In June 1854 the Grand Excursion celebrated in festive style the completion of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad to the Mississippi River. Hundreds of dignitaries including newspaper editors and other journalists; politicians; academics, writers and artists; business and industry leaders; and railroad officials were among those who traveled by rail from Chicago to Rock Island, Illinois, then by steamboat to St. Paul in Minnesota Territory. The travelers were shown a region undergoing rapid settlement by Europeans—an area of great natural beauty offering many promises for additional development.
One hundred and fifty years later, the thirteen essays in this volume examine the activities and environments of the 1854 Grand Excursion and place them in the context of an evolving regional identity for the Upper Mississippi River Valley based on the economy, culture, geography, and history of the area. In a series of “excursions,” the contributors explore the building of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, eastern newspaper accounts of the 1854 excursion, steamboating, the area’s pictorial landscape, passenger trains along the scenic river, the genesis and features of river towns, the control of the river for navigation, the development of preserves, parks, and recreation areas, the lumber industry, and commercial fishing. The book concludes by examining the resurgence of river-oriented development, as river towns are once again embracing the Mississippi.
Generously illustrated with maps, engravings, ephemera, and historic and present-day photographs, Grand Excursions on the Upper Mississippi River will be of interest to tourists and residents of the area, river aficionados, railroad and steamboat history buffs, as well as academics interested in the history, geography, and regional development of the area.
“The Grand Excursion of 1854 celebrated the opportunities created when the railroad reached the banks of the Upper Mississippi River. Curtis and Elizabeth Roseman remind us of this significant connection and how it has influenced, and continues to influence, the development of this special region.”—Walter F. Mondale
“Grand Excursions on the Upper Mississippi River is the souvenir book that passengers on the original excursion never got. It’s also an examination—from many angles—of the mythology and methodology we created to welcome ourselves into the unknown spaces west of the big river.”—Reggie McLeod, editor and publisher of Big River Magazine