"Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way": Laying Track 600 Miles West of St. Louis, Missouri

Object Details

Title:

"Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way": Laying Track 600 Miles West of St. Louis, Missouri

Artist/Maker(s):

Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821 - 1882)

Culture:

American

Date:

October 19, 1867

Medium:

Albumen silver print

Dimensions:

33.2 x 47.6 cm (13 1/16 x 18 3/4 in.)

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On a bleak midwestern prairie, Alexander Gardner photographed workers laying track for the Union Pacific Railroad. A close look at the labor force reveals the cultural diversity of workers employed by the railroad companies, who advertised far and wide for able-bodied, adventurous men.

In the foreground, parallel wooden cross-ties are being laid in preparation for the iron track. Once the track was laid, the supply engine in the background could move forward. This ongoing system continued until the Union Pacific reached Promontory Summit, Utah, where it joined the Central Pacific rails that had been laid eastward from Sacramento, California. The meeting of the rails marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.

Exhibitions
Railroad Vision (March 3 to June 23, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 5 to June 23, 2002
The Artist and the Railway (April 18, 2008 to January 18, 2009)
  • Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, April 18 to August 10, 2008
  • The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, (Kansas City), September 13, 2008 to January 18, 2009