Historical Expeditions

In 1925 and 1926, the Great Northern Railway sponsored two “historical expeditions” that were unlike any rail tour before or since. In preparation for the expeditions, the railway commissioned and built six large monuments that remain to this day, and the expeditions inspired others to build similar monuments. GN also commissioned several historical essays that it printed and distributed to the public for years afterwards. Four state governors, a Supreme Court justice, and numerous other prominent officials joined the tours, during which numerous historians and other experts gave lectures, some of which were later published by various historical societies.

I learned about these expeditions while doing research on some of the documents in my collection and–even though they took place in the pre-streamlined era–felt compelled to gather as much information as I could about them. You can read about the 1925 Upper Missouri Expedition in a series of seven posts, and the 1926 Columbia River Expedition in a series of ten posts. I also have a post on Grace Flandrau, who wrote many of the essays for the Great Northern, and one on an essay she wrote about the GN’s premiere train at that time, the Oriental Limited.

Below are links to all of the background documents about the expeditions that I have found–well over 800 pages of booklets, brochures, and printed lectures. I am still missing a few documents and as I get them I’ll post them here. If you have or know of a museum or library that has any documents related to the expeditions that are not listed here, please let me know.

Update: I am very pleased to announced that Minnesota History magazine published a condensed version of my research on GN’s historical expeditions in its Spring, 2016 issue. I wrote 11,000 words about these expeditions for Streamliner Memories, and had to edit these down to under 6,000 words for Minnesota History, but you may still enjoy reading the magazine version, which fills twelve pages of the magazine. There is no on-line version, but you can probably find it in a university or historical society library near you or order it from the historical society.

Upper Missouri Historical Expedition

Invitation (1.0 MB)

Program (9.1 MB)

An Important Visit, excerpts from log of Zebulon Montgomery Pike (4.8 MB)

Introduction to Verendrye Journals written by GN President Ralph Budd and included in an Oregon Historical Quarterly publication of those journals that preceded the 1925 expedition (the journals themselves are in the Verendrye Quest paper below; 380 KB)

The Verendrye Overland Quest of the Pacific by Grace Flandrau (and others) (21.0 MB)

Fort Union and Its Neighbors by Frank B. Harper (11.7 MB)

Chief Joseph’s Own Story (10.5 MB)

A Glance at the Lewis & Clark Expedition by Grace Flandrau (9.5 MB)

The Discovery of Marias Pass by Grace Flandrau (7.8 MB)

Editorial Comment on the Upper Missouri Historical Expedition of 1925 (8.6 MB)

Report on the expedition by Frederic G. Young in the Oregon Historical Quarterly (553 KB)

Report on the expedition by Solon Buck in the Mississippi Valley Historical Quarterly (1.7 MB)

Blazed Trail of the Old Frontier, a book documenting the expedition by participant Agnes Laut and illustrated by Charles Russell that contains many of the speeches and lectures given during the trip (48.9 MB)

Columbia River Historical Expedition

Preview of the expedition published in the Washington Historical Quartery (646 KB)

The Columbia River Historical Expedition 1926 (invitation/advertisement, 7.5 MB)

Special All-Expense Fare for the Columbia River Historical Expedition of 1926 (1.7 MB)

Program of Events: Itinerary of Columbia River Special (11.7 MB)

Chicago: Her History and Her Adornment by Mabel McIlvaine (18.9 MB)

Red River Trails by Grace Flandrau (14.7 MB)

Frontier Days Along the Upper Missouri by Grace Flandrau (13.5 MB)

Koo-koo-sint the Star Man by Grace Flandrau (11.3 MB)

Historic Northwest Adventure Land by Grace Flandrau (10.8 MB)

Astor and the Oregon Country by Grace Flandrau (16.9 MB)

Lecture on the connections between Astoria and New York by Lawrence Abbott (731 KB)

Family stories about John Jacob Astor told by Margaret Aldrich, his great-great-granddaughter (503 KB)

Lecture titled The Gateway of the Oregon Country by Charles Carey, reprinted in the Washington Historical Quarterly of January, 1927 (1.0 KB)

Lecture on The Followers of Captain Robert Gray by Frederic Howay (1.8 MB)

Lecture titled In the Land of the Kootenai given by T.C. Elliot reprinted in the Oregon Historical Quarterly of September, 1926 (2.4 MB)

Lecture on Lewis & Clark’s experiences on the Oregon Coast by Oregon Historical Society President Frederick Holman (2.4 MB)

Lecture on Nova Albion and New England given by Samuel Eliot Morison and reprinted in the Oregon Historical Quarterly of March, 1927 (3.2 MB)

Report on the expedition published by the Minnesota Historical Society (2.0 MB)

Other Grace Flandrau Papers

Red River Trails (Christmas edition) (5.7 MB)

The Lewis & Clark Expedition (50.7 MB)

Historic Adventureland of the Northwest (14.3 MB)

The Story of Marias Pass (11.1 MB)

Seven Sunsets (15.5 MB)

The Oriental and Captain Palmer (5.6-MB)