torsdag 25. april 2019

150 years ago, Chinese railroad workers risked their lives in pursuit of the American dream

Michael Kwan was 7 years old when his grandparents showed him a large steel safe in their Los Angeles home. In dramatic fashion, they opened it and pulled out a piece of paper. “This belonged to my grandfather,” Kwan recalled his grandmother telling him. “He worked on the railroad.”

The document was a stock certificate from the Central Pacific Railroad, the company that built the western portion of the first transcontinental railroad by employing more than 10,000 Chinese laborers. May 10 will mark the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion, an engineering marvel that linked the nation. Among its successes, it reduced cross-country travel time for passengers from months to about a week. The railroad also allowed goods to move more quickly and cheaply from coast to coast, as a fractured America and its economy recovered from the Civil War.