Many people have heard of the Louisiana Purchase in which the United States acquired a large chunk of land from France. However, who has heard of the Gadsden Purchase? In 1845, Asa Whitney of New York State, recommended the construction of a transcontinental railway. South Carolina'a Lieutenant Gadsden, a proponent of slavery and secession, recommended a southerly route to bring business to the South.
However, Americans in the North wanted a northerly route. There was much debate in the Senate with an eventual decision to build two transcontinental railways. In 1869, the northerly route was completed between San Francisco Bay and Council Bluffs, Iowa.
One problem facing the builders of the Southern railroad was land: Gadsden, ambassador to Mexico at the time, suggested the purchase of just over 30,000 acres of land for $15 million dollars, partly in Arizona, partly in New Mexico to make clear the route for the railroad. After much debate in the Senate, the deal was ratified with the amendment of 23,000 acres for $10 million dollars. Gadsden struck a deal with Mexico, acquiring the land in 1853, known as the Gadsden Purchase. The Southern Pacific Railroad, starting in Los Angeles, reached Yuma, Arizona by 1877, Tucson by 1880 and El Paso by 1881, travelling on land largely within the Gadsden Purchase.