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Memorials for a Pacific Railroad: New Jersey, April 30,1856; Ohio, March 10, 1856; Tennessee, April 2, 1856; Iowa, April 21,1856

In 1856, citizens from many states sent memorials and petitions urging Congress to support construction of a transcontinental railroad. They requested aid in the form of funding, land grants or contracts and appealed to congressional interests, stating that the railroad would transport mail and promote prosperity.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Memorials for a Pacific Railroad: New Jersey, April 30,1856; Ohio, March 10, 1856; Tennessee, April 2, 1856; Iowa, April 21,1856 Memorials for a Pacific Railroad: New Jersey, April 30,1856; Ohio, March 10, 1856; Tennessee, April 2, 1856; Iowa, April 21,1856 Memorials for a Pacific Railroad: New Jersey, April 30,1856; Ohio, March 10, 1856; Tennessee, April 2, 1856; Iowa, April 21,1856 Memorials for a Pacific Railroad: New Jersey, April 30,1856; Ohio, March 10, 1856; Tennessee, April 2, 1856; Iowa, April 21,1856

Building a Transcontinental Railroad

Throughout the 19th century, Congress debated its responsibility for “internal improvements,” particularly regarding interstate transportation. In the 1850s, as need increased for more efficient transport to the Pacific coast, Congress commissioned surveys to determine the best rail route through the West. Private companies would not construct a project of such scale without federal support, so citizens appealed for government backing. Congress passed the Pacific Railway Act in 1862, and a transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.