Locating the Site


Map 1: Major Railroads in the U.S., 1900.

[Graphic] Map 1 with link to higher quality map.
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The Illinois Central was a trailblazing railroad that led from the mouth of the Ohio River to Chicago. Southern extensions carried its tracks to Mobile and New Orleans. Constructed in the 1850s, it was at that time the longest railroad in the world and the first one to be financed by major land grants from the federal government. Stephen A. Douglas, a Democratic leader in the 1850s, sponsored the railroad as one aspect of his plan to hold the nation together during that decade of crisis.

1. Locate Chicago. Why do you think the city became a focal point for the emerging railroad network in the 19th century?

2. What do you notice about the direction in which most of the railroads run? What do you notice about the direction of the Illinois Central?

3. What impact do you think this railroad would have had on the Great Migration?

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