THE BUSINESS OF THE RAILROADS pgs 107-111
Some idea of the first railway shipments may be gained from descriptions of the produce carried by boats up and down the Mississippi River when they were the only means of transportation for long distances. For example, in 1847 the steamer Fortune, along with the barges which it pulled, while on its way to St. Louis took on board at the Oquawka landing 452 sacks of wheat. The charge was 12 � cents a bushel to deliver the grain at St. Louis.
Likewise the steamboat Chippewa, bound from Fort Madison, Iowa, to Galena, Illinois, loaded a cask of hardware besides a half dozen shovels and the same number of spades. At the same time another, the Cecila from Oquawka, took on board 14 sacks of corn in the ear. The weight, being 2200 pounds, shows, however, that these were very large sacks. The charge in this instance was 25 cents a hundred pounds. From the same port the steamer Alexander Hamilton loaded a barrel of pork and charged one dollar for its delivery. A similar kind of cargo, but very different in quantity, was shipped by the Mendota. It consisted of 16 barrels of hams, 24 barrels of shoulders, 32 barrels of lard, and 100 barrels of flour. The charge for transportation was 25 cents a barrel for all but the lard which cost 37 � cents.
Among other steamboats which carried freight and passengers from the Mississippi ports was the Excelsior, which had at one time for part of its load 145 sacks of corn and a box of woolen socks. Another had among its cargo 30 barrels of meal; while the Lynx had perhaps the most valuable small packages in three boxes which contained nearly $3000 of specie. It became responsible for this money for one dollar a box.
Such produce as the boats had formerly carried down the larger Iowa streams or had been hauled by teams to some point on the Mississippi, was taken over by the railroads as soon as a few miles had been built. At once the work of the boats which had been engaged in the river trade to St. Louis was lessened. As soon as the mileage of the roads was increased, the freight shipments were likewise increased.
The wheat, corn, oats, barley, and other grain, and the manufactured meal and flour were now loaded much nearer the place where they were produced. There were not many cattle to sell, and the pork was not shipped to great packing houses. As shown above, the barreled salt meat and the smoked and cured hams and shoulders became a part of the freight carried by the railroads. Much wild game also found a ready market in the cities. Almost as soon as the first road was ready for freight, a single firm during the fall months shipped from a small town more than seven hundred and sixty dozen quail, besides several tons of prairie chickens. It was said that the game crop of the farmer yielded him a large sum of money and helped him to pay his taxes.
All of these products shipped out of the State, together with the manufactured articles shipped in, made much business for the new roads. More goods were used, it seems, when they were brought directly to the consumer than when they had to be brought long distances with oxen or horse teams.
Perhaps the shipments of lumber, from the mills which were sawing up the pine logs floated down in rafts from the Wisconsin woods, were among the most important services of the railroads. Before that time pine lumber for finishing houses had to be hauled by wagon from Muscatine and other points on the Mississippi.
The shipments by boat, as mentioned, had among other things three boxes of money. That, of course, was not common freight, since it required special care. It was probably gold coin which had been received by the government agents in payment for public land. After railroads were in operation and express companies had regulated service in connection with them, such shipments of money would be made through their agents. Special guards were necessary before the express companies had provided strong safes for valuable packages. The railroads, therefore, not only made it possible to hasten the marketing of farm products, and to return larger quantities of manufactured goods, but they also served as a route for companies designed to handle small valuable packages and to deliver them promptly.