Visionary Attempt to Build a Railroad from Paso del Norte to Guaymas

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503. [RAILROAD: PASO DEL NORTE TO GUAYMAS]. MEXICO. President (Antonio López de Santa-Anna). Printed decree issued by Antonio López de Santa-Anna, July 15, 1854, granting concessions to Alejandro José Atoche and his company for the exclusive privilege of building a railroad and telegraph line from Presidio del Norte to Guaymas on the Gulf of California. [At top] Ministerio de Fomento, Colonizacion, Industria y Comercio de la Republica Mejicana. Seccion Quinta. [Text begins] S.A.S. el General Presidente se ha servido dirigirmer el decreto que sigue... Art. 1o. Se concede á D. Alejandro José Atoche privilegio esclusivo para construir y esplotar un camino de hierro desde uno de los dos puntos Paso ó Presidio del Norte, en el Rio-Bravo, línea divisoria fronteriza en esta República con la de los Estados-Unidos, hasta el puerto de Guaymas, y para el establecimiento y esplotacion de una línea telegráfica electro-magnética.... [Dated and signed in type at end] Méjico, Julio 15 de 1854...Joaquin Velázquez de Leon, with his ink manuscript paraph. Mexico, 1854. [4] pp. Folio (32.5 x 20.7 cm). Addressed in contemporary manuscript to the governor of Sonora. Creased where formerly folded, light wrinkling, otherwise in very good condition.

     First edition. The concession granted was for ninety-nine years, and the construction was to be totally at the expense of Alejandro José Atoche, who was involved in negotiations between Santa-Anna and Polk at the end of the Mexican-American War. Among other provisions is that the main office could be either in Mexico or the United States. All plans had to be approved by the central government, which also reserved certain other privileges, such as reduced tariffs for certain government business and binding arbitration in case of disputes. On the other hand, all the railroad’s activities, buildings, and equipment were tax exempt. This was the first attempt to open the region to railroad and telegraphic communication. Fred Wilber Powell, The Railroads of Mexico, Boston: Stratford Co., 1921, pp. 103-104:

Mexicans had vivid recollections of the war with the United States, and in consequence a reluctance to give support to projects that might facilitate invasion from the north. The need for railroads was acknowledged, but only such projects were favored as would open up communication between the Gulf and the Pacific Ocean, or would contribute to the development of the interior. It was obvious, however, that a line from the American border to a point on the remote northwest coast of Mexico would carry with it no menace to Mexico, and on July 15, 1854, a concession was granted to Alejandro José Atocha for a railroad and telegraph line from Presidio del Norte (or Piedras Negras) to Guaymas.

The Civil War and the reign of Maximilian in Mexico slowed development of a railroad in the region, although following the Civil War, some U.S. entrepreneurs and politicians attempted to revive the project. In 1868 General William S. Rosencrans, who was then serving as U.S. Minister to Mexico, sought to allay the fears of Mexico and induce them to support lines extending through the region, with an ill-conceived promotional pamphlet entitled Manifest Destiny: The Monroe Doctrine, and our Relations with Mexico (1870), which emphasized a policy of “complete political, commercial and industrial fraternity among the republics of the New World.” None of these projects ever came to fruition and it was not until the 1880s that U.S. capitalists managed to run a line from Guaymas to Nogales, the first instance of U.S. railroad building in Mexico. A line between Guaymas and Ciudad Juárez was never built.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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