Tomatoes and trains

Students in my OSU class in La Grande were asked to from groups of two or three, pick a crop or animal now grown commercially in the Northwest, and make short oral presentations explaining their subjects’ botanical or biological and geographical roots, and then follow them to the present. This is all part of the discussion of the Columbian Exchange and establishing in their minds the idea that farming and agriculture did not just originate in the Tigris-Euphrates, but also in what is now Peru and Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil. (And Asia and Africa for that matter.) Over half of all “world crops” originated in this hemisphere—think maize, tobacco, rubber, manioc, potato, and tomato!

So one group picked the tomato, and in the course of their presentation showed a slide with present-day world production. I think the US ranks third—I have already forgotten one and two, but Turkey is number four.
Which reminded me that in 1970, when I was
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Rail Routes West


For folks with a keen interest in Western history, our Josephy Library is a small treasure ground. And like any treasure field, the prizes show up almost at random.
Summer intern Erik Anderson, a bibliophile and student of Don Snow’s at Whitman College, suggested I take a look at this one yesterday. He guessed that it was one of our rarer holdings.
And I think he’s right: Volume VI of the Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economic Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, a twelve-volume mammoth undertaking exploring four prospective railroad routes to the Pacific, made by the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers to the Secretary of War, published between 1855 and 1860.
Volume VI is the report of Lt. Henry Abbot on potential railroad routes from Sacramento Valley to the Columbia River. At the time, this was one
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