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Did You Know? A New Book

Did You Know?

Some interesting facts relating to the Rock Island Railroad, the Grand Excursion, and the Upper Mississippi.


~The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific was first chartered as the Rock Island and La Salle Railroad in 1847.

~The Rock Island “Rocket” was named after a train that first ran from London to Liverpool in 1825.

~Sheffield, Illinois had a fifty-fifty chance of being called “Farnam” because (according to local lore) Joseph Sheffield and Henry Farnam, builders of the Rock Island Railroad, flipped a coin to name the town.

~Three of the boats on the Grand Excursion (the Golden Era, the Sparhawk, and the Lady Franklin) were built at Wheeling, West Virginia.

~Millard Fillmore lost his wife to pneumonia fifteen months before the Grand Excursion (March 31, 1853) and his daughter to cholera seven weeks after the Excursion (July 26, 1854).

~Fifty-nine journalists were on the 1854 Grand Excursion, forty-nine of them from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

~Excursionists saw two bridges under construction: the first bridge over the Mississippi (1855) at St. Anthony (Minneapolis) and the first railroad bridge over the Mississippi (1856) at Rock Island.

~During the year of the Grand Excursion, 1854: Oscar Wilde, John Phillip Sousa, and Engelbert Humperdinck were born; Thoreau’s Walden and the first edition of John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations were published; and Abe Lincoln was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives.

~Stephan Hanks created the first log raft on the Upper Mississippi in 1844, and also rode the last log raft on the river in 1914.

~After almost a century of significant steamboat traffic on the Upper Mississippi, almost no through cargo traffic could be found on the river between 1918 and 1925.

~The Delta Queen, a sternwheeler in use on Mississippi River today, was fabricated in Scotland and assembled in California.



Delta Queen going under the Blackhawk Bridge at Lansing, Iowa, 2001.
Note that its smokestack is lowered.


~The basic techniques used by commercial fishermen today on the Upper Mississippi are virtually identical to those used in the nineteenth century.

~The Upper Mississippi is home to about 120 species of fish, far more than the fifteen or fewer species in a typical Midwestern lake.

~The Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (which extends from above Rock Island to about Winona, Minnesota) attracts as many annual visitors as Yellowstone Park (about 3.5 million).

~Rock Island divides the Upper Mississippi into two contrasting parts; below it is dominated by agriculture protected by levees and above it is mainly the National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and an very few agricultural levees.

~The Burlington Railroad’s Zephyr streamlined trains were named after Zephyrus, the god of the west wind.

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