Within decades of the first locomotive's arrival in Chicago in 1848, the city became the nation's most important rail center. Railroads and related manufacturers centered their headquarters and production facilities in Chicago. Passengers and freight funneled into the city, which served as the principal transfer point between the nation's eastern and western rail lines.
A line on this 1849 map marks the route of the first railroad in Chicago, the Galena & Chicago Union (1848), running west from the depot at Kinzie and Canal Streets, just northwest of Wolf Point at the fork of the Chicago River.
Advertisement for the Chicago & North Western Railway, with daily trains to California and beyond, 1869.
Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad poster advertising "Around the World" travel via railway and steamer routes, 1870.
Railway Map of Chicago and Environs, 1879
By 1885, the Pullman Company had already become one of America's largest and best-known firms. As this map, an advertisement for the company, shows, Pullman cars carried passengers from coast to coast and from Canada to Mexico. As a manufacturer of passenger and freight railroad cars, the Pullman Company was closely involved--financially and managerially--with most of the nation's railroads. The company had also begun to expand into Europe. By the end of the century, Pullman was one of America's largest companies as well as the country's single largest employer of African Americans, almost all of whom worked as Pullman porters, the most familiar symbol of the company and its service.