The Library of Virginia
Canals, Railways, Roads
Click here for larger image

William Strickland (1787-1854). Reports on Canals, Railways, Roads, and Other Subjects, Made to "The Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Internal Improvement." Philadelphia: H. C. Carey and I. Lea, 1826.

In 1816, Virginia established the Board of Public Works for the "purpose of rendering navigable, and uniting by canals, the principal rivers, and of more intimately connecting, by public highways, the different parts of this Commonwealth." Virginia clearly considered William Strickland's later Reports on Canals, Railways, [and] Roads an important reference work to fulfill the board's mission; the book was listed in the 1828 catalog of the State Library, having been deemed worthy, purchased, and cataloged within two years of its publication.

In the fine foldout engravings of Strickland's work, Virginians gazed on the most up-to-date technology of the emerging industrial age. The report showed George Stephenson's "patent locomotive engine," only a year after a Stephenson locomotive ran over the pioneering Stockton and Darlington line in England. Stephenson's reputation as the greatest of England's early locomotive builders was forever made with the triumph of his engine, the "Rocket," in a competition near Liverpool in 1829. With the practicality of stream locomotives firmly established, Virginia entered the age of railroading with the construction of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, the Louisa Railroad, and the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad in the 1830s.