Great Gadsden Purchase!

December 30, 1853
The Gadsden Purchase was Signed in Mexico City

Meeting in Mexico City on December 30, 1853, James Gadsden, U.S. Minister to Mexico, and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, president of Mexico, signed the Gadsden Purchase. The treaty settled the dispute over the exact location of the Mexican border west of El Paso, Texas, giving the U.S. claim to approximately 29,000 square miles of land in what is now southern New Mexico and Arizona, for the price of $10 million.

U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had sent Gadsden to negotiate with Santa Anna for the land. Davis valued it, as others did, as the perfect tract for the construction of the southern transcontinental railroad. The railroad line would connect western territories to the east and north, greatly increasing the accessibility of these new lands. By 1869, the “big four” of western railroad construction–Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker–had pushed the Central Pacific Railroad line eastward over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Utah to join with the Union Pacific, completing the first transcontinental railroad.

After completing the Central Pacific Railroad from California to Utah in 1869, the big four started the Southern Pacific as a branch line into southern California. The railroad reached the Arizona border in 1877, and in 1883 it was joined to other railroads built west from New Orleans across Texas and New Mexico, territory that was acquired in the Gadsden Purchase. This transcontinental system sped up westward expansion of the U.S.

Still in operation today as the Union Pacific Corporation, the company controls most of the rail-based shipping in the western two-thirds of the country. Have you ever ridden a train through the West?