Asa Whitney: Dreamer of the Transcontinental Railroad

Man, probably Asa Whitney, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front
Photograph probably shows Asa Whitney (1797-1872) of Groton, Connecticut who first proposed a transcontinental railroad before Congress from 1849 to 1851.

Daguerreotype collection (Library of Congress)

Asa Whitney: Dreamer of the Transcontinental Railroad

Asa Whitney was an American merchant in the 1840’s. In 1842 he sailed from Sandy Hook, New Jersey 18,000 miles to China. There he traded for teas, spices, and other Chinese goods. Asa dreamed of a better way to trade with China than sailing around the capes of South America or Africa, a transcontinental railroad. Beyond mere personal wealth, Asa imagined the transcontinental railroad would improve the quality of life for all people.

"It would bring all our immensely wide-spread population together as one vast city; the moral and social effects of which must harmonize all together as one family, with but one interest -- the general good of all."

Asa Whitney wasn’t the first person to envision a new way to travel, and won’t be the last. Transportation is constantly changing to meet our needs. How do we affect the future of transportation today?

Last updated: August 13, 2023

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