I hate long commutes, getting stuck in traffic and lengthy, boring road trips as much as anyone. But it's important for us modern folk to have perspective when that happens — we have the ability to cross distances at speeds our forefathers would have written off as science fiction or witchcraft!
This recent article from the blog TreeHugger features some old maps that show us just how long it used to take people to travel across the U.S. The short version is this: the 1800s were a terrible time to be a speed freak.
This first map shows that if you start from New York City, it would take you something like two or three weeks to get down to Florida, and five weeks to get to Louisiana. That trip can be done in less than a day today, provided the driver is up for it.
By 1857, as you can see up top, things had changed dramatically. One could get across the entire eastern seaboard in two days, and halfway across the country in two weeks. As TreeHugger notes, a trip to California still took about a month.
Skipping ahead to 1930, we can see just how incredibly fast rail travel had become. A two-day train trip from NYC gets you to Texas, and three days will get you to California.
Pretty amazing, right? Of course, the advent of the highway system in the 1950s and the mass-purchasing of automobiles by postwar Americans and then their baby boomer kids meant that slow travel across the country was a thing of the past.