On February 28, 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railway chartered for commercial transportation of freight and passengers when a line was proposed from Baltimore to the Ohio River. Only 16 days earlier, a group of 27 businessmen had met at George Brown’s house to first discuss the need for such a line. Investors hoped a railroad would allow Baltimore, the second largest U.S. city at that time, to successfully compete with New York for western trade. New Yorkers were profiting from easy access to the Midwest via the Erie Canal.
Construction began at Baltimore harbor on July 4, 1828. Local dignitary Charles Carroll, last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the first stone.
The initial line of track, a 13-mile stretch to Ellicott's Mills (now Ellicott City), Maryland, opened in 1830 and was the first railroad in the United States to have a “paying passenger.” The Tom Thumb, a steam engine designed by Peter Cooper, negotiated the route well enough to convince skeptics that steam traction worked along steep, winding grades.
In 1838, the B&O; became the first United States railroad to carry mail on its regular trains. On May 24, 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse used the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad right of way to send the first telegraphic message from the Supreme Court room in the Capitol at Washington to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore.
The Baltimore and the Ohio River were connected by rail in 1852, when the B&O; was completed at Wheeling, West Virginia. Later extensions brought the line to Chicago, St. Louis, and Cleveland.
In April of 1865, a B&O; train carried the body of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln from Washington.
For a more detailed history on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, click here.
Common Stock Certificate, issued in the 1950’s
Printed by the International Bank Note Company
7 1/4” (h) x 11 1/2” (w)
This certificate has vertical fold lines, punch hole and stamp cancels in signature areas and body, and some toning and edge faults from age.