The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was one of the largest and most significant railroads in the United States, controlling transportation over much of the nation between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. Formed from the Aurora Branch Railroad in 1855, the company employed thousands, settled the country with immigrants from the United States and Europe, established towns, fostered agriculture, and spurred the growth of Chicago and other urban centers. The firm was also a pioneer in promoting tourism to scenic sites such as the Rocky Mountains, and in adopting new technologies, most notably the diesel-electric stainless steel Zephyr trains.
In 1947, the CB&Q hired Newberry Librarian Stanley Pargellis and newspaperman Lloyd Lewis to write a centennial volume celebrating the social and economic impact of the railroad. To provide illustrations for the book, nationally recognized photojournalists Esther Bubley and Russell Lee, traveling in a railroad car, took thousands pictures of the railroad and the people, industries, farms, and towns alongside its tracks. The result was Granger Country: A Pictorial Social History of the Burlington Railroad (1949).
Granger Country was not destined for immortality. It sold poorly and was soon out of print. The book’s most enduring legacy was the impressive collection of Bubley and Lee images documenting everyday life in postwar America, now part of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad archives at the Newberry Library.