[PACIFIC RAILROAD]. Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practical and Economic Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. made under the Direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-6, according to Acts of Congress of March 3, 1853, May 31, 1854, and August 5, 1854. Volume IX. Washington: A.O.P. Nicholson, printer, 1858.
4to., (11 2/8 x 8 4/8 inches). 76 fine lithographed portraits of birds with original hand-colour in full, one uncoloured lithograph (some light toning). Modern half crimson morocco, gilt, crimson cloth boards.
Volume IX of Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practical and Economic Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean… Part II. - General Report upon the Zoology of the Several Pacific Railroad Routes. Birds: by Spencer F. Baird. Assistant Secretary Smithsonian Institution. With the Co-operation of John Cassin and George N. Lawrence. Washington, D.C. 1858
First edition of part II of Volume IX of the official report of the monumental Pacific Railroad survey, being a description of the birds observed. In 1857 "Cassin was invited to join Spencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian and George N. Lawrence of New York in coauthoring what became a classic volume summarizing what was then known concerning North American birds. Cassin contributed a number of descriptions to the volume, first published as "Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Determine a Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean," vol. 9, part 2 (1858). It was issued in expanded form two years later as The Birds of North America" (Keir B. Sterling for ANB).
With the peace treaty with Mexico recently signed, northern and southern borders established, and the discovery of gold in California, the United States Congress saw the need for exploration of their interior lands. There was much discussion of a super highway for travelers to safely navigate from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coastline. By an act of Congress, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was charged to conduct surveys for the first transcontinental railroad route to the Pacific Ocean, near the 35th parallel. Five teams were sent, the Northern, Central, and coastal Pacific surveys were commissioned along with two Southern Pacific survey teams.
The reports of these teams represent the first attempt at a comprehensive, systematic geographical exploration of the Western regions of America, and made possible the first reasonably accurate topographical maps of the West. Four major routes were surveyed, from a northern route terminating at the mouth of the Columbia River to a southern route running through Texas to San Diego. Graff 4435; Hill, pp. 301-302; Howes P3; Sabin 69946; Taft, pp. 4-9; Wagner-Camp 262-266a, 267:1; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West IV, pp. 67-91.