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Through Toil and Labor: the Forgotten History of Utah’s Chinese Railroad Workers

Central Pacific R.R. -- Construction

Central Pacific RR – Construction #00530, Utah State Historical Society

With the ceremonial completion of the United States’ first Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869, the nation entered a new age of commerce and travel. The momentous meeting of the rails at Promontory Summit, Utah meant goods and services could now move across the country in quantities and at speeds previously unknown. Key to this massive effort to connect the nation were the contributions of thousands of immigrant workers from around the globe.

Chinese immigrants composed over 75 percent of the Transcontinental Railroad workforce between 1865 and 1869, numbering over 11,000 by its completion. These Chinese laborers, mostly young men ages 15-25, left their families and homes in China to seek new economic opportunities. The contributions of these Chinese railroad workers to Utah and the United States are slowly becoming better known,

Through photographs, historical documents, and excavated fragments of imported Chinese ceramics, this exhibit seeks to explore the unique history of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Chinese workers in Utah, discuss their daily lives, and share what’s been learned from the artifacts they left behind.

Resources

2018-2019 Traveling Schedule

Schedule coming soon