October 28, 2011
Samuel Ryan Curtis was born on a farm in Clinton County, New York in 1805. While he did graduate from West Point in 1831 he left the military soon after and went on to pursue a broad range of careers, including lawyer, civil engineer and Congressman for Iowa. As a supporter of the American Central Railroad he also went on to work on the Pacific Railroad including introducing the legislation that would become the Pacific Railway Act signed into law by President Lincoln on July 2, 1862. He is however most well known for his military career. Samuel Curtis fought in both the Mexican War and the Civil War. He was the Union General in charge of the victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, the capture of Helena, and repelling General Price’s 1864 invasion of Missouri and Kansas.
After the Civil War General Curtis went on to promote the Transcontinental Railroad and was hired as a government consultant concerning track construction by the Union Pacific Railroad. He died on December 26, 1866 shortly after inspecting Union Pacific Railroad track near Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Union Pacific Railroad Museum’s collection has several items of Samuel Curtis’s; including some from his military career. The Uniform coat pictured here, is an Officers Dress Tail Coat and was worn by Curtis when he served as a Colonel of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican War.
The Epaulettes were also owned by Curtis and the single star indicates that he was a Brigadier General when he wore them. It is therefore most likely that he wore them during the Battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in 1862. The 150th Anniversary of the battle is in March of 2012 and both of Curtis’s epaulettes and a sash from the Union Pacific Collection will be on temporary loan to the Pea Ridge National Monument for almost a year.
Due to the widespread use of chewing tobacco in the 19th century, spittoons were a common fixture in public areas, including railroad stations. Their intended purpose was collecting tobacco juice spit from a distance; so typically, they were built heavy and low to the ground, with a wide mouth or funneled top. Sometimes, these rugged fixtures were enameled, but most importantly, they had to be durable and hard to tip over if kicked or shoved.
Did you know that in 1864, several hundred Pawnee warriors joined forces with the U.S. Army? Friendly to the American government and bitter enemies of the Sioux, the Pawnee worked alongside the Army to protect Union Pacific as the railroad progressed into the Great Plains.
In 1809, 1870 and 1872, Congress considered and rejected calls to establish national standard time. Needing a more organized method of keeping time, railroads in the United States and Canada took the matter into their own hands.
The Union Pacific Railroad Museum's firearm collection displays over a century of unique firearms.
While Central Pacific constructed 15 tunnels through the Sierra - five on the west slope, one at the summit, and nine on the east slope, the longest, and most challenging, was the Summit Tunnel.
Union Pacific Railroad Museum has embarked on a multi-year effort to digitize much of Union Pacific’s historic photograph collection.
One of the many objects on display at the museum is something you may not expect, it's a dinosaur footprint from some 89 to 65 million years ago!
The 1920s saw an insurgence of family oriented initiatives within Union Pacific. Union Pacific employees created teams and leagues in various sports, including baseball, and competed with each other and in their communities.
Railroads recognized very early that dining was a key way to distinguish themselves from competitors. Passengers benefited from each railroad's effort to offer the best food, best service and best dining environment.
A calumet, from the French word chalumet, meaning reed or flute, is a profoundly sacred object to many Native American tribes.