Spectacular Old Colony Railroad broadside touting service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket

Lithograph[?] printed in blue and red, 29”h x 42”w at sheet edge. Expertly conserved, with some mended tears and probably restoration to part of the “S” in “MARTHA’S” and the “T” and “U” in “NANTUCKET”. Tiny area of surface loss below and to right of "D" in "VINEYARD". Lined with canvas by a previous owner.

A spectacular and previously-unknown late 19th-century broadside touting Old Colony Railroad and Old Colony Steamship Company service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The Old Colony Railroad is not mentioned on this broadside, but the content points directly to that firm, as it dominated transportation in southeastern Massachusetts for much of the 19th century. Established in 1844 to develop service between Boston and Plymouth, it gained a dominant market position through mergers and acquisitions. Further impetus came from the development of Boston’s suburbs, a steamboat link connecting New York and Fall River, and the explosion of tourist travel to Cape Cod and the Islands.

Following an 1872 merger with the Cape Cod Railroad, the Railroad inaugurated the Old Colony Line, offering rail service to Woods Hole and transfer to a steamship–owned by the subsidiary Old Colony Steamship Company–for those continuing on to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Around the same time, the independent Martha’s Vineyard Railroad Company obtained a charter for a railroad on the island. Constructed in just 8 weeks and completed in August 1874, the route ran from the steamship dock at Oak Bluffs, east to Edgartown, then south to Katama. A couple of years later the line was extended to South Beach for a total run of nine miles. The Railroad never achieved a sound financial footing, and in 1892 was sold to the Old Colony Steamship Company, though it ceased operation soon thereafter.

This mammoth broadside, some 2 ½ by 3 ½ feet, was almost certainly issued by the Old Colony Railroad or Old Colony Steamship Company to promote its intermodal steamship and rail service from Wood’s Hole to Nantucket, Oak Bluffs, and other destinations on Marths’a Vineyard. The inclusion of Katama implies that it was issued some time after the opening of the Martha’s Vineyard Railroad in 1874 and before service ceased in or around 1892. The large size, bold lettering and vibrant color render it a superb display piece.

Not in OCLC as of October 2020, and I find no record of the broadside having appeared on the antiquarian market.