(The West Auto Tour is a 14-mile round trip, the East Auto Tour is about a 2 mile loop. They’re very happy with our project, to make this history known. Printer Friendly Version >>>. It was at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869, that Leland Stanford drove The Last Spike (or golden spike) that joined the rails of the transcontinental railroad. Golden Spike event celebrates the Transcontinental Railroad’s 150th anniversary Doug Foxley, left, and Spencer Stokes re-create a historic photo at the Golden Spike … The Last Spike Ceremony is reenacted every year on the May 10th anniversary, as well as every Saturday and Holiday from May 10th to September, and at the annual Railroader's Festival held the second Saturday in August and during the Winter Steam Festival on the last weekend in December. Driving the Golden Spike. The labor of Chinese workers was instrumental to the transcontinental railroad’s construction. They were really responsible for building the western portion of the transcontinental railroad, and without them, the railroad might not have been completed, and certainly would not have been completed in the time that it was. But while their labor was crucial, the workers themselves have been largely forgotten. National Train Day is observed annually near the anniversary of the driving of the “golden spike,” the final spike hammered into the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 in Promontory Point, Utah.. Railroads have been going through Warren County since the mid-1800s, playing … All rights reserved. The history of Chinese railroad workers, what they did on the railroad line, and how they lived the experience has been elusive, if not absent entirely, in the history of the railroad. In 1969, at the “Golden Spike” centennial celebration of the First Transcontinental Railroad’s completion, the Chinese community nationwide had … The golden spike ceremony originated in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed in Utah, and the golden spike was the last one driven to … There were Chinese railroad workers as far away as Tennessee or Alabama or New York, even out to Long Island, in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. She was pulling the Golden Spike Special, celebrating the 100th anniversary of completion of the United States Transcontinental Railroad. On that website, you’ll find videos about the history and about our project. An engineering feat like no other, by the time the Golden Spike was driven in, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads, and the people involved, were becoming legends in history. Previous historians had written about parts of the railroad experience of Chinese workers, but I was really surprised and excited to learn about so many new aspects of this five-year experience. They numbered anywhere from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand, at a high point, and maybe up to twenty thousand overall because of turn-over. The descendants, to continue your question earlier, many are proud—but many are also sad or have been angry because the story of Chinese railroad workers had not been recovered or known before. I hope that people who are interested will go find those books and learn much more than what we could cover here in this interview—there’s a lot of information that we didn’t cover at all. What didn’t you expect to learn? What were the project’s most important findings, and what findings were you surprised by? San Francisco, California Asa Whitney lived to see the transcontinental railroad constructed. Between 1863 and 1869, two companies built a rail line across the United States. How did the construction of the railroads change China? Many of the Chinese railroad workers remained single their entire lives because they worked hard but didn’t have much money or the ability to start families. The second book is Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, which I authored, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Entrepreneurs and employers around the country sought to employ Chinese to work on rail lines in other parts of the country and on other infrastructure projects. Why did the United States build a transcontinental railroad, and why did it do so at this moment, in the late 1860s? Even today, some of these villages from which they came are still known as railroad villages. Many of the descendants we interviewed were very eager to come forward. They worked through horrendous snowstorms to build through California to Donner Summit and to get the line through these mountain passes. It was also understood, particularly by the boosters who pressed for this line early on, that it would open enormous political and economic potential by linking the East and the West, and by bringing the Far East—Asia—closer to the United States, via shipping lines out of San Francisco. They started families and our project identified a good number of these families—maybe fifteen—who were descendants of railroad workers. This book tells the story from beginning to end, as well as describing what this experience means for us today. There was already an extensive rail system, particularly in the North, before the Civil War, but this rail line would give the North even greater advantages. You can find essays about the railroad workers, and information about other resources that are available, including school curricula: We worked with other Stanford folks to complete a K-12 curriculum unit that introduces the subject to students. Spikes date back to the first railroads in the 1830s and are still the fastener of choice for most North American railroads. Brigham Young famously supported the … And we wanted to correct that. Transcontinental Railroad, 1869. Up to twelve hundred, or more, Chinese died in the construction of the railroad. Worth - Liberia 20 dollars 2000, History of America - Transcontinental Railroad "Golden Spike" in the coin catalog at uCoin.net - International Catalog of World Coins. Union Pacific railroad presents The 150th Anniversary of Driving the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah. I learned that 90% of the construction workforce on the Central Pacific, on the western portion of the line, was Chinese. The Chinese began working in 1864 and worked all the way through, to 1869, on the western portion of the railroad, which ended in Utah. The original legislation granted each railroad 6,400 acres and up to $48,000 in government bonds for each mile completed. Most of them had been farmers in the southern part of China, along the Pearl River Delta. The Last Spike Ceremony is reenacted every year on the May 10th anniversary, as well as every Saturday and Holiday from May 10th to September, and at the annual Railroader's Festival held the second Saturday … When we celebrate the 150th anniversary, what are we celebrating? We hit your inbox once a month and never abuse your personal information. What could be more American than working on the railroad? The need for such a link was dramatized by the discovery of gold in California in 1848 that brought thousands to the West Coast. "We want to hear the iron horse puffing through this valley." Golden Spike National Historical Park. Small crowds. This resulted in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which tried to keep Chinese people out of the United States altogether. At any given time, between ten thousand and twelve thousand Chinese workers were employed on the project, largely by Central Pacific. In this interview, he reflects on the history of the first transcontinental railroad and discusses how he and colleagues have worked to bring the histories of Chinese railroad workers to light. Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, Immigration in Perspective: The Chinese Exclusion Act, The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad, Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, Politics of Transparency and Secrecy: Revisiting the French Revolution, Writing History with Oceans: Approaching the Pacific through Water, Reconstructing Approaches to America’s Indian Problem. This interview has been condensed and edited. Visit Today Summer 2019: Golden Spike Redux The role that Chinese immigrants played in building the Transcontinental Railroad has long been buried. The line was envisioned as an important, strategic advantage for the northern states. Keep up with history and join our newsletter. Those who were able to save some money and establish themselves—maybe by starting a store after working on the railroad—were able to marry, either other people in America or Chinese women who came over from China. One is The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad, a volume of collected essays by over twenty authors about various aspects of the railroad’s history, published by Stanford University Press. This negative sentiment was rooted in racial prejudice, as well as a sense of competition with them as workers, and a very violent and pervasive anti-Chinese movement developed across the country by the late 1870s and early 1880s, seeking to drive the Chinese out of the country entirely. The railroads changed the United States and North America. Golden Spike 150 ceremony: How Utah celebrated the transcontinental railroad anniversary By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Updated - May 10, 2019 at 2:37 p.m. | Posted - … San Francisco contractor David Hewes, friend of Central Pacific President Leland Stanford, was disappointed to discover no one had prepared a commerative item for the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which … The Sierras is the toughest mountain range in the continental United States. Gordon H. Chang: American leaders in the nineteenth century understood that the United States would have a great geographic advantage if the country was linked by rail line from east to west and west to east—if it had a rail line that would link the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, that would span this large country from coast to coast. They had to work year-round, even through the terrible Sierra winters. Visitors can also drive two self-guided auto tours at the site. ), Copyright © 2020 Utah.com. You mentioned connections back home. Our website is reliable, easy to use, and can lead you to other resources. I’ve been long interested in Chinese railroad workers and trans-Pacific interaction. There is lots of information at our project website: chineserailroadworkers.stanford.edu. It just seemed to resonate, to be an important symbol of Americanization. It’s still relatively unknown among the American public. Sean Fraga: Let’s start with the big picture. It’s been my pleasure to let people know about this. ad, [1] Union Pacific, starting from Council Bluffs, Iowa, built west, laying more than a thousand miles of rail; Central Pacific, starting from Sacramento, California, built east, laying nearly seven hundred miles of track. Many of the Chinese communities that sprung up in the 1870s and 1880s and continued on were the result of the railroad workers dispersing across the country and people establishing themselves, and a small number starting families and having native-born Chinese-Americans in the United States. The Golden Spike Ceremony, which took place May 10, 1869, was held at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. On May 10, 1869, work crews from the two companies met in the Utah desert at Promontory Summit to link their rails and hammer home the final spikes. There was not an extensive cash economy there. In the late 1950s a tourist attraction, the Golden Spike Railroad Museum, opened many miles away from the Spike site, but close to the nearest highway. In 1850, California became part of the Union, but California, as rich and as important as it was, was still far removed from the East Coast and even from the Midwest. After they had completed the work, they had shown themselves to be extraordinary workers and were celebrated by many people. To recover is to find information that speaks to those gaps and silences in history. It was engraved on all four sides, including the names of the railroad officers and directors along with start and end dates of construction. The driving of this final golden spike represented a new era in connecting people, moving goods, and igniting America’s … A railroad linking America's east and west coasts had been a dream almost since the steam locomotive made its first appearance in the early 1830s. The 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration taking place now in Ogden and at Golden Spike National Historical Park! The authorization supported two companies: the Union Pacific, which built from Omaha, Nebraska, westward, and the Central Pacific, which built from Sacramento, California, eastward. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the stalemate was broken, and Abraham Lincoln signed a bill in 1862 to authorize federal support for the building of the line. Why was the role of Chinese railroad workers something that had to be recovered? On May 10, 1869, East met West at the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, connecting the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific lines. Industry Website. Visitors to the park can see the location of the Last Spike Site, 1869 railroad construction features, walk or drive on the original railroad grade, and get an up close view of Victorian era replica locomotives. They overcame great physical, climatic, and working conditions. While we learned about a lot of big things, we also learned about small things. The crowd cheers as Governor Leland Stanford drives the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah to complete the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Sean Fraga holds a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University. On May 10, 1869, officials of the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad met here to drive four symbolic spikes (two gold), celebrating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. But, simultaneously, there arose a movement that saw them as alien threat and an undesirable workforce. But a handful did, particularly the managers or supervisors or labor contractors who recruited the workers on to the rail line. So the rail line had both domestic importance as well as perceived international trade advantages. It’s a passion as well as an intellectual endeavor. All orders are custom made and most ship worldwide within 24 hours. Coronavirus Updates: Stay current on the latest news and park access. Tourists could pose with full-size plywood replicas of the two famous Golden Spike locomotives. I’d studied and had written about those issues extensively in my earlier career, and finally, in 2012, I had a chance to co-found and co-direct this project, to recover the history of Chinese railroad workers. The rails they laid eventually met track set down by the Union Pacific, which worked westward. 150 years after the completion of … With the 150th anniversary coming up, many are very pleased that the story of Chinese railroad workers will finally make it into the public’s consciousness, through public events and books and other work that the project has completed. In the United States, there was this opportunity: They were paid in gold and sent the money back to China to their home villages and families, and this sustained the population in that portion of the country. American boosters and entrepreneurs envisioned a rail line as early as the 1840s.
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