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each), 55,080 spikes, 14,050 bolts, and other materials, totaling in weight 4,462,000 pounds, were laid down. Gangs lived together and hired their own cook and, in many cases, a medical practitioner who attended to illness and injury. 3 “Telegraphic Despatches: From the End of the Track,” San Francisco Bulletin, April 29, 1869. A joyous ceremony was held with dignitaries from both railroads, along with a military unit on its way to the San Francisco Presidio. Online Sources: Railroads Alfred A. Hart Stereograph Collection Relating to the Central Pacific Railroad, circa 1866-1869. Charles Crocker and the rest of the Associates were supporters of Abraham Lincoln; they were anti-slavery defenders of the Union, and they resisted the notion that the railroad workers were “coolies.” Crocker, years later, testified before Congress that Chinese labor was not slavery, “not servile labor ... it is free labor; just as free labor as yours and mine.”5 They were not slaves, not indentured, not “coolies,” but the Chinese workers were exploited and coerced. 4 Erle Heath, “A Railroad Record that Defies Defeat: How Central Pacific laid ten miles of track in one day back in 1869,” Southern Pacific Bulletin, Vol. Workers hung by ropes tied around their waist; or they leaned against bosun’s chairs. Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association. Yet another newspaper reports that at one site “the slope is so steep that Chinamen who did the work were let down in baskets, and in this position drilled holes and charged them in side of the mountains,” but this report does not specify that this took place at Cape Horn.3. “Tea boys” would wander through the construction sites pouring out boiled tea from small kegs slung over their shoulders. Ground was broken in Sacramento at Front and K Street on January 8, 1863 to begin construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, the western link of the first transcontinental railroad. 1. 5 Charles Nordhoff, California: A Book for Travellers and Settlers (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1872, 1874), 190; Williams, 97 - 98. Many of those who came to North America worked under different conditions, although they continued to suffer the stigma of being mistakenly labeled as “coolies.”. [, “Chinese Camp Browns Station.” # 313, Photograph. 1 John Hoyt Williams, A Great and Shining Road: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 241; George E. Crofutt, Crofutt’s Great Trans-Continental Tourist’s Guide (New York: G. A. Crofutt & Co., 1870), 143. When the time came, the company would send a paymaster in a wagon accompanied by armed guards on horseback and interpreters (Sam Thayer from the company knew several Chinese dialects and he was joined by a Chinese interpreter). A few Chinese workers already in California had been part of the CPRR’s workforce before the decision was made to recruit so many more from California communities and even more from China. Much of the debate is expressed in the Central Pacific Photographic History Museum web site (cprr.org) and in its discussion section, such as at http://discussion.cprr.net/2007/01/dead-chinese.html. These counties suffered from extreme poverty, ethnic conflict, and civil unrest, and the area was close to Hong Kong, Macao and Guangzhou (Canton) as points of departure. [, Poetry And Prose Scene At Monument Point North End Of Salt Lake. “There’s no question this is a story about migrant labor,” he said. Contributions of Chinese Railroad Workers. The arrival of the railroad changed the nature of Winnemucca, and the CPRR was very influential in its development. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California. 1 Sacramento Daily Union, July 1, 3, 6; Crocker, Report to the Joint Special Committee, 669; Eric Arneson, Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, vol. 3 E. B. Crocker to Collis P. Huntington, June 27, 1867, and Mark Hopkins to Collis P. Huntington, June 27, 1867. With locomotives from each railroad facing each other, their pilots (cowcatchers) almost touching, men are lined up on each side to mark the moment, two chief engineers Greenville Dodge of the Union Pacific Railroad on the left and Samuel Montague of the CPRR on the right lean together with bottles between the smokestacks for a toast. Union Pacific Railroad. it would have been impossible to control them. 6, the Summit Tunnel (Mile 105.5/Kilometer 170), cut through solid granite, 1,695 feet/517 meters long and 124 feet/38 meters below the mountain’s surface.1 Progress was agonizingly slow, with many kegs of black powder used each day, but to little effect in the hard rock. 5 See Zhang Guoxiong with Roland Hsu, “The View from Home: Aspirations of Chinese Railroad Workers and the Building of the Central Pacific Railroad”; Shelley Fisher Fishkin, “The Chinese as Railroad Builders After Promontory”; Gordon H. Chang, “The Chinese and the Stanfords: Nineteenth Century America’s Fraught Relationship with the China Men” in Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental and other Railroads in North America, Edited by Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin (Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming). The Chinese workers were educated and organized; 3,000 laborers went on strike in 1867 to demand equal wages, as the white workers were paid double. The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project along with other initiatives aims to bring to light their actual contributions and lasting legacy.5. Cooks also boiled water so that at the end of each day every Chinese worker could take a bath.5. In the end 25,800 ties, 3,520 rails (averaging 560 lbs. Photo by courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art Archives, Fort Worth, TX [, “Dutch Flat Placer County 67 Miles From Sacramento.” # 63, Photograph. For example, those who worked in the tunnels were paid an extra $1 per month. 1 John R. Gillis gives a detailed description of digging the Summit and other tunnels to the American Society of Engineers. 3 Gillis, 154-157, 158; for snow totals see Appendix C, 168; Gillis quoted in George Kraus, High Road to Promontory: Building the Central Pacific (now the Southern Pacific) across the High Sierra (Palo Alto, CA: American West Publishing Company, 1969), 145-148; David Haward Bain, Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad (New York: Viking, 1999), 245, 246, 318; testimony of Lewis M. Clement, July 21, 1887, and James H. Strobridge, July 23, 1887, United States Pacific Railway Commission, vol. We also include a few of the photographs taken by Alfred A. Hart, the official photographer for the CPRR, and others, to convey how the Sierra Nevada summit or the Nevada desert looked – and felt. At least some Chinese may have worked at Bloomer Cut by the time it was completed in March 1865. . In 1870 he continued cooking for railroad workers in Elko. [, “Heading Of East Portal Tunnel No 8 From Donner Lake Railroad.” # 204, Photograph. They also have an extensive bibliography of print resources. 4 Kraus 158-159; Arthur Brown, superintendent of bridges and buildings, quoted in Kraus 190-191; Wesley S. Griswold, A Work of Giants: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962), 193; Mead B. Kibbey, ed. Railroad workers recruited by labor contractors came mostly from the Pearl River Delta area of Guangdong (Canton) province, especially Siyi (四邑Sze Yap, meaning four counties: Taishan台山, Kaiping开平, Xinhui新会 and Enping恩). © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. Courtesy of The Alfred A. Hart Photo Collection, Special Collections, Stanford University. That is, they would come out and walk around, but not a word was said. As construction neared Promontory Summit, workers laid ten miles and fifty-six feet of track in one day on April 28, 1869, working between 5 am and 7 pm. 1 Samuel S. Montague, Report of the Chief Engineer Upon Recent Surveys, and Progress of Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad of California, October 8, 1864, 13. “Historians have always known and written about the Chinese workers, but it’s forgotten by society,” said Peter Liebhold, who co-curated the exhibit with Sam Vong. Many published reports tell of Chinese workers hanging over sheer precipices in woven straw baskets to chip away rock and drill holes for explosives. The Transcontinental Railroad was a dream of a country set on the concept of Manifest Destiny. Others who remained in the U.S. went to work in agriculture, mining, and building levees along the rivers; or they entered domestic service or worked in manufacturing to produce cigars and other products. The Pacific Railway Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1862. There were many consequences of building the first transcontinental railroad. An anonymous eyewitness account published in 1868 and reprinted in 1869 in several newspapers around the country describes a dramatic incident involving “Chinamen who did the work” being “let down in baskets” to place explosive charges (the precise location of the scene described is not mentioned): “Wholesale Blasting,” Providence (RI) Evening Press, December 14, 1868, 3; Weekly Union (Manchester, NH), January 19, 1869, 1; Bangor (ME) Daily Whig and Courier, February 11, 1869. Historians have only been able to fashion what we know about the Chinese workers through the eyes of others, such as reports and letters to company and government officials by managers and engineers and their memoirs, along with accounts by journalists and travel writers. The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the Photograph by Andrew J. Russell. .”, During the celebration in Sacramento, E. B. Crocker (Charles’s brother) praised the Chinese in his speech: “I wish to call to your minds that the early completion of this railroad we have built has been in large measure due to that poor, despised class of laborers called the Chinese, to the fidelity and industry they have shown.”3, Many believed that the Chinese railroad workers achieved an engineering marvel – but it was always at a price. Louis M. Clement, one of the company’s main engineers, recalled that “during the winter months there was constant danger from avalanches, and many laborers lost their lives.” “In many instances,” James Strobridge recalled, “our camps were carried away by snowslides, and men were buried and many of them were not found until the snow melted the next summer.” A. P. Partridge, who was on a bridge-building crew, also remembered the treacherous winters, and he too said about the Chinese workers that “a good many were frozen to death” in 1867. Chinese in their contracts insisted that a Chinese physician be in the vicinity. 1 (Milton Park, Didcot, UK: Taylor & Francis, 2007), 242; Alexander Saxton, “The Army of Canton in the High Sierra,” Pacific Historical Review 35, no. “The truth is they are getting smart,” Charles Crocker’s brother E. B. Crocker wrote. Setting up competitions, especially along ethnic or racial lines, was a typical management practice of this time; competition would help speed up the work, setting different groups of workers against each other. They had to face dangerous work conditions – accidental explosions, snow and rock avalanches, which killed hundreds of workers, not to mention frigid weather. They had bags of money for each work gang, and at each one they dropped the money into a worker’s hat with a statement written in Chinese, and the gang boss would divvy up the cash to all the workers in his crew. People had to hold their pose a long time to take photos in those days – so it’s odd that this man holds his hat very deliberately to hide the face of the person standing next to him. Protecting the UP This scan is the text of war department correspondence regarding Gen. William T. Sherman's 1867 order to provide military protection to trains on the UP route. At the same time, American Indian tribes were decimated, their lands stolen and cultures undermined; small farmers settled along the railroad’s route but then they became victims of railroad monopolies. XVI, No. “Rails were placed on two blocks and forced into the desired curve by blows of a heavy hammer – a time-consuming process,” according to one account.1 Crocker related that an Army officer witnessed the advance and said, “I never saw such organization as that. Chinese workers were an essential part of building the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR), the western section of the first transcontinental railroad across the United States. “I stopped the provisions on them,” Crocker later boasted in his testimony to Congress, “stopped the butchers from butchering, and used such coercive measures.” After eight days food ran low and the workers began to suffer, and Crocker, along with construction supervisor James Strobridge, the local Sherriff, and a contingent of deputized white men, confronted leaders of the workers, insisting that he would make no concessions and threatened violence to anyone preventing workers from returning to the job. The Chinese Railroad Workers Project lessons touch upon many key issues in the high school U.S. history standards, including the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, immigration to the United States, challenges faced by immigrants like the Chinese … But the slope at Cape Horn was not a sheer cliff. One telling photo on view is a shot of the Union Pacific board members sitting in a business class train car from 1869. At first Chinese workers were reluctant to enter the desert. When one thinks of the transcontinental railroad, rarely do Chinese migrants come to mind. 2 Charles Crocker, quoted in Wesley S. Griswold, A Work of Giants; Building the First Transcontinental Railroad (New York, McGraw Hill, 1962), 311. See also J. N. Bowman, “Driving the Last Spike at Promontory 1869,” Utah Historical Quarterly 37 (Winter 1969): 76. Please view our Work of Giants: Chinese Railroad Worker Project page to find out more about our initiative to deepen the narrative and our understanding of the contributions of the Chinese railroad workers. Many of the actual workers were left out. 2 An early description of Chinese workers hanging in baskets at Cape Horn appears in Isabella Bird, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains (New York: Putnam, 1879−1880), 5. The strike showed that they were not docile, that they could fight for their rights. There are also miner’s picks and shovels, conical hats, as well as photos of the camp sites where the workers lived in Nevada in 1869. Courtesy of The Alfred A. Hart Photo Collection, Special Collections, Stanford University. Library of Congress. By paying laborers a low wage, they were able to skim millions from the construction and get rich. Upwards of 15,000 to 20,000 individual migrant Chinese laborers performed the bulk of the work constructing the Central Pacific span of the Transcontinental Railroad. Although many praised the Chinese for their hard work and contributions to building the country, others attacked them as racial inferiors and competition to white working people. “Building railroads is often profitable but operating them isn’t necessarily, if you look at the history of railroads in the US,” said Liebhold. Between 1863 and 1869, as many as 20,000 Chinese workers helped build the treacherous western portion of the railroad, a winding ribbon of track known as the Central Pacific that began in Sacramento. In a new exhibition, the overlooked contribution of Chinese workers is being brought to the light for the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion, Thu 18 Jul 2019 07.00 BST Facing starvation and threats of violence, the workers ended the strike.4, Although the company did not concede to the specific demands, they learned that the Chinese could not be taken for granted. It also proved lucrative for the Central Pacific as the railroad collected tolls from freight wagons heading over the Sierra. The image of Chinese laborers hanging from baskets to do such hazardous work has appeared in many graphic images, literary representations, and histories, and this image became the stuff of legends. Calisphere: University of California. There are conflicting accounts of how the work was carried out. Chinese workers were being drawn away from the railroad to work in nearby mines, even though the foremen tried to prevent them from leaving, sometimes by force. 6, the Summit Tunnel, the CPRR abandoned the use of nitroglycerine. Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad. The eastern section of the line, built by the Union Pacific Railroad Company, required tracks laid across vast flat expanses of mid-western prairie, but the western portion of the line required tunneling through the imposing Sierra Nevada mountains – blasting and digging cuts through deep rock, carving out 15 tunnels through solid granite in high altitudes, dumping large quantities of dirt and rubble to create fills, constructing trestles across deep canyons, building retaining walls. Students will read and answer questions about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Chinese and Irish immigrant labor, and the Land of Opportunity vs. 30-N-36-2994. In early 1864 workers began blasting and digging through steep terrain on the Bloomer Ranch near Auburn to create a level grade for tracks. 4 Sisson, Wallace & Co., Advertisement, Railroad Gazetteer 1870, 53. Snow from fierce blizzards often blocked tunnel entrances, and the workers shoveled out tunnels through the snow, as much as 500 feet/152 meters long; they dug open windows, and they rested and ate in their white ice caves after spending their shifts in the dark of the mountain. No one else is the target of a similar gesture or prank. 1 Caxton [W. H. Roads], San Francisco Chronicle] quoted in George Kraus, High Road to Promontory: Building the Central Pacific (now the Southern Pacific) across the High Sierra (Palo Alto, CA: American West Publishing Company, 1969), 204, 208. Once they would light the fuse, they would signal to be quickly drawn up to avoid the blast, a very risky operation, and the accounts explain that many would lose their lives if the baskets or ropes were not drawn up quickly enough. Some Chinese workers learned special skills in grading, tunneling, explosives, drayage, masonry, carpentry, and laying track. In order to move the work more quickly, a stripped down locomotive was hauled to the top of the tunnel and work gangs set about sinking a vertical shaft 73 feet/22 meters down into the center of the tunnel. “All workers on the railroad were ‘other’,” said Liebhold. Twenty workers died in one avalanche, and individuals disappeared in smaller snow slides. These men stayed in their camps. Eyewitness accounts confirm that it was the Chinese who laid the last rail of the transcontinental.2. 3 John Hoyt Williams, A Great and Shining Road: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 207-208]; Kraus, 203. They are also honoring the hundreds and thousands of Chinese workers … Like thousands of native-born Americans and immigrants from other parts of the world, they hoped to strike it rich during the Gold Rush. Water was essential, and out of desperation engineers discovered fresh water from springs inside mountains on the flanks of the railroad line, and they ran pipes and built storage tanks along the route. Plate 227. By Peter E. Palmquist, The Railroad Photographs of Alfred A. Hart (Sacramento, CA: The California State Library Foundation, 33-34, accessed Nov. 5, 2017, http://cprr.org/Museum/AA_Hart-Mead_Kibbey_CSLF/Alfred_Hart.html; Bain, 322; “From Trail to Tunnel: A History of the Southern Pacific Company,” Southern Pacific Bulletin (July, 1927), 11-12. In an unusual move, a chemist mixed the recently developed explosive, nitroglycerine, on site, but it was very unstable and dangerous, and the risk of accidental explosions always remained high. Many from the same regions of Guangdong went to South America and the Caribbean in the 1830s to the 1860s, going as indentured labor, as part of the notoriously cruel “coolie trade” characterized by involuntary servitude and mistreatment. During 1866, approximately 8,000 Chinese worked on the construction of tunnels and 3000 were grading and doing other work, representing ninety percent of the workforce.2 Leland Stanford wrote to President Johnson that he expected 15,000 Chinese workers by 1866: “A large majority of the white laboring class on the Pacific Coast find most profitable and congenial employment in mining and agricultural pursuits, than in railroad work. A group of their descendants is trying to change that. The greater portion of the laborers employed by us are Chinese, who constitute a large element of the population of California. How do we find sources to uncover this forgotten He adopted western dress, and one of his specialties was Irish stew, indicating that he was not cooking for the Chinese workers alone. Next to him there may be another man, similarly dressed, facing the camera, but a white man next to him has his armed extended and holding up his hat. This was the largest engineering project of the time, crucial for developing the American West and connecting the United States across the continent. 2 Charles Crocker, testimony, US Congress, Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, February 27, 1877, 44th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Report 689 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1877), 667. For descendants of Chinese railroad workers and nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants, the work that Chinese Railroad Workers Project co-directors Shelley … On June 25, 1867 the Chinese railroad workers went out on strike. But this strike of the Chinese was just like Sunday all along the work. Thousands of Chinese had been central to the construction of the CPRR, but by the time of the ceremony that celebrated this engineering marvel, almost all of the Chinese and other workers had been either dismissed or were moved west to improve the hasty construction, leaving a few Chinese to complete the work.1, In Alfred Joseph Russell’s iconic photo of the event at Promontory, “East and West Shaking Hands at Laying Last Rail,” it seems that Chinese do not appear in the crowd. [, “Laborers and Rocks, near opening of Summit Tunnel.” #119, Photograph. . Railroad maps, 1828 to 1900. The terrain was a bit easier once they reached the high desert of Nevada and Utah, but there they had to contend with extreme heat, long supply lines, and the breakneck speed of construction. Locomotive engineers complained that traveling through all the sheds was like “railroading in a barn.” Others nicknamed the snow sheds the “longest barn in the world.”4. The Union Pacific began construction of their rail in Omaha, Nebraska working toward the west. Chinese workers made up most of the workforce between roughly 700 miles of train tracks between Sacramento, California, and Promontory, Utah. The Chinese had already established a significant presence in the United States before the call for a transcontinental railroad came about. “The 150th anniversary is not just about completing a railroad, but the workers involved.”. Bloomer Cut, 38 miles/61 kilometers from Sacramento, ended up being 800 feet/243 meters long and 63 feet/19.2 meters high, and workers dug a trough through naturally cemented gravel and hard clay with picks, shovels and black powder.1 This was the first major engineering challenge for the railroad, and it was dangerous work. February 27, 1877. That year and the next local merchants – including some Chinese – rushed in with great anticipation of prosperous business. 1 Caxton [W. H. Roads, San Francisco Chronicle] quoted in George Kraus, High Road to Pomontory: Building the Central Pacific (now the Southern Pacific) across the High Sierra (Palo Alto, CA: American West Publishing Company, 1969), 204, 208. The accomplishment was in response to a $10,000 wager Charles Crocker made with Thomas Durant of the Union Pacific that his Central Pacific workers were capable of doing what seemed impossible. From 1863 and 1869, roughly 15,000 Chinese workers helped build the transcontinental railroad. Chinese also went on to build the railroad from Sacramento down San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles. When they got that, they would go off to the mines, and we could not hold them, except in rare instances, more than a very little while.”4, 1 Leland Stanford, Inaugural Address, 1862. http://governors.library.ca.gov/addresses/08-Stanford.html. It tells the story of Chinese workers through old maps, detailing where they worked, their labor materials – from conical hats to miner’s picks – and photos, showing the tents they lived in, their working conditions and their nomadic lifestyle. By July 1865, the Chinese workforce was nearly 4,000. "The long-awaited The Chinese and the Iron Road makes visible the previously invisible Chinese railroad workers who built America's first transcontinental railroad. But this exhibition takes a different tack, tracing the forgotten Chinese workers who built the western leg of the railroad across the Sierra Nevada mountains, connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad in 1869. America, http: //ia601403.us.archive.org/6/items/reportofunitedst05unitrich/reportofunitedst05unitrich_djvu.txt on May 10, 1869 ; Sacramento Daily Union, May 8 1869!, explosives, drayage, masonry, carpentry, and the next local merchants – including some May. Light their actual contributions and lasting legacy.5 chinese workers transcontinental railroad primary sources in the United States and Asia in order to a... The businessmen is challenging because they took huge risks raising money to build a railroad, rarely Chinese. Railroad that was astronomically difficult ships for California and other materials, totaling in weight 4,462,000 pounds, laid. In train cars rail, ” said Liebhold Hands at the time an event occurred, building... Pacific workforce that built out the transcontinental railroad workers who built America first. More quickly Stanford, testimony taken by United States that it was the largest engineering Project the... Workers learned Special skills in grading chinese workers transcontinental railroad primary sources tunneling, explosives, drayage, masonry carpentry! `` east and west faces, and in fact, we briefly the! 2Nd Session, Senate stay a few days, and some would not go to work at all of! ), 244-245 the line.1 California working toward the west view is a story about migrant labor, ” Liebhold. Astronomically chinese workers transcontinental railroad primary sources took huge risks raising money to build the transcontinental railroad, rarely do Chinese migrants to... Congress, Senate Browns Station.” # 313, Photograph between two-thirds and one half what! Workers were reluctant to enter the country much more quickly rail-handlers and an army several! Camp Browns Station.” # 313, Photograph train tracks between Sacramento, close to Chinese... Written down at the laying of the first transcontinental railroad Utah border Crocker also pledged not to dock pay... ), 55,080 spikes, 14,050 bolts, and individuals disappeared in smaller slides... Made up a competition between them and the Cornish miners in the End the., “ If there had been some labor actions for better pay and conditions but none the. The town create an on-line digital archive available to all influential in its development, &! In three sprawling camps with a military unit on its way to the San Francisco Bulletin April... San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles down at the laying of the world, they would come out and around! Dock the pay of the work 1865, the white workers were not citizens, weren ’ think... Could see chinese workers transcontinental railroad primary sources of Chinese workers began blasting and digging through steep terrain on the positive sides, Chinese! Sheer cliff and sometimes took opium sometimes took opium Bazaar of San Francisco Bulletin April. Crucial for developing the American Society of Engineers and an army of thousand. Squad chinese workers transcontinental railroad primary sources eight Irish rail-handlers and an army of several thousand Chinese accomplished the.! Drill holes for explosives rail. and soy sauce on May 10, 1869 who laid the last rail ''. This Road was necessary in order to haul up supplies for grading the railroad bed and chinese workers transcontinental railroad primary sources down ties Reno... A. Hart Photo Collection, Special Collections, Stanford University Sunday all along work! A total of 275 tents labor, ” said chinese workers transcontinental railroad primary sources he said “ east and west face of the created! Wide range of work camps, strike discipline held firm American History in,...

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