Ohio History Journal

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Writers have described the hardships of travel in the middle

of the nineteenth century, when railroads were in their infancy,

but few accounts are as expressive or as vivid as that penned by

the Honorable Peter Vivian Daniel, Associate Justice of the

Supreme Court of the United States, while on his way to the

Mississippi Valley to hold judicial sessions in his circuit. A

letter written to his daughter from the river boat Fall's City at

the Cincinnati wharf, April 7, 1853,1 leaves no doubt as to

Daniel's opinion of the service rendered by the Baltimore and

Ohio Railroad. He branded the operations as "premature and

out of order," and said the effect on the traveler was confusion,

delay, annoyance and risk. The number of hours consumed en

route from Washington to Wheeling nearly tripled the journey,

and the lack of food was particularly exhausting. At the same

time, the Justice appreciated the magnitude of the undertaking

and the grandeur of the precipitous country through which the

track wound its way. In contrast, too, he praised the accommo-

dations on the boat, which was also owned by the Baltimore and

Ohio Railroad Company. It is true that he received especially

favorable treatment there, and so he may have felt more in-

clined to view the vessel and its accommodations with kindly


Peter Vivian Daniel (1784-1860) was a Virginian who had

served long and ably in the legislature and the council of his

native state. Andrew Jackson offered him a place in the Cabinet

as attorney-general in place of Taney, but Daniel declined and

later, in 1836, was made judge of the United States District

Court for Virginia. At the time of the trip in question, he was

approaching the twelfth anniversary of his appointment to the


1 The letter is among papers deposited recently in the Alderman Library at the

University of Virginia by Mr. William Randolph Grymes, of Orange.