http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/chinese-american-pride-marks-150th-anniversary-of-railroad/article/549498

Chinese-American pride marks 150th anniversary of railroad

Posted May 10, 2019 by Karen Graham
Thousands of people gathered Friday at the remote spot in the Utah desert where the final spikes of the Transcontinental Railroad were hammered 150 years ago, uniting a nation long separated by vast expanses of desert, mountains, and forests.
The painting depicts the ceremony of the driving of the  Last Spike  at Promontory Summit  UT  on Ma...
The painting depicts the ceremony of the driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory Summit, UT, on May 10, 1869, joining the rails of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad.
Thomas Hill - (1829 - 1908)
The three-day event marking the anniversary of the joining of the Central Pacific Railroad from the west and the Union Pacific Railroad from the east on May 10, 1869, is expected to draw over 20,000 people to Promontory Summit, a wind-swept site on high ground above Utah’s Great Salt Lake, about 66 miles (106 kilometers) northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The site is now a National Park, and a monument to the 1,800-mile (2,900 kilometers) rail line that shortened the trip across our vast country from as long as six months in wagons and stagecoaches to about 10 days by rail, It is also a monument to the manual labor of nearly 20,000 Chinese immigrants who succeeded in getting the railroad built.
The feat, which took six years to complete, is also being celebrated as a testament to the engineering skills, innovation, and new technologies used in the 19th century.
he ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit  Utah on May 10  1869; completi...
he ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869; completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right). This is a restoration from the original negative of the image taken in 1869.
Andrew J. Russell - Yale University Libraries
Believe it or not, but the driving of the last spikes turned into what is probably the world's first live mass-media event. The hammers and spikes were wired to the telegraph line so that each hammer stroke would be heard as a click at telegraph stations nationwide—the hammer strokes were missed, so the clicks were sent by the telegraph operator.
As soon as the ceremonial "Last Spike" had been replaced by an ordinary iron spike, a message was transmitted to both the East Coast and West Coast that simply read, "DONE."
Most people don't know this, but the golden spike also bears a transcription that says: “May God continue the unity of our country as this railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.”
The original Golden Spike used to connect the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways in 1869 nea...
The original Golden Spike used to connect the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways in 1869 near Ogden, Utah. This spike was driven in by Leland Stanford and is on display at the Cantor Arts Museum at Stanford University.
Wjenning
The country was still feeling the lingering effects of the Civil War when the final spikes were driven, and in a way, the connecting of the two coasts became a pivotal moment that not only reunited the country but changed dramatically how people traveled and did business.
“It psychologically and symbolically bound the country,” said Brad Westwood, Utah’s senior public historian, reports the Associated Press.
The people who built the railroad
There will be a large contingent of Chinese Americans at the three-day event in Utah this weekend - paying tribute to their ancestors who literally built the overland railroad through their brawn and tenacity. This hard work quite often led to their deaths.
A photograph of the Dale Creek Bridge between circa 1864 and circa 1869.
A photograph of the Dale Creek Bridge between circa 1864 and circa 1869.
Photographer Andrew J. Russell, part of photographs taken during construction of the Union Pacific R
Most of the manual labor to build the Central Pacific's roadbed, bridges and tunnels was done primarily by many thousands of emigrant workers from the Guangdong Province of China, which at the time, besides having great poverty, suffered from the violence of the Taiping Rebellion.
Most unskilled laborers working on the railroad received one to three dollars a day, while Chinese "directly imported from China," often received less than their white counterparts. Most of these Chinese workers were represented by a Chinese "boss" who translated, collected salaries for his crew, kept discipline and relayed orders from an American general supervisor.
Chinese were often used to drill and pack black powder into cracks and crevasses while blasting tunnels through the hard rock of mountains. It wasn't until close to when the two railroads were to be connected that the recently invented nitroglycerin explosive was introduced and used on the last tunnels including Summit Tunnel.
Chinese workers in the snow constructing the first transcontinental railroad. From a sketch by Joesp...
Chinese workers in the snow constructing the first transcontinental railroad. From a sketch by Joesph Becker." Originally printed in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Vol. 29, February 6, 1870, p. 346.
"B&H", illustrator; sketch by Joesph Becker (1841-1910)
Most of the foremen and other "bosses" were Irish immigrants who demanded higher pay than their Chinese counterparts. The Chinese were subjected to racial slurs, lower wages and were expected to find their own food and tents while white workers had these amenities provided to them.
Of the Central Pacific's 13,500 employees working on the Transcontinental Railroad, 12,000 were Chinese immigrants. Accidents, avalanches, and explosions left an estimated 1,200 Chinese immigrant workers dead.
Yet despite the truly heroic work done by these Chinese workers, they became the objects of discriminatory laws and racial violence.
Connie Young Yu told Reuters that when her parents joined a delegation of fellow Chinese-Americans attending a 1969 event commemorating the centennial of the first U.S. Transcontinental Railroad, they were snubbed, and upstaged by Hollywood star John Wayne.
But today, while attending the 150th celebration in Utah, Yu and other Chinese-Americans are looking forward to receiving the rightful and long-overdue recognition their ancestors deserve. “It’s our connection to and participation in American society,” Yu, 77, a board member of the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco said.