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The idea of hiring Chinese, it appears, might have been raised first by Crocker’s Chinese manservant.”, READ MORE: Chinese Americans Were Once Forbidden to Testify in Court. “Then, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred immigrants from coming into US, unless you were a diplomat or a businessperson,” said Liebhold. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869 is usually told as a story of national triumph and a key moment for American Manifest Destiny. Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers. 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, Last modified on Thu 18 Jul 2019 02.03 EDT. A Murder Changed That, 10 Ways the Transcontinental Railroad Changed America. “To totally condemn the businessmen is challenging because they took huge risks raising money to build a railroad that was astronomically difficult. At first railroad companies were reluctant to hire Chinese workers, but the immigrants soon proved to be vital. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! The Union Pacific began construction of their rail in Omaha, Nebraska working toward the west. TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD BACKCOUNTRY BYWAY - 90-mile section of the Central Pacific Railroad grade administered by the Bureau of Land Management. “Crocker’s colleagues objected at first because of prejudice but then relented as they had few other options. “You’re always welcome if you’re affluent, then you’re allowed to come in.”, Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad is on show at the National Museum of American History in Washington until spring 2020, The transcontinental railroad at 150 – in pictures. According to the Project, Chinese workers hired in 1864 were paid $26 a month, working six days a week. They had to face dangerous work conditions – accidental explosions, snow and rock avalanches, which killed hundreds of workers, not to mention frigid weather. Hundreds died from explosions, landslides, accidents and disease. As you celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike ceremony that made the transcontinental railroad a reality, you can also explore the stories of your Chinese immigrant ancestors. The Chinese had already established a significant presence in the United States before the call for a transcontinental railroad came about. Of course the large number of immigrants working for Central Pacific and their hard work didn’t mean they were well-treated or well-compensated for their efforts. Chinese workers building a cut and a bank at Sailor's Spur in the Sierra foothills for the Central Pacific Railroad in California, 1866. Chinese camp and construction train in Nevada when building of the first transcontinental railroad was being speeded across the state by the Central Pacific. Chinese laborers at work on construction for the railroad built across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, circa 1870s. The First Transcontinental Railroad changed America, but the men who had toiled on the tracks were erased from history. We tend to focus on the achievement of the few and not the stories of the average everyday person.”. Learn 5 facts about the Transcontinental Railroad. “Hong Kong and China were as close in travel time as the eastern U.S.,” Chang says. Chinese railroad workers were instrumental to creation of America's first transcontinental railroad between 1863 and 1869. “Chinese workers were not citizens, weren’t allowed to become citizens. Title: Chinese Timetable. All Rights Reserved. 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. “Chinese received 30-50 percent lower wages than whites for the same job and they had to pay for their own food stuffs,” Chang says. “On the west, there were Chinese workers, out east were Irish and Mormon workers were in the center. There is also evidence they faced physical abuse at times from some supervisors. Their job duties included everything from unskilled labor to blacksmithing, tunneling and carpentry, according to the Project, with most work done with hand tools. Strong students will also explain that the completion of the transcontinental railroad prompted Chinese workers previously employed on the railroad to compete for more desirable jobs, which contributed to anti-Chinese sentiment. © 2020 A&E Television Networks, LLC. 150 years of railroad snow removal in the Sierra. … The strike ended without pay parity after Central Pacific cut off food, transportation and supplies to the Chinese living in camps, but, Chang says, the strike was not held in vain. “We’ve forgotten the contribution of these workers, and in fact, we forget the contribution of all workers. ... "Chinese Railroad Workers in North America," Stanford University website. UNION PACIFIC - History and photos of the Union Pacific. When they failed to achieve this dream a… Chinese-American Contribution to transcontinental railroad Linda Hall Library's Transcontinental Railroad educational site with free, full-text access to 19th century American railroad periodicals Newspaper articles and clippings about the Transcontinental Railroad at Newspapers.com “Building railroads is often profitable but operating them isn’t necessarily, if you look at the history of railroads in the US,” said Liebhold. All these groups are outside the classical American mainstream.”. by J.P. Marden. HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. [4] “Cultural Impact of Building the Transcontinental Railroad.” [5] Fuchs. They toiled through back-breaking labor during both frigid winters and blazing summers. The transcontinental railroad has been viewed in a similarly nationalistic way ever since. Courtesy of Library of Congress. “The 150th anniversary is not just about completing a railroad, but the workers involved.”. More Chinese immigrants began arriving in California, and two years later, about 90 percent of the workers were Chinese. They protested these and the long hours and they used their collective strength to challenge the company.”. In the mid-nineteenth century, large numbers of Chinese men immigrated to the United States in search of better futures for themselves and the families they left behind. 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 Transcontinental Railroad was a dream of a country set on the concept of Manifest Destiny. Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

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