Transportation History

The transportation history collection is a unique body of published and archival material on various modes of transportation and the infrastructure that supports them. These include automobiles, ballooning and dirigibles, bicycles, bridges, canals, carriages and coaches, roads and highways, and, most notably, railroads, including American, Canadian, Mexican, British, French, German, and Russian railroad companies and their rolling stock. The collection was established in 1923 by John S. Worley (1876-1956) when he came to the University to head the newly-created Department of Transportation and Railway Engineering.

Most of the material in the collection is from the 19th and 20th centuries. Published materials include advertising brochures, annual reports, guidebooks, maps, timetables, and trade catalogs. The collection contains visual materials including posters, photographic prints, and original artwork, and archival and manuscript material such as correspondence, travel diaries and journals, and charters, survey reports, stock certificates, and other legal documents.

The collection includes the records of the original Lincoln Highway Association (1910-1927). The association was made up of representatives from the automobile, tire, and cement industries, with the goal of planning, funding, constructing, and promoting the first transcontinental highway in North America.

The collection also includes the papers of Charles Ellet, Jr., an American civil engineer best known for designing and overseeing the construction of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, conducting the first Federal survey of the Mississippi River Delta, and creating and commanding the United States Ram Fleet, a Union Army unit of ram ships converted from commercial steamers.

Important related collections

Important collections of similar and complementary material are held in U-M’s Bentley Historical Library and William L. Clements Library, the Transportation Library at Northwestern University, the Benson Ford Research Center, and the National Automotive History Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

Digital collections

Finding aids

Two men in suits and hats standing in a muddy road next to a car

What the road in Columbiana County looks like while under construction.