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Golden Spike Anniversary Topical Collection

Instructional Resource

This collection was created by Jared Tupuola, a Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center intern. Jared dove into the histories of Chinese laborers and the Golden Spike Anniversary, the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. 

"On May 10, 1869, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific rail lines were connected in a highly publicized ceremony attended by railroad laborers, major financial supporters and the press. Led by industrial tycoon, Leland Stanford, the event commemorated the birth of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The completion of the railroad made national news and was lauded as a great economic and cultural success for the U.S. 

Despite the attention given to the event, there remained one group of contributors who were almost entirely left out of being recognized for their integral work to the project; Chinese railroad laborers. Although making up the vast majority of the physical work force behind the railroad, Chinese labor contributions were largely disregarded. This instance was not unique to many early Chinese Americans who faced discrimination, animosity, and degradation not only in rail work, but in almost every industry and facet of life. The hardships for early Chinese in America were exacerbated by the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which not only prevented further immigration from China to the U.S., it also birthed an impetus to drive out Chinese communities already established.

Through this collection, the work, lives, and experiences of Chinese laborers and migrants are presented as an opportunity to learn more about how some of America's earliest Chinese residents navigated America in the late 19th Century. This collection provides art, ceramics and information that expounds upon the realities of Chinese American life and the First Transcontinental Railroad while ensuring that the Chinese contributions are not forgotten.  By no means an exhaustive resource, this collection allows for an introduction into Chinese contributions to the Transcontinental Railroad and encourages further exploration into the topic."