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The Once and Future Nation?

Jun 12, 2008
The first U.S. oil well was drilled in 1859 and the last rail was laid on the transcontinental railroad ten years later. That decade, which also contained the most destructive war in our nation's history, can be said to have begun the Industrial Revolution in the United States. We can only wonder whether, 200 years later, railroads will still be around. We can be quite sure the oil will be gone.

How the social changes will play out over the energy crunch we are facing this generation and the next is anyone's guess—and there are a great many excellent minds at work on the guessing. However, what life was like just before those momentous times is clearly set out for us in our nation's history. The Library of Congress has provided us with an "up-close and personal" view of the hard lives led by our ancestors just before the world-altering events described above. Their Trails to Utah and the Pacific is a primary resource consisting of 49 diaries of pioneers trekking westward across America to Utah, Montana, and the Pacific between 1847 and 1869. There are also maps, photographcs, illustrations, and seven published guides for immigrants.

The diaries are part of the LOC's American Memory series, an invaluable collection of Americana on topics ranging from Advertising to Women's History. Warning: these diaries are eye opening, heart breaking, occasionally as tedious as the journeys themselves must often have been, and quite habit forming.
tags: Education | History

Read the Diaries

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