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Levi O. Leonard Papers

Identifier: MsC0159

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Levi O. Leonard in the Special Collections Department of the University of Iowa Libraries in Iowa City is a collection of railroad-related manuscripts brought together by Levi O. Leonard. The collection occupies approximately thirty-two feet of shelf space and is mostly concerned with the construction of the Union Pacific. The main components of the collection are the papers of Thomas C. Durant and the Union Pacific Railroad. T.C. Durant (1820-1885) was one of the builders of both the Rock Island and the U.P. He was vice president and chief manager of the U.P. until 1869, and in 1864 he organized the Credit Mobilier which served as a funding organization for construction. The Durant papers span the years from 1839 until 1936 and include business papers, correspondence, court records from litigation arising in the aftermath of the construction of the Union Pacific and the Credit Mobilier scandals, a personal checkbook, newspaper clippings, his last will and testament, and a Durant genealogy. The second series in the collection is comprised of business records of the Union Pacific Railroad containing daybooks, ledgers, checkbooks, files relating to the Credit Mobilier, bills, payrolls, stock certificates, correspondence, journals, letter-press books, clippings printed material, telegrams, court records, and other records covering the construction period. Letters from many prominent Americans and railroad builders can be found in the papers. Included are such names as John A. Dix, Grenville M. Dodge, George F. Train, Clark Bell, Oakes Ames, Brigham Young, Oliver Ames, Sidney Dillon, Henry C. Crane, John E. Henry, Peter A. Dey, H.M. Hoxie, and Springer Harbaugh. Researcher Leland Wood in 2008 pointed out that some of the items labelled Union Pacific are actually records for the Union Pacific Eastern Division, which is the second name for the railroad that was initially called the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad. After it was the Union Pacific Eastern Division, it changed its name to the Kansas Pacific Railroad. Wood posits that the Union Pacific Eastern Division traded on this confusion to get investors to invest their money with the Union Pacific Eastern Division, thinking they were investing in the larger, more prosperous Union Pacific Railway. An attempt will be made to separate the records for the UP Eastern Division into a discrete series, but researchers should be aware that this confusion exists. The next three series contain materials on Union Pacific subsidiaries as well as other railroads such as the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad and one of its forerunners the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad Company. A photograph series includes exciting construction-period prints of railroad officials, bridges, towns, buildings, landscapes, Indians, and trains by Andrew J. Russell, Charles R. Savage, J.E. Stimson, and other photographers. One box consists of glass-plate negatives along with prints of late nineteenth-century Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific scenes in Iowa. The seventh series is composed of the papers of Leonard himself. There are correspondence files from 1868 until 1941, subject files, clippings, railroad passes, radio talk scripts, and railroad time tables and travel brochures. In addition the reminiscences of men who participated in the construction of the Union Pacific are included. The eighth series is made up of mostly glass slides, sorted by state, but at the end of this sequence are gathered multiple forms of photographic materials, including glass plate negatives, film negatives, prints, and postcards.


  • Creation: 1850-1942
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1860-1889


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


32.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Historian, journalist, railroad employee, and collector. Records, notes, correspondence, ledgers, financial accounts, legal papers, land profiles, etc. relating to the building and operation of the Union Pacific, Rock Island, and other railroads.

Method of Acquisition

These records were left to the University in 1942, after the death of Professor Leonard.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)