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Railroad Records Research: History Topics

Railroad Records Research: History Topics

Given the size, time period, and geographic areas represented in the railroad record collections in the Gale Family Library, it is natural that they would support research into many different areas of midwestern and U.S. history. The collections are particularly rich in sources for labor history, immigration history, African-American history, and business history, all of which are highlighted in the sections below. 

Each section below begins with references to one or more published works to serve as an overview of a particular topic, followed by several "best bet" primary sources and links to other online guides. 

Railroad Records Research: Labor History

Examples of Labor Sources in Railroad Records: Great Northern Railway records, by Dallas R. Lindgren. 
Saint Paul, Minn.: Division of Archives and Manuscripts, Minnesota Historical Society, 1985.
MNHS Call Number: Reading Room HE2791.G77 L56 1985
 
A Survey of Minnesota Labor Materials in the Papers of the Great Northern Railway Company and Northern Pacific Railroad Company in the Minnesota Historical Society, Karen Wilson and John Wickre, compilers.
MNHS Call Number: Reference Desk Z7164.L1 W55 1980z
 
Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen.Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad. General Chairman's Records,1886-1981.
Files of a St. Paul-based labor union representing locomotive firemen, hostlers, and their helpers. Includes correspondence and memoranda; circular letters, pamphlets, and other printed materials; minutes; membership lists; and hearing transcripts. The collection documents the resolution of claims brought against the CStPM&O for alleged violations of labor agreements. There is also information about collective bargaining; wage negotiations and reductions; legislative matters; retirement issues; members' vacations; engineers; the work of the General Grievance Committee; and investigative hearings conducted by the railroad to determine members' responsibility for accidents, derailments, wrecks, and work rule violations.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid 
 
Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. Chicago Great Western Railway Company.General Grievance Committee Records,1917-1981.
Subject and claim files of a general grievance committee representing 13 Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen lodges in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.;Includes agreements between the Brotherhood and the Chicago Great Western Railway Company with regard to specific issues, policies, and practices; employee timetables.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid 
 
Great Northern Railway Company (U.S.). Great Northern Railway Records (selected), Part I,1864-1922.
Microfilm copies of volumes and files selected from various record series in several administrative departments of the Great Northern Railway Company archives. They were filmed in three series: Series A: Board of Directors' Minutes and Corporate Histories (4 reels); Series B: Labor (16 reels); and Series C: Settlement and Development (5 reels), each with its own sequence of reel numbers.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid 
 
International Association of Machinists. District Lodge No. 32 (Saint Paul, Minn.). Organizational Records,1907-1957.
Correspondence, bulletins, reports, circulars, minutes, transcripts of cases before the U.S. Railroad Labor Board, and other material related to the International Association of Machinists, District Lodge No. 32, and to the Railway Employees Department of the American Federation of Labor.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid 
 
Minnesota.Department of Labor and Industry. Strike and Labor Problems Files,1907-1924.
Reports, transcripts of hearings and testimony, and correspondence regarding labor problems on the Iron Range and in St. Louis County (1907), a switchmen's strike in Duluth (1909-1910), an action by the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen against the Great Northern Railway (1912), and a fatal accident at the Milford Mine at Crosby (1924).
MNHS Call Number: See the finding aid in the library (Labor and Industry Department).

Minnesota. Department of Labor and Industry. Railroad Correspondence,1909-1922.

Correspondence relating to health and safety inspections of railroad facilities, consisting of inspectors' reports of unsafe facilities and subsequent letters of compliance with department orders to correct the hazards. Also includes correspondence concerning the exploitation of Greek immigrant laborers by railway companies (1909-1910). Correspondents include the department secretary and inspectors, railroad operators and managers, the Railroad and Warehouse Commission, local state employment bureau managers, and Greek immigrant laborers.
MNHS Call Number: See the finding aid in the library (Labor and Industry Department).

Northern Pacific Railway Company. Chief of Labor Relations Records,1908-1969.

General files, negotiation and agreement files, and mediation and arbitration files created by the Northern Pacific administrative unit responsible for managing the company's employee relations. General files (1908-1969) contain information on personnel policies and procedures, relations with various unions, wage agreements and salary structures, employment of women and foreign workers, and the labor policies of other railroads.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid
 
Northern Pacific Railway Company. General Manager. General Manager's Records,1875-1960s.
Correspondence and subject files, and other miscellaneous records, created or compiled by the Northern Pacific administrative unit responsible for operating the physical properties of the Northern Pacific rail system.Several series of subject files and other correspondence are largely concerned with the day-to-day operation of the railway. They include information on labor relations with train and track crews and other operating employees, including wage matters
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid 
 
Northern Pacific Railway Company. Northern Pacific Railway Records (selected), Part I,1864-1922.
Microfilm copies of volumes and files selected from various record series in several administrative departments of the Northern Pacific Railway Company archives. They were filmed in three series: Series A: Board of Directors' Minutes and Corporate Histories (10 reels); Series B: Labor (12 reels); and Series C: Settlement and Development (3 reels).
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Railroad Records Research: Immigration & Emigration

Railroads and the Settlement of Minnesota, 1862-1880, by Harold Fern Peterson.
Thesis--University of Minnesota, 1927.
MNHS Call Number: HE2771.M6 P48
 
Great Northern Railway Company. Agricultural Development Department, 1913-1968.
The records of the department responsible for promoting agriculture and land settlement along the railway.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid
 
Great Northern Railway Company. President's Records, 1872-1970.
Multiple research files on the promotion of immigration.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid
 
Northern Pacific Railway Company. Land Department Records, 1869-1973.
Many series of records created by the Northern Pacific administrative unit responsible for the company’s extensive land holdings, and documenting in great detail the acquisition, surveying and platting, ongoing management, resource usage, and disposition of the lands.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Railroad Records Research: African American History

Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey, by Theodore Kornweibel. 
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
MNHS Call Number: HD8039.R12 K67 2010

See also: Great Northern Railway Company Papers

Northern Pacific Railway Company. Chief of Labor Relations, 1908-1969.
Particularly files relating to General Order 27, wages of railroad employees: No. 12,  "Duties to be performed by employees in order to be designated as passenger brakemen or flagmen" and No. 13, "Compensation and overtime rules for colored firemen."
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Northern Pacific Railway Company. President's Subject Files, nos. 1-718.
File no. No. 349-A-86. Train Service, Passenger: Discrimination and segregation and non-discrimination, operation of separate cars for Negro and white (Jim Crow Cars) etc., 1941-1964.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Northern Pacific Railway Company. President's Subject Files, nos. 729-2981.
No. 2045-33-1. Employment of negros during Federal control, 1918-1919.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Railroad Records Research: Corporate History

Cooke and Minnesota: The Formative Years of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1868-1873, by John Lewis Harnsberger.
New York : Arno Press, 1981.
MNHS Call Number: HE2791.N855 H37 1956a
The Great Northern Railway: A History, by Ralph W. Hidy. 
Boston, Mass. : Harvard Business School Press, 1988.
MNHS Call Number: Reading Room HE2791.G775 G73 1988
 
The Northern Pacific in Minnesota, by John Luecke. 
St. Paul, Minn. : Grenadier Publications, 2005.
MNHS Call Number: HE2791.N855 L84 2005
 
Rails to the North Star, by Richard S. Prosser. 
Minneapolis, Minn. : Dillon Press, 1966
MNHS Call Number: Reading Room HE2771.M6 P962
 
The History of the Northern Pacific Railroad, by Louis T. Renz. 
Fairfield, Wash. : Ye Galleon Press, 1980.
MNHS Call Number: Reading Room HE2791.N855 R45
 
Great Northern Railroad Company. President's Records, 1872-1970.
The files, dominated by correspondence, provide substantive documentation of all phases of the company's organization, financing, and operations throughout its existence.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid
 
Northern Pacific. President's Records, 1872-1970.
Correspondence, reports, notes, articles, clippings and related material of the Northern Pacific presidents and other executive officers.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

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