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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the R. Weston Diaries

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1873, 1878
Creator: Weston, R. (1827-?)
Extent: .50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0117
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Railroad mechanic. Two diaries containing details about his daily work in the shops of the C.B.&Q. and C.D.&M. railroads, community news and gossip in Dubuque, Iowa, and personal matters.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: These diaries were purchased by the University of Iowa Libraries in August 2000.

Preferred Citation: R. Weston Diaries, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

R. Weston was born in 1827. After his first wife, Esther, died, Weston married Ollie E. Chase on July 6, 1869. In 1873, he was working as a railroad mechanic, primarily doing boiler maintenance, for the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad (C.B.&Q.) in Bureau County, Illinois. His wife Ollie, was a school teacher in Buda, Illinois. In March of 1873, he quit his job and on May 12th, he moved to Dubuque, Iowa to begin a new one in the shops of the Chicago Dubuque and Minnesota Railroad (C.D.& M.). He spent his first several months there cleaning, scrubbing, and painting but by 1878 he had moved up the ranks to a position just under the master mechanic. His wife joined him in Dubuque after the school year in Buda ended in June 1873. She continued to teach in Dubuque.

The diaries of R. Weston chronicle his life and to a lesser extent the life of his wife, Ollie, during the years 1873 and 1878. In these two diaries he writes in great detail about his daily work in the shops of both the C.B.&Q. and the C.D.&M. railroads. He also mentions railroad accidents, on the job injuries, bridge washouts, staff problems, and the like.

His diaries are full of community news and gossip. He and his wife attended concerts, lyceum programs, church events, and readings. He also attended temperance meetings. Weston reported on various crimes, births, illnesses, and deaths within the community.

Much of the diaries are taken up with commentary on his personal life. His marriage was not a happy one and he was often severely depressed and suicidal. He and his wife disagreed about many things, including the people they chose as friends. She was much more social than he and her frequent absences from home and husband were a source of considerable ill-will and conflict between them.

At the end of each diary is an itemized account of expenditures and receipts for each month of the year.

Because of the detail included in these diaries, they provide a good picture of the life of a railroad worker in the Gilded Age. Not only do they provide insight into his work, but also into his social, intellectual and personal life. and are open for research by both the student and scholar.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: DIARIES

  • Series 1: DIARIES
  • Box 1:
  • Diary - 1873
  • Diary - 1878

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Weston, R., 1827-

Corporate Names:
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company
Chicago, Dubuque, and Minnesota Railroad Company


Mechanics (Persons)

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Dubuque

Genre/Form of Materials: