Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

"Numbers of Carlton"

by Edwin H. Mammen, 2006

Title page of Numbers of Carlton, 1828. Image from Documenting the American South, UNC-CH.The "Numbers of Carlton" were 22 essays "addressed to the People of North Carolina on a Central Rail-road through the State" written by Joseph Caldwell, the first president of the University of North Carolina, using the pseudonym "Carlton." Dated and signed weekly beginning on 8 Sept. 1827 and compiled as a book in 1828, the essays were probably columns or letters sent to local newspapers.

Caldwell, a mathematician, was very detailed in his writings. After two essays extolling the advantages of a railroad versus a canal, he estimated the costs and timetable of building a railway from Beaufort, on the coast, to the mountains. A column from 22 Oct. 1827 included tables of mileage from 82 towns to the proposed railroad line, the most distant being 52 miles, "which could be covered in two or three days with a double team and wagon."

Caldwell's writings probably had wider circulation and more influence than any pamphlet published during the period. On 1 Aug. 1828 news of a meeting in Chatham County drew 200 people representing four counties. The gathering ended with a resolution that "a committee be appointed to address the citizens on the importance and necessity of a Central Rail-road."

Two recommendations in "Numbers of Carlton" seem a bit idealistic and impractical today. The writer urged "rail-ways of wood rather than iron" in a state with many forests and suggested that there would be little engineering cost "since the State already has engineers in employment."


Thad Stem Jr., The Tar Heel Press (1973).

Additional Resources:

Morgan, J. Allen. "State Aid To Transportation In North Carolina." The North Carolina Booklet 10. Number 3. January 1911. p

Caldwell, Joseph. Pseud. Numbers of Carlton. Numbers of Carlton Addressed to the People of North Carolina on Central Railroad Through the State. New York, G. Long, 1828. (accessed August 16, 2012).

Image Credits:

Title page of Numbers of Carlton, 1828. Image from Documenting the American South, University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed August 16, 2012).