Rare broadside ad from the dawn of American rail travel

MORGAN'S Newly Invented Rail Road Carriage. [Boston: Badger & Porter, 1829.]
Broadside with letterpress and two wood-engraved illustrations, 16 5/8”h x 6 7/8”w on a 21 ¼”h x 10½”w sheet, uncolored.

An early and very rare broadside advertisement promoting a Boston-Albany rail connection.

The railroad craze came relatively early to Massachusetts. By the late 1820s a number of lines had been proposed, including the Boston & Worcester Railroad and a Western Railroad linking Worcester and Albany. Backers hoped the legislature would step in and fund the projects for the greater good. This broadside was likely issued by railroad promoters with the intent of shaping the public’s view of a “work which must diffuse prosperity and happiness to every part of the State.”

The argument relies—of all things—on the great mechanical advantage imparted by the use of steel wheels moving along steel rails. This, the writer argues, will render rail travel far more efficient, comfortable and safe than that other new technology, the steamboat. By way of emphasis he introduces the carriage designed by one Mr. Morgan of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The account is illustrated by two Abel Bowen engravings illustrating the carriage and its floor plan.

“The engraving above, exhibits what may emphatically be termed a Land Barge, and to the Traveller will furnish an idea of all the convenience and comfort which belong to the best steam boats. It is constructed with a cabin, births[sic], & c. below; a promenade deck, awning, seats, & c. above.”

The latter half of the text consists of a paean to the potential of the railroad, a sort of “I told you so!” addressed to doubters of the new technology, and an exhortation to “our public men” to “act for their fellow citizens.”

Ultimately the “public men” of Massachusetts declined to step in with funding, though they did charter a number of private railroad corporations, including the Boston and Providence (1831), Boston and Worcester (1831) and Western (1833). These entities received state aid in the form of credit and, in the case of the Western Railroad, the state’s subscription to a stock offering. By 1840 there were over 280 miles of rail line in operation in the state.

In all, an early and very rare item of American railroading, conveying some of both the excitement and controversy surrounding the new technology.

OCLC 191256031 (AAS) and 81745509 (New York Historical). Not in Shoemaker, American Imprints for 1820-1829.


Untrimmed, minor soiling and staining to margins, ink inscription showing through on verso.