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Gateway to the Northern Plains Cover

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Gateway to the Northern Plains

Railroads and the Birth of Fargo and Moorhead

Carroll Engelhardt

In the 1860s, land speculators in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory expected that a great city would rise where the railroad crossed the Red River of the North. In 1872, after the Northern Pacific Railroad laid its first tracks across the river, it brought settlers, capital, and access to Eastern markets and gave birth to the twin cities of Moorhead and Fargo.


Historian Carroll Engelhardt’s Gateway to the Northern Plains chronicles the story of Fargo and Moorhead’s birth and growth. Once just specks on the vast landscape of the Northern Plains, these twin cities prospered, teeming with their own dynamic culture, economy, and politics. Moorhead was the first, boosted by railroad manager Thomas Hawley Canfield, who touted it as superior to Fargo. Amid disputes and deals with entrepreneurs, the railroad company provided land for public schools and churches to speed the refinement of the settlement. Despite Moorhead’s earlier start, Northern Pacific Railway chose Fargo as its headquarters, and it became the “Gateway City” to North Dakota.


Development in the cities was not always harmonious. As the population increased, so did the pressure to conform to middle-class values. Residents joined together to create community churches and schools, clashing with migratory harvest workers, usually single men, who patronized saloons, brothels, and gambling dens. Outraged citizens worked to eliminate such antisocial behavior and establish moral order.


Though the dominant Twin Cities to the south limited Fargo and Moorhead’s size and success, settlers from far and wide poured in, creating a diverse population and vital culture. There are many histories of major U.S. cities, but in Gateway to the Northern Plains Engelhardt reveals how the small cities of the plains have made their mark on the country as well as on the reality—and the myth—of the American West.


Carroll Engelhardt is professor emeritus of history at Concordia College, Moorhead. He is the author of On Firm Foundation Grounded: The First Century of Concordia College (1891–1991).

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Grand Central's Engineer

William J. Wilgus and the Planning of Modern Manhattan

Kurt C. Schlichting

Few people have had as profound an impact on the history of New York City as William J. Wilgus. As chief engineer of the New York Central Railroad, Wilgus conceived the Grand Central Terminal, the city’s magnificent monument to America’s Railway Age. Kurt C. Schlichting here examines the remarkable career of this innovator, revealing how his tireless work moving people and goods over and under Manhattan Island’s surrounding waterways forever changed New York’s bustling transportation system. After his herculean efforts on behalf of Grand Central, the most complicated construction project in New York’s history, Wilgus turned to solving the city’s transportation quandary: Manhattan—the financial, commercial, and cultural hub of the United States in the twentieth century—was separated from the mainland by two major rivers to the west and east, a deep-water estuary to the south, and the Harlem River to the north. Wilgus believed that railroads and mass transportation provided the answer to New York City’s complicated geography. His ingenious ideas included a freight subway linking rail facilities in New Jersey with manufacturers and shippers in Manhattan, a freight and passenger tunnel connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn, and a belt railway interconnecting sixteen private railroads serving the metropolitan area. Schlichting’s deep passion for Wilgus and his engineering achievements are evident in the pages of this fascinating work. Wilgus was a true pioneer, and Schlichting ensures that his brilliant contributions to New York City’s transportation system will not be forgotten.

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Graveyard of the Lakes

Mark L. Thompson

For the first time, a historian and seasoned mariner looks beyond the specific circumstances of individual shipwrecks in an effort to reach a clearer understanding of the economic, political, and psychological factors that have influenced the 25,000 wrecks on the Great Lakes over the past 300 years. Looking at the entire tragic history of shipwrecks on North America's expansive inland seas, from the 1679 loss of the Griffon to the mysterious sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, Mark L. Thompson concludes that a wreck is not an isolated event. In Graveyard of the Lakes, Thompson suggests that most of the accidents and deaths on the lakes have been the result of human error, ranging from simple mistakes to gross incompetence. In addition to his compelling analysis of the causes of shipwrecks, Thompson includes factual accounts of more than one hundred wrecks. Graveyard of the Lakes will forever change the reader's perspective on shipwrecks.

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Great Northern Railway

A History

Ralph W. Hidy

In the sprawling Northwest, from the upper Mississippi River valley to Puget Sound, no railroad shaped the landscape and society like the Great Northern Railway Company. This is the complete history of that enterprise, from 1856, when the first charter was granted, through the era of James J. Hill—known as the Empire Builder—to its maturation and eventual merger in 1970, when the eight-thousand-mile Great Northern was incorporated into the massive Burlington Northern. The Great Northern Railway highlights the changes brought on by economic, political, social, and technological advances, including world wars, increased competition from other modes of transportation, and tighter government restrictions. The first part of the book (1856–1916) examines the railway’s early strategies and philosophy, relations with employees, and vigorous campaigns to develop the service area. The second part of the history (1916–1970) offers an assessment of a dramatic period of transition for the railroad—international conflicts, the Great Depression, the rise of motor vehicles, increasing labor costs, and stronger unions. Illustrated with more than two hundred maps, period photographs, and drawings, the volume also includes appendixes listing the original track-laying history, track removals, ruling grades on main freight routes, and main line ruling grades from Minneapolis to Seattle.

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Harriman vs. Hill

Wall Street’s Great Railroad War

Larry Haeg

In 1901, the Northern Pacific was an unlikely prize: a twice-bankrupt construction of the federal government, it was a two-bit railroad (literally—five years back, its stock traded for twenty-five cents a share). But it was also a key to connecting eastern markets through Chicago to the rising West. Two titans of American railroads set their sights on it: James J. Hill, head of the Great Northern and largest individual shareholder of the Northern Pacific, and Edward Harriman, head of the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific. The subsequent contest was unprecedented in the history of American enterprise, pitting not only Hill against Harriman but also Big Oil against Big Steel and J. P. Morgan against the Rockefellers, with a supporting cast of enough wealthy investors to fill the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria.

The story, told here in full for the first time, transports us to the New York Stock Exchange during the unfolding of the earliest modern-day stock market panic. Harriman vs. Hill re-creates the drama of four tumultuous days in May 1901, when the common stock of the Northern Pacific rocketed from one hundred ten dollars a share to one thousand in a mere seventeen hours of trading—the result of an inadvertent “corner” caused by the opposing forces. Panic followed and then, in short order, a calamity for the “shorts,” a compromise, the near-collapse of Wall Street brokerages and banks, the most precipitous decline ever in American stock values, and the fastest recovery. Larry Haeg brings to life the ensuing stalemate and truce, which led to the forming of a holding company, briefly the biggest railroad combine in American history, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the deal, launching the reputation of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as the “great dissenter” and President Theodore Roosevelt as the “trust buster.” The forces of competition and combination, unfettered growth, government regulation, and corporate ambition—all the elements of American business at its best and worst—come into play in the account of this epic battle, whose effects echo through our economy to this day.

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Hawai`i's Scenic Roads

Paving the Way for Tourism in the Islands

Dawn E. Duensing

Hawai‘i’s Scenic Roads examines a century of overland transportation from the kingdom’s first constitutional government until World War II, discovering how roads in the world’s most isolated archipelago rivaled those on the continental U.S. Building Hawai‘ i’s roads was no easy feat, as engineers confronted a unique combination of circumstances: extreme isolation, mountainous topography, torrential rains, deserts, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and on Haleakalā, freezing temperatures.

By investigating the politics and social processes that facilitated road projects, Hawai‘i’s Scenic Roads explains that foreign settlers wanted roads to “civilize” the Hawaiians and promote economic development, specifically agriculture. Once sugar became the dominant driver, civic and political leaders turned their attention to constructing scenic roads. Viewed as “commercial enterprises,” scenic byways became an essential factor in establishing tourism as Hawai‘i’s “third crop” after sugar and pineapple. These thoroughfares also served as playgrounds for the islands’ elite residents and wealthy visitors who could afford the luxury of carriage driving, and after 1900, motorcars.

Duensing’s provocative analysis of the 1924 Hawai‘i Bill of Rights reveals that roads played a critical role in redefining the Territory of Hawai‘i’s status within the United States. Politicians and civic leaders focused on highway funding to argue that Hawai‘i was an “integral part of the Union,” thus entitled to be treated as if it were a state. By accepting this Bill of Rights, Congress confirmed the territory’s claim to access federal programs, especially highway aid. Washington’s involvement in Hawai‘i increased subsequently, as did the islands’ dependence on the national government. Federal money helped the territory weather the Great Depression as it became enmeshed in New Deal programs and philosophy. Although primarily an economic protest, the Hawai‘i Bill of Rights was a crucial stepping stone on the path to eventual statehood in 1959.

At the core of this book is the intriguing tales of road projects that established the islands' most renowned scenic drives, including the Pali Highway, byways around Kīlauea Volcano, Haleakalā Highway, and the Hāna Belt Road. The author’s unique approach provides a fascinating perspective for understanding Hawai‘i’s social dynamics, as well as its political, environmental, and economic history.

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Henry's Lieutenants

Ford R. Bryan

Although Henry Ford gloried in the limelight of highly publicized achievement, he privately admitted, "I don't do so much, I just go around lighting fires under other people." Henry's Lieutenants features biographies of thirty-five "other people" who served Henry Ford in a variety of capacities, and nearly all of whom contributed to his fame. These biographical sketches and career highlights reflect the people of high caliber employed by Henry Ford to accomplish his goals: Harry Bennett, Albert Kahn, Ernest Kanzler, William S. Knudsen, and Charles E. Sorenson, among others. Most were employed by the Ford Motor Company, although a few of them were Ford's personal employees satisfying concurrent needs of a more private nature, including his farming, educational, and sociological ventures. Ford Bryan obtained a considerable amount of the material in this book from the oral reminiscences of the subjects themselves.

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Hero of the Angry Sky

The World War I Diary and Letters of David S.Ingalls, America's First Naval Ace

Geoffrey L. Rossano

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The Hiawatha Story

Jim Scribbins

First there was a single experimental coach, then an entire fleet. Soon Hiawatha was a railway legend. Loved for their radically new, streamlined look, the Hiawatha’s Art Deco engines were a hallmark of American industrial design—a genre of passenger cars from Tip Top Tap to Touralux to the glass-encased Skytop. For Midwestern passengers from Chicago to Aberdeen, the Hiawatha represented speed, comfort, and luxury, offering spectacular views of the rolling landscape. From 1935 to 1970 it carried countless passengers and even more memories. Richly illustrated with more than 350 photographs, The Hiawatha Story brings the design and history of this beloved rail fleet to life.


Jim Scribbins had a lifetime career at Milwaukee Road and is the author of five books about upper Midwestern railroads. He lives in West Bend, Wisconsin.

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History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad

Maury Klein

" After the Civil War, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad took the lead among southern railroads in developing rail systems and organizing transcontinental travel. Through two world wars, federal government control, internal crises, external dissension, the Depression, and the great Ohio River flood of 1937, the L&N Railroad remained one of the country's most efficient lines. It is a southern institution and a railroad buff's dream. When eminent railroad historian Maury Klein's definitive History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad was first published in 1972, it quickly became one of the most sought after books on railroad history. This new edition both restores a hard-to-find classic to print and provides a new introduction by Klein detailing the L&N's history in the thirty years since the book was first published.

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