Honoring the Chinese Railroad Workers; U.S. Labor Hall of Honor

This post features Chinese history of immigrants and their impact on America becoming their home. The first article is the blog post publication of United States Department of Labor blog by Secretary Tom Perez. The Second is a related article with additional information containing a photo and video content authored by John from 8Asians, a blog about Asian American issues.

They Helped Build a Railroad − and a Nation: Honoring the Chinese Railroad Workers

One hundred forty-five years ago tomorrow, May 10, the word “DONE” was telegraphed to Washington D.C., sending word that the final spike had been driven in to complete the First Transcontinental Railroad. It was one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the 19thcentury, connecting the country from coast-to-coast, facilitating commerce and opening the door for massive economic expansion. Before its completion, cross-country travel took six months. The railroad reduced it to a single week.

Chinese Railroad workersBut too often lost in discussions of this awe-inspiring achievement is the contribution of the approximately 12,000 Chinese laborers who took on the grueling task of completing the western section of the track.

It was backbreaking, dangerous work. Many of these workers died from the harsh winters and brutal conditions. They laid tracks on terrain that rose 7,000 feet in less than 100 miles, chipped away at the granite and planted explosives that were used to blast tunnels through the treacherous Sierra Nevada Mountains. Read full article Official blog United States Department of Labor.


Chinese Railroad Workers Inducted into the U.S. Labor Hall of Honor & Reclaiming Promontory Point

Related to the Honoring of the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor honor for the Chinese railroad workers, the most famous photo related to the completion of the transcontinental railroad was taken with both the Eastern and Western section of the rail track were joined, at what is now known as Promontory Point, in Promontory Summit, Utah. However, no Chinese laborers were included in that famous photo:

“Over the years, one photograph in particular from May 10, 1869, has taken root in U.S. history. “It’s a black-and-white, very historic-looking photo,” says Connie Young Yu, the great-granddaughter of a Chinese laborer on the railroad. The iconic image shows a crowd of men swarmed around two locomotives “In the middle are the two engineers shaking hands,” Yu says. “And above them are workers hoisting champagne bottles.” … But the portrait wasn’t perfect. “History — at least photographically — says that the Chinese were not present,” says photographer Corky Lee. As a junior high school student, he pored over the photo with a magnifying glass. But he couldn’t spot a single Chinese laborer in the picture, even though more than 12,000 workers from southern China were hired by the Central Pacific Railroad. They made up the overwhelming majority of its workforce.”

For full 8Asians blog post with historic photo and video content click here.


descendants Chinese railroad worker reanacting iconic photo on the 145th anniversary railroad completion Promontory Summit, Utah

Descendants Chinese railroad worker reenacting iconic photo on the 145th-anniversary railroad completion Promontory Summit, Utah Courtesy photo source: Corky Lee