navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies California Studies
Primary Sources logo Primary Sources

Editorial in Favor of the Transcontinental Railroad—Historical Editorial

An editorial is written to state the official position of a newspaper or magazine on an important issue. These essays are often written to convince readers to believe a certain idea or take a particular action. Historical editorials help us understand what issues were important to a nation or community in the past. The editorial below was written in 1867 in support of the Pacific Railroad Line.

Primary Source

The GREAT NATIONAL PACIFIC RAILROAD LINE, which is being constructed, with the aid and under the supervision of the United States Government, between the Mississippi Valley and the Pacific Ocean, forming with its existing eastern connections a continuous line across the continent, is destined to become one of the most important channels of trade and communications in the world. . . . It presents the shortest and most practicable route to the Pacific, and must serve four-fifths of all the population west of the Missouri river. . . . Already centres of population dot its length from Omaha to San Francisco, and it seems certain that a chain of great cities must grow up in its path, swelling the volume of trade and travel. . . .

. . . The half million of people in California would speedily jump to five millions upon the establishment of railroad communication; and the value of all property interests . . . would be largely enhanced. A railroad is the one thing wanting to shower a general blessing on the Far West. . . .

Excerpted from the journal The Galaxy, Volume 4, Issue 8, December 1867.


In 1863, workers began to build a railroad line that went from Sacramento to Omaha. There it would connect with other lines going east. In the beginning, most of those who worked on this line were Irish immigrants. Many immigrants from China soon began to work on it, as well. By 1868, around 80% of the people building this railroad line were Chinese.

When the railroad was complete in 1869, people were able to take a train from one coast of the country to the other for the first time in history. The railroad brought newcomers to California in search of land and jobs. It also made shipping food from California to the East easier. While the transcontinental railroad was being constructed, however, people had different opinions about whether the country should spend so much money to build this railroad. The editorial above was published in The Galaxy in 1867 to convince its readers of the many benefits the completed railroad would bring to California and the rest of the United States.