 2A: The student understands how the factory system and the transportation and market revolutions shaped regional patterns of economic development.

5-12: Explain how the major technological developments that revolutionized land and water transportation arose and analyze how they transformed the economy, created international markets, and affected the environment. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships] 
9-12:
Explain how economic policies related to expansion, including northern dominance of locomotive transportation, served different regional interests and contributed to growing political and sectional differences. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas] 

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Map of the country embracing the various routes surveyed for the Balt. & Ohio Rail Road by order of the Board of Engineers. 
    CARTOGRAPHER: Joshua Barney
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: [Baltimore? 1831?] 
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    NOTES: Indicates routes surveyed and actual railroad; incorporated in 1827; first surveyed in 1828.
    SOURCE: Map Collections: 1500-2004 
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress 

  2. DESCRIPTION: Locust Point Baltimore & Ohio Railroad pier
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: ca. 1875
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1447-1-5795
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  3. DESCRIPTION: Relay House on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad with Civil War troops
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1862
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1447-1-6679
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  4. DESCRIPTION: Baltimore & Ohio railroad bridge across Susquehanna River
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: after 1879
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1447-1-5335
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  5. DESCRIPTION: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Henry Rinn, Jr.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: ca. 1905
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1447-1-5261
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  6. DESCRIPTION: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad office
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Robert Sadler
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 5, 1905
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1447-1-6321
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  7. DESCRIPTION: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station yard
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Robert Sadler
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1907
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1447-1-6310
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  8. DESCRIPTION: Photo, “Tom Thumb” and passenger car at the 1937 World’s Fair 
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 27, 1939 
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    NOTES: Photo of first Baltimore & Ohio experimental steam engine (1831)
    SOURCE: Gottscho-Schleisner Collection  
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C 

  9. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, World's Fair, railroad pageant locomotives. Locomotive I, from side
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Gottscho-Schleisner Collection
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 11, 1939 
    NOTES: Photo of first Baltimore & Ohio commercial steam engine, “Atlantic” (1833)
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    SOURCE: Gottscho-Schleisner Collection  
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress 

  10. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, World's Fair, railroad pageant locomotives. Locomotive I, from front (different view)
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Gottscho-Schleisner Collection
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 11, 1939 
    NOTES: Photo of first Baltimore & Ohio commercial steam engine, “Atlantic” (1833)
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    SOURCE: Gottscho-Schleisner Collection  
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress 

  11. DESCRIPTION: Lithograph, The Thomas Viaduct, Across the Patapsco River on the Washington Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
    ARTIST: Thomas Campbell
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1835
    NOTES: Drawing of world’s largest multiple arched stone railroad bridge with an arc, built in 1835 to carry the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad over the Patapsco River
    SOURCE: More Than Meets the Eye: History of Maryland Through Prints, 1750-1900
    REPOSITORY: Maryland Historical Society

  12. DESCRIPTION: The History of the First Locomotives in America  
    AUTHOR: William Brown
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1871
    NOTES: From Original Documents and the Testimony of Living Witnesses
    SOURCE: Steam Engine Library (University of Rochester)
    REPOSITORY: History Department, Rochester University

  13. DESCRIPTION: A History of the Growth of the Steam Engine 
    AUTHOR: Robert H. Thurston
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1878
    NOTES: Many anecdotes and illustrations
    SOURCE: Steam Engine Library (University of Rochester)
    REPOSITORY: History Department, University of Rochester

Additional Media Resources

Railroad History Timeline. From Pacific Southwest Railway Museum

Additional Instructional Resources

History of Railroads

The Industrial Revolution

Secondary Resources

Bender, Thomas.  "Law, Economy, and Social Values in Jacksonian America: A Maryland Case Study." Maryland Historical Magazine, 71(4) 1976. 484-497.

Carlson, Robert E.  "British Railroads and Engineers and the Beginnings of American Railroad Development." Business History Review 34(2) 1960. 137-149.

Dilts, James D.  The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, The Nation’s First Railroad, 1828-1853. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.

Harwood, Jr., Herbert H.  Impossible Challenge: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland. Baltimore: Barnard, Roberts and Company, Inc., 1979.

Hungerford, Edward.  The Story of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 1827-1927. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928. 2 vols.

Kanarek, Harold.  "The U.S. Army Corps of  Engineers and Early Internal Improvements in Maryland." Maryland Historical Magazine 72(1), 1977. 99-109.

Mason, Matthew E.  "The Hands Here Are Disposed to be Turbulent:" Unrest Among the Irish Trackmen of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 1829-1851.” Labor History 39(3) 1998. 253-272.

Prince, Carl E.  "The Great 'Riot Year': Jacksonian Democracy and Patterns of Violence in 1834." Journal of the Early Republic 5(1) 1985. 1-19.

Some journal articles linked to this site require password access due to copyright and other restrictions. Teachers participating in the Teaching American History in Maryland program with a valid University of Maryland (UMBC) Library card can access these materials through ResearchPort.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum
2711 Maryland Avenue
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(410) 461-1944
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum
901 West Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21223
(410) 752-2490
Patapsco Valley State Park
8020 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(410) 461-5005

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Jim Bailey.

 

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