The Iron Horse Goes West: Selected Drawings of the Beginnings of the Transcontinental Railroad by Joseph Becker

This exhibit features images from the Becker Collection, the largest group of original Civil War and later nineteenth – century reportorial drawings in private hands. Joseph Becker and his colleagues, who served as artist-reporters for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, executed these drawings—often under harrowing conditions. This collection of firsthand drawings, many of which were never published, has only recently been made available for public display. In 1869, editor Frank Leslie dispatched Joseph Becker to travel westward by train as tracks were being laid for the transcontinental railroad, nicknamed the iron horse, and he drew Chinese immigrants and other laborers as they worked on the tracks. The images featured in the exhibit are drawings of the Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroad in the western United States, as well as the landscapes through which the railroads passed.

Header image: Joseph Becker, Railroad Pass with Chinese Workers, 1869-1870. Becker Archive, Boston College Fine Arts Dept.