“History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas,” President Obama told Congress last night. “In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry.”
The rails meet. Many versions of this photo, such as the painting below from the U.S. Capitol, sanitize it by removing the bottles of alcohol.
Aside from the simple factual issue that most of the first transcontinental railroad was constructed after, not during, the war, most of Obama’s audience would have forgotten that its construction caused one of the first and biggest financial swindles of the nineteenth century. That scandal was the result of a simple fact: such a railroad made no economic sense in the late 1860s.