Across the Continent. "Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way" Artist: Frances Flora Bond Palmer (American, 1812–1876)
Publisher: James Merritt Ives (American, 1824–1895)


Prints and Drawings

Published just one year before the “golden spike” joined Union Pacific Railroad tracks with those of the Central Pacific at Promontory, Utah, Across the Continent symbolizes the expansionist zeal of post–Civil War America. Pictured here is an invented site, somewhere along the transcontinental railroad route. The print is organized around the dramatic swath of train track, traversed by the “Through Line New York–San Francisco,” which diagonally bisects the composition and separates a fledgling Anglo-American township in the left foreground from an uncultivated wilderness on the right. The settlement stands in marked contrast to the sparsely populated land across the tracks, where a pair of Native Americans on horseback and a herd of buffalo in the far distance are depicted. Here the railroad—the great symbol of national unification—ironically separates “natural” America from the man-made one, wilderness from civilization, old from new, and, ultimately, America’s past from its now inevitable future.


Colored lithograph


sheet: 24 1/8 × 32 5/8 in. (61.3 × 82.8 cm)

Credit Line

Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, to 1946; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 6, 298–99, no. 191, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

landscapes (representations), lithographs, popular prints

Technical metadata and APIs


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