Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Diary of a Railroad and Steamer Trip, 1857

Finding aid created by
Kay Miller and Meg Hixon, December 2011

Summary Information
Title: Diary of a railroad and steamer trip
Creator: Anonymous
Inclusive dates: 1857
Extent: 1 volume
This diary of a railroad and steamer trip chronicles the author's travels from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to the Midwest. The diary includes descriptions of scenery and cities in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1980. M-1898.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Diary of a Railroad and Steamer Trip, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The anonymous author of this volume was born on April 21, 1827. His brother-in-law, Albert Whitely, married Elizabeth Townsend, Rachel K. Lowber, and Eliza A. Lowber. Albert had four children: Elizabeth, Benjamin, Madeline, and Rosa. The author also refers to an aunt and nephew, Susan and Henry A. Leister of Philadelphia; an uncle, Samuel Virden of Murderkill Hundred; and two cousins, P. L. S. Virden and William Townsend.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This diary of a railroad and steamer trip (88 pages) chronicles the author's travels from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to the Midwest. The diary includes descriptions of scenery and cities in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa.

The volume opens on April 21, 1857, the author's 30th birthday, and begins with a cross-county railroad trip on the Central Railroad from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Fom there, he traveled on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad to St. Louis, Missouri, where he arrived on April 25. In St. Louis, he noted the 55-minute time difference, went sightseeing, and met acquaintances from Delaware. His travels in the area included a trip to the Jefferson Barracks, which he recorded in detail (April 27, 1857), and several visits to nearby St. Charles, where he attended a Mormon church service (May 3, 1857). From May 6-12, he embarked on a boat trip to Leavenworth, Kansas, on the steamer Oceana , making frequent mentions of scenery in his diary. During his time in Kansas, he visited several local land offices, where he commented on inflated prices, and he discussed the recent history of the region, tainted by the violence of "Border Ruffians." From Kansas, he returned to St. Louis via Missouri River steamers and traveled up the Mississippi River to Quincy, Illinois, and Keokuk, Iowa. Throughout his journey, he recorded his incoming and outgoing correspondence, primarily to relatives in Delaware, and attended religious services of numerous Christian denominations. Additionally, he continued to meet friends and describe scenery and points of interest. He also occasionally made note of emigrants encountered along his travels, including a group of French socialist settlers in Nauvoo, Illinois (June 10, 1857) and other emigrants headed further west from Missouri and Kansas. The diary ends in Quincy, Illinois, on June 22, 1857, with the author setting out for Palmyra, Missouri, where he spent much of the last week of his travels.

Subject Terms

    • Illinois--Description and travel.
    • Iowa--Description and travel.
    • Kansas--Description and travel.
    • Kansas--History--1854-1861.
    • Middle West--Description and travel.
    • Missouri--Description and travel.
    • Railroad travel--United States.
    • Saint Louis (Mo.)--Description and travel.
    • Steamboats--Mississippi River.
    • Steamboats--Missouri River.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Diary of a railroad and steamer trip,  April 21, 1857-June 22, 1857 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Colonial Families of the United States. Volume 1.