If the railway didn’t come until 1869,
why does this painting of the year
before have the words Through Line
New York to San Francisco written on
Let’s look first
at the painting
To really understand the painting,
annotate the most significant details
the artist has deliberately included.
Go for 10. Write them inside the
Now for the hard part. For each of the
10 features try to work out what the
artist is trying to show. What can we
INFER from each part of the painting.
Write these in the OUTER RECTANGLE
with an arrow, if necessary, showing
which aspect it relates to.
What I can infer
What I think
Some possible answers
• A. Men working, shows thriving community
• B. School showing a substantial well-organised
community. Children seem happy playing
• C. Settlers appear well-dressed and
• D. Church suggests well-run community, based
on strong religious principles. One of just a
few public buildings shown.
• E. The last visible settlement, suggests there is
still some of the West to be opened up
• F. You can see that the railroad is not yet
complete suggesting a next step is imminent.
• G. The fact that the railroad occupied the centre
of the image running diagonally across eye-line
shows its importance to the artist’s message.
• H. The locomotive is the star of the show, the
main subject of the painting showing its
significance in both opening of the West and
affecting natives’ way of life.
• I. Natives are clearly being shown as cut off
from the future development of the plains.
The locomotive’s smoke forms an actual
• J. Native Americans are clearly shown on one
side of the tracks, unable to stop this march of
industrial progress on the other.
• K. The buffalo are shown running away in the
distance. Their days are numbered.
Now to our
On the train is written Through Line
New York to San Francisco. But the
painting was produced in 1868, and
the line wasn’t opened until 1869.
How can we explain this?
Rank these in terms of terms of being
the likely answer.
don’t know exactly
when the painting
was produced so the
date 1868 could be
DCC. The painting was
created on 30 Dec 1868.
The railroad opened just a
few days later, but in
B. The painting is like a
trailer for a new
invention. Here it is
saying, like an advert,
what the future will be.
DD. The artist made a
lucky gamble. To make
the painting seem really
up-to-date, she added
detail that hadn’t
actually happened at
the time she was
The painting was made to order of the proprietor of the
Delaware-Lackawanna-and Western Railroad, and depicts a
wide landscape with a steam train coming toward the
foreground, the tender of which is filled with wood, not coal,
an interesting detail
The picture seems to unite wilderness and civilization in a
pleasant description of an attractive, flourishing rural town.
It is predicting the future. Who went for D or C?
Across the Continent, Westward the Course of Empire takes its way, 1868,
a painting by Frances Flora Bond (Fanny) Palmer.