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CHINESE-AMERICAN CONTRIBUTION TO TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD

Transcontinental RR

 

The first trans-con rail system was a merger of Union Pacific and Central Pacific.

Started working on the line in 1865.

CP left the West Coast; they spent $200K in bribes to get concession of 9 M acres, and got gifted $24M in govt bonds. The CP workers: 3,000 Irish, 10,000 Chinese working 4 yrs at $1-2/day.

 

UP left Nebraska. They founded a shell company, Credit Mobilier??¿ that delivered $94M for RR construction, paid for by under-selling shares to Congress members.

UP employed 20K workers, vets of CW and immigrant Irish, who laid 5 miles of track daily.

 

1869 the two met in Utah.

 

RR’s were controlled by bankers.

In 1890 4 of the 6 rail systems were controlled by Kuhn, Loeb & Co.

 

 

(Click on image to enlarge)
______

HON. JOHN T. DOOLITTLE of California in the
U.S. House of Representatives, Thursday, April 29, 1999.

Mr. DOOLITTLE. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to honor the Chinese-American community and pay tribute to its ancestors' contribution to the building of the American transcontinental railroad.

Chinese Laborers at WorkOn May 8th, the Colfax Area Historical Society in my Congressional District will place a monument along Highway 174 at Cape Horn, near Colfax, California to recognize the efforts of the Chinese in laying the tracks that linked the east and west coasts for the first time.   With the California Gold Rush and the opening of the West came an increased interest in building a transcontinental railroad. To this end, the Central Pacific Railroad Company was established, and construction of the route East from Sacramento began in 1863. Although the beginning of the effort took place on relatively flat land, labor and financial problems were persistent, resulting in only 50 miles of track being laid in the first two years. Although the company needed over 5,000 workers, it only had 600 on the payroll by 1864.

Chinese Railroad Worker at Tunnel No. 8Chinese labor was suggested, as they had already helped build the California Central Railroad, the railroad from Sacramento to Marysville and the San Jose Railway. Originally thought to be too small to complete such a momentous task, Charles Crocker of Central Pacific pointed out, "the Chinese made the Great Wall, didn't they?"

The first Chinese were hired in 1865 [sic] at approximately $28 per month to do the very dangerous work of blasting and laying ties over the treacherous terrain of the high Sierras. They lived in simply dwellings and cooked their own meals, often consisting of fish, dried oysters and fruit, mushrooms and seaweed.

Work in the beginning was slow and difficult. After the first 23 miles, Ten Miles of Track Laid in One Day, April 28, 1869.Central Pacific faced the daunting task of laying tracks over terrain that rose 7,000 feet in 100 miles. To conquer the many sheer embankments, the Chinese workers used techniques they had learned in China to complete similar tasks. China Labour, CPRR Payroll, March, 1865They were lowered by ropes from the top of cliffs in baskets [sic], and while suspended, they chipped away at the granite and planted explosives that were used to blast tunnels. Many workers risked their lives and perished in the harsh winters and dangerous conditions.

By the summer of 1868, 4,000 workers, two thirds of which were Chinese, had built the transcontinental railroad over the Sierras and into the interior plains. On May 10, 1869, the two railroads were to meet at Promontory, Utah in front of a cheering crowd and a band. A Chinese [and Irish] crew was chosen to lay the final ten miles of track, and it was completed in only twelve hours.

Without the efforts of the Chinese workers in the building of America's railroads, our development and progress as a nation would have been delayed by years. Their toil in severe weather, cruel working conditions and for meager wages cannot be under appreciated. My sentiments and thanks go out to the entire Chinese-American community for its ancestors' contribution to the building of this great Nation.

Image of Chinese Worker at CPRR Tunnel No. 8, above, is a detail of Hart stereoview #204, from the Steve Heselton Collection.

Archive-Name: gov/us/fed/congress/record/1999/apr/29/1999CRE822A [Congressional Record: April 29, 1999 (Extensions); Page E822]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:cr29ap99-49]
Courtesy Go2Net and Deja News.


The cars now (1867) run nearly to the summit of the Sierras.  ... four thousand laborers were at work—one-tenth Irish, the rest Chinese.  They were a great army laying siege to Nature in her strongest citadel.  The rugged mountains looked like stupendous ant-hills.  They swarmed with Celestials, shoveling, wheeling, carting, drilling and blasting rocks and earth, while their dull, moony eyes stared out from under immense basket-hats, like umbrellas.  At several dining camps we saw hundreds sitting on the ground, eating soft boiled rice with chopsticks as fast as terrestrials could with soup-ladles.  Irish laborers received thirty dollars per month (gold) and board; Chinese, thirty-one dollars, boarding themselves.  After a little experience the latter were quite as efficient and far less troublesome. Beyond the Mississippi by Albert D. Richardson


"Make Masons out of Chinamen? Did they not build the Chinese wall, the biggest piece of masonry in the world?" —Charles Crocker, Congressional Testimony


CHINESE LABOR.

A large majority of the white laboring class on the Pacific Coast find more profitable and congenial employment in mining and agricultural pursuits, than in railroad work. The greater portion of the laborers employed by us are Chinese, who constitute a large element in the population of California. Without them it would be impossible to complete the western portion of this great national enterprrise, within the time required by the Acts of Congress.

As a class they are quiet, peaceable, patient, industrious and economical—ready and apt to learn all the different kinds of work required in railroad building, they soon become as efficient as white laborers. More prudent and economical, they are contented with less wages. We find them organized into societies for mutual aid and assistance. These societies, that count their numbers by thousands, are conducted by shrewd, intelligent business men, who promptly advise their subordinates where employment can be found on the most favorable terms.

No system similar to slavery, serfdom or peonage prevails among these laborers. Their wages, which are always paid in coin, at the end of each month, are divided among them by their agents, who attend to their business, in proportion to the labor done by each person. These agents are generally American or Chinese merchants, who furnish them their supplies of food, the value of which they deduct from their monthly pay. We have assurances from leading Chinese merchants, that under the just and liberal policy pursued by the Company, it will be able to procure during the next year, not less than 15,000 laborers. With this large force, the Company will be able to push on the work so as not only to complete it far within the time required by the Acts of Congress, but so as to meet the public impatience.

LELAND STANFORD
Pres't C. P. R. R. Co.

Central Pacific Railroad Statement Made to the President of the United States, and Secretary of the Interior, on the Progress of the Work. October 10th, 1865. H.S. Crocker & Co., Printers, 92 J Street, Sacramento.


Chief Engineer Montague cites the Chinese in the work force in his message to the Board of the CPRR for 1865:

"It became apparent early in the season, that the amount of labor likely to be required during the summer could only be supplied by the employment of the Chinese element, of our population. Some distrust was at first felt regarding the capacity af this class for the service required, but the experiment has proved eminently successful. They are faithful and industrions, and under proper supervision, soon become skillful in the performance of their duties. Many of them are becoming very expert in drilling, blasting, and other departments of rock work."

From: "Report of the Chief Engineer upon Recent Surveys and Progress of Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad of California." December, 1865. Courtesy of Lynn D. Farrar.


"Systematic workers these Chinese – competent and wonderfully effective because tireless and unremitting in their industry. Order and industry then, as now, made for accomplishment. Divided into gangs of about 30 men each, they work under the direction of an American foreman. The Chinese board themselves. One of their number is selected in each gang to receive all wages and buy all provisions. They usually pay an American clerk – $1 a month apiece is usual – to see that each gets all he earned and is charged no more than his share of the living expenses. They are paid from $30 to $35 in gold a month, out of which they board themselves. They are credited with having saved about $20 a month. Their workday is from sunrise to sunset, six days in the week. They spend Sunday washing and mending, gambling and smoking, and frequently, old timers will testify, in shrill-toned quarreling. ... "
Alta California, San Francisco, November 9, 1868.


Without them it would be impossible to go on with the work. I can assure you the Chinese are moving the earth and rock rapidly. They prove nearly equal to white men in the amount of labor they perform, and are far more reliable.
E. B. Crocker, 1867.


"When the railroad was completed on May 10, 1869, an eight man Chinese crew was selected to place the last section of rail – a symbol to honor the dedication and hard work of these laborers. A few of the speakers mentioned the invaluable contributions of the Chinese ... " National Park Service
A.J. Russell Stereoview #539. "Chinese at Laying Last Rail UPRR." Courtesy of the Phil Anderson Collection.
Russell #539 versoA. J. Russell Stereoview #539. "Chinese at Laying Last Rail UPRR," on O.C. Smith's yellow mount. ... may be the only photographic record of the Chinese role in the Last Rail ceremony; The view clearly shows at least one Chinese worker and a partner with rail-laying tools appearing to adjust the last rail laid (from the CPRR side), with a wooden track gauge stick still in place while 2 others look on; ... showing the moment the last rails were actually laid. ... It really does confirm the eyewitness accounts ... A crowd stands behind and fans away on both sides. UPRR Locomotive "119" is prominent in the background. A couple of ladies are on shoulders to get a better look at the scene. ... Notice the textures in the clothing, a gentleman in the crowd wearing quite stylish sunglasses (the only one), and some tools, shovels and fishplates laying on the ground. Stereoview and Caption Courtesy of the Phil Anderson Collection.

Ging Cui, Wong Fook, and Lee Shao, three of the eight Chinese CPRR workers who brought up the last rail at Promontory Summit on May 10th, 1869 also participated in the Ogden 1919 50th Anniversary Celebration.

CPRR foreman, Amos L. Bowsher, who wired the telegraphic connection at Promontory which sent the word out over the wires that the last spike had been driven later recalled: "It was certainly a cosmopolitan gathering. Irish and Chinese laborers who had set records in track laying that have never since been equalled joined with the cowboys, Mormons, miners and Indians in celebrating completion of the railroad."

Find a guide to learning Chinese, as well as overviews of other languages.  

 

 


A reporter for the San Francisco Newsletter, May 15th, 1869, described the final moments of the celebration at Promontory:

"J.H. Strobridge, when the work was all over, invited the Chinese who had been brought over from Victory for that purpose, to dine at his boarding car. When they entered, all the guests and officers present cheered them as the chosen representatives of the race which have greatly helped to build the road ... a tribute they well deserved and which evidently gave them much pleasure."

While in Sacramento, CPRR Director, Judge Edwin Bryant Crocker in his speech also paid tribute to the Chinese: 

"I wish to call to your minds that the early completion of this railroad we have built has been in large measure due to that poor, despised class of laborers called the Chinese, to the fidelity and industry they have shown."


Thanks to the sponsors of our museum website, which include a great site for digital cameras, Digital Camera HQ, and a related site for a number of categories of consumer electronics, DigitalAdvisor.com.


"Long lines of horses, mules and wagons were standing in the open desert near the camp train. The stock was getting its breakfast of hay and barley. Trains were shunting in from the west with supplies and materials for the day's work. Foremen were galloping here and there on horseback giving or receiving orders. Swarms of laborers, Chinese, Europeans and Americans were hurrying to their work. On one side of the track stood the moveable blacksmith shop where a score of smiths were repairing tools and shoeing horses and mules. Close by was the fully equipped harness shop where a large force was repairing collars, traces and other leather equipment. To the west were the rails and line of telegraph poles stretching back as far as the eye could reach. The telegraph wire from the last pole was strung into the car that served as a telegraph office. To the eastward stretched the grade marked by a line of newly distributed earth. By the side of the grade smoked the camp fires of the blue clad laborers who could be seen in groups waiting for the signal to start work. These were the Chinese, and the job of this particular contingent was to clear a level roadbed for the track. They were the vanguard of the construction forces. Miles back was the camp of the rear guard–the Chinese who followed the track gang, ballasting and finishing the road bed. Systematic workers these Chinese–competent and wonderfully effective because tireless and unremitting in their industry ... The rails, ties and other material were thrown off the train as near to end of the track was as feasible, and then the empty train was drawn back out of the way. At this point the rails were loaded on low flat cars, and hauled by horses to end of track. The ties were handled in the same way. Behind came the rail gang, who took the rails from the flat cars and laid them on the ties. While they were doing this a man on each side distributed spikes, two to each tie; another distributed splice bars; and a third the bolts and nuts by which the rails were spliced together. Two more men followed to adjust and sent back for another load ... Back of the track builders followed a gang with the seven more ties necessary to complete the foundation for each rail. These were put into position and spiked by another gang, which also leveled up the track and left it ready for the ballasters. ..." From the report from End of Track, November 9, 1868, quoted in the Southern Pacific Bulletin, August, 1927, page 10. Courtesy G.J. "Chris" Graves.


"Never tire to study – And to teach others." Confucius

Read about:

"Chinese Laborers and the Construction of the Central Pacific." Utah Historical Quarterly, 1969.

"The Central Pacific Railroad and the Legend of Cape Horn." Book Review

"A History of the Chinese in California:  The Railroads."

"History of Chinese Americans in California."

"The Chinese at Promontory, Utah, April 30 - May 10, 1869."

"The Chinese Workers' Strike"

"Report of the Joint Special Committee Investigate Chinese Immigration." U.S. Senate, 1877.

"California: A Book for Travellers and Settlers."  by Charles Nordhoff, 1873.

"Chinese Laborers In The West."

"Chinese-American Trade Tokens"

"Fusang:  The Chinese Who Built America:  The Chinese Railroad Men."

"Cathay in Eldorado: The Chinese in California." Keepsake Series, 1972. [CPRR] Courtesy The Book Club Of California.

New! "The Chinese in Winnemucca, Nevada." by J.P. Marden.Adobe Acrobat PDF format

"The Chinese in America: Transcontinental Railroad," by Iris Chang, 2003.

Chinese Newspapers in 19th Century California.

 

Chinese objects from California, c. 1890.

"Chinese Labor." From Central Pacific Railroad. Statement made to the President of the United States, and Secretary of the Interior of the Progress of the Work. Leland Stanford, Pres't C. P. R. R. Co. October 10th, 1865.

Discussions about Chinese railroad workers on the Central Pacific Railroad



Note:
The background image for this page is a portion of a labor contract between hopeful
Chinese laborers and an American shipping company in 1850. The company agrees to give them passage from Shanghai to America (otherwise known as Gum Shan — "Gold Mountain" — and in return the workers are to pay a part of their wages in America each month until the costs are paid back.
Courtesy P. Steve Neeley, Shap Luk Kon Tseung Kwan, a software game relating to the Chinese railroad workers.



Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with California Senator Barbara Boxer.



Dedication Ceremony for Historic Marker:
"Dedicated to the memory of thousands of Chinese who worked for Charles Crocker on the Central Pacific Railroad.  They were lowered over the face of Cape Horn Promontory in wicker bosun's chairs, 1,332 feet above the canyon floor. The ledge created for this railbed was completed May, 1866. They are honored for their work ethic, and timely completion of the transcontinental rails ending in Promontory, Utah, May, 1869. "
[Chris Graves advises that the first reference to the use of bosun's chairs is in the
Southern Pacific Bulletin c. 1927.]



Chinese Railroad Worker Camp, Dugout with Tent Frame
From the Exhibit: "Along the CPRR Old Grade in Nevada, August, 2005" by G.J. Graves



References:

Williams, John Hoyt. A Great and Shining Road:  The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad. Times Books, 1988. pp. 93-118:

"In early September [1865], Strobridge turned his Celestials loose on Cape Horn with their picks, drills, shovels, tiny wheelbarrows, and blasting powder. The "crumping" of explosives reverberated through the valley below as the Chinese  —  who either were not susceptible to acrophobia or possessed a singular wealth of fatalism  —  began to sculpt the mountain, great chunks of which were blasted or pried loose to tumble earthshakingly into the American River so far below. Hundreds of barrels of black powder were ignited daily to shear away the obdurate granite and form a ledge on which a roadbed could be laid; but no matter the volume of explosives, progress was too slow to suit Stro[bridge] and his boss. While as many as half that work crew was engaged in building two massive retaining walls just above the emerging ledge (one a hundred feet long, the other two hundred feet), Montague suggested to Strobridge a new tactic, to which the Chinese headmen agreed. Beginning amidst the chill winds of late October, as snow swirled over the higher peaks in the distance, scores of Chinese were lowered by ropes from Cape Horn's summit to the almost vertical cliff face. There, nestled in flimsy-looking but strong woven baskets, the workers, sometimes swaying and swinging in the wind like ornaments on some bizarre outdoor Christmas tree, bored holes in the cold rock with their small hand drills. Dangling, they tamped in explosives that had been lowered to them, set and lit the fuses, signaled the men above by jerking a rope, and, wrote Thomas W. Chinn [ed., A History of the Chinese in California: A  Syllabus (San Francisco, 1969), p. 45.], "then scrambled up the lines while gunpowder exploded underneath." [James McCagueMoguls and Iron Men:  The Story of the First Transcontinental Railroad (New York, 1964), p. 18.] This was a hazardous business at best, and some of the Celestial acrophiles were not agile enough to escape the blasts or were hit by flying rock and followed the chunks of granite into the valley below. Notwithstanding the casualties there was no lack of volunteers, and to the surprise and relief of all, the basic work on Cape Horn was completed before winter's rather tardy fury forced a four-month halt to outside work. Track would be laid around Cape Horn the following May, well ahead of schedule. Most Cape Horn Chinese were shipped back to Sacramento for the winter, with a few score experienced rock men sent up the line to the tunnel facings." [Williams, p. 114]

Professor Williams also cites the following:  "Documents and censuses relating to the Chinese in California," University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library, C-B 761, box 1.

Immigrant and Ethnic Americans at Harpweek.com:

Chinn, Thomas W., et. al. (Ed.).  A History of the Chinese in California: A Syllabus.  San Francisco, Chinese Historical Society of America, 1969.  pp. 43-46.  (These railroad pages are reproduced in full on the CPRR website with the permission of the Chinese Historical Society.)

Kraus, George.   "Chinese Laborers and the Construction of the Central Pacific." National Golden Spike Centennial Commission Official Publication "The Last Spike is Driven" (Utah Historical Quarterly, winter 1969, Volume 37, Number 1, 1969). 

**"Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad" by William F. Chew, 2004.

Mr. Chew's book likely will be of very great interest, as he has for the first time extracted much detailed information about the Chinese workers from the recently available primary source CPRR payroll records at the California State Railroad Museum. For example, he found that "Central Pacific Payroll Sheets No. 26 and No. 34 dated January and February 1864, are the documents that record the first Chinese railroad workers, Hung Wah and Ah Toy, who supervised a crew of 23 unnamed workers." An extensive appendix lists by name all of the Chinese CPRR workers identified in the payroll records. Mr. Chew is to be congratulated for this important contribution. Unfortunately, however, the book also, for some of the analysis, relies upon problematic secondary sources and attempts calculations of the estimated total Chinese workforce and number killed that appear not to be as precise as implied. [Contrary to the book's conclusion, the engineers' and contemporary newspaper reports were (with one exception) of only few casualties. The book attempts to calculate the size of the workforce despite presenting reseach showing names of only the many headmen listed but almost none of the "nameless" Chinese laborers that were left unrecorded and finding that more than half of the monthly payroll documents were missing. Supt. Strobridge's 19th century testimony was that "our maximum strength ... very nearly approached 10,000 men on the work" while Mr. Chew instead is attempting to calculate that total number of Chinese who worked for the CPRR over time.]

The following graph was prepared from William F. Chew's data found in his Table 1, p.45 (maximum is 6,190 Chinese workers, with 160,958 man-days paid in April, 1866):

 

Men Who Moved Mountains

Spangenburg, Ray and Moser, Diane K.  The Story of American's Railroads.  New York, Facts On File, 1991, p. 37, states that "in 1855 the Oriental [was] one of two Chinese bilingual newspapers in California."
[The Oriental is available at the Huntington Library and was published until c. 1857.]

Steiner, Stan.  Fusang:  The Chinese Who Built America.  New York, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1979.  pp. 128-140.  (These railroad pages are reproduced in full on the CPRR website with the permission of Vera John-Steiner, Ph.D.)

Taylor, B. H.  A World on Wheels.  S. C. Griggs, 1874.

"Across the Continent."  Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, February 9, 1878, p. 389.

Young, Alida E.   Land of the Iron Dragon - A novel about the Chinese who labored to build the first transcontinental railroad in America. Doubleday 1978.  [hardcover - 213 pp; children's]

Chinese workers and the first transcontinental railroad of the United States of America. Tzu-Kuei Yen, Ph.D., St. John's University. Dissertation, 1977.

Chinese Immigration to the United States, 1851-1900Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress states that:  "No first-person memoirs of the Chinese experience in nineteenth-century California are known to survive. There is always hope that further research in the United States and the People's Republic of China will produce such a narrative, but for the time being, readers must content themselves with studies such as Robert McClellan's The Heathen Chinee: A Study of American Attitudes toward China, 1890-1905 (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1971) or Betty Lee Sung's Mountain of Gold: The Story of the Chinese in America (New York: Macmillan, 1967)."

The lack of even a single first-person memoir of the Chinese experience is quite surprising, if Mark Twain was correct when he observed in Roughing It (1872) that "All Chinamen can read, write and cipher with easy facility".

"Asian Pacific American Labor Organizing: An Annotated Bibliography, Part I: Historical Struggles, 1840s – 1960s" By Glenn Omatsu

The Chinese and the Transcontinental Railroad.  By Robert Chugg.  The Brown Quarterly, Volume 1, No. 3, Spring 1997.

Dr. Yee Fung Cheung’s Fiddletown, California Chinese Herbal Medicine Shop (A Museum on the National Register of Historic Places):

"Among the Chinese who came in the year 1850 was a twenty-five year old man from Toisan, China named Yee Fung Cheung. ...  Like his father, Yee Fung Cheung was an herbal doctor ...  Yee Fung Cheung attended to the medical needs of the Chinese miners, and later to those of the Chinese laborers working on the transcontinental railroad.  ...  While practicing in Sacramento, Yee Fung Cheung produced “a famous cure.”  In 1862, Governor Leland Stanford’s wife lay dying from a severe pulmonary disorder.  After conventional medical treatments failed to restore her health, the Stanford’s Chinese cook went to the Chinese section of Sacramento searching for the famous herbalist and found Yee Fung Cheung playing a game of mahjong at the Wah Hing grocery store.  Hearing about Mrs. Stanford’s illness, Yee ran to his shop and brewed an elixir that ultimately saved her.  The primary herb in the concoction was later identified as “majaung,” a natural source of ephedrine commonly prescribed for pulmonary diseases.  Not knowing his real name, the governor’s staff called Yee Fung Cheung, Dr. Wah Hing after the store he was found in.  It was the name that non-Chinese were to call Yee Fung Cheung for the rest of his life."

KQED Center for Education & Lifelong Learning:  Chinese Historical & Cultural Project Curriculum, Golden Legacy - Railroad Building

"A Story from the Chinese Diaspora: The Chung Family" by Michelle Chung, The Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles:

"My paternal great, great, great- grandfather Man Lung departed from the 19th century colonial port city of Hong Kong ... Kwangtung Province ... bound for America as a laborer for the construction of the Sierra Nevada segment of the Transcontinental Railroad."

The Chinese in Utah (Utah History Encyclopedia)

Library of Congress' Chinese in California Timeline

Ancestors in the Americas - Crossing the Continent - Anti-Chinese Laws - Timeline - Asian Studies Links

Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882;  Repealed 1943

CPRR Chinese and UPRR Irish railroad workers trying to blow up one another.

The Central Pacific had made wonderful progress coming east, and we abandoned the work from Promontory to Humboldt Wells, bending all our efforts to meet them at Promontory.  Between Ogden and Promontory each company graded a line, running side by side, and in some places one line was right above the other.  The laborers upon the Central Pacific were Chinamen, while ours were Irishmen, and there was much ill feeling between them.  Our Irishman were in the habit of firing their blasts in the cuts without giving warning to the Chinamen on the Central Pacific working right above them.  From this cause several Chinamen were severely hurt.  Complaint was made to me by the Central Pacific people, and I endeavored to have the contractors bring all hostilities to a close, but for some reason or other, they failed to do so.  One day the Chinamen, appreciating the situation, put in what is called a "grave" on their work, and when the Irishmen right under them were all at work let go their blast and buried several of our men.  This brought about a truce at once.  From that time the Irish laborers showed due respect for the Chinamen, and there was no further trouble."

U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), in prepared remarks during Senate debate on September 5, 2000 on granting permanent normal trade relations to China, summarizes the history of Chinese immigration to the United States as follows:

"It is not a pleasant history and it is painful to recount it. But it is necessary. It begins in California, as is logical, where the movement to put an end to Chinese immigration began in the 1850's.

By way of background, the Immigration and Naturalization Service reports that only 46 Chinese emigrated to the United States in the three decades between 1820 and 1850. Chinese immigration exploded in the 1850's, fueled by the California gold rush and the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. From 1851 to 1880, 228,899 Chinese emigrated to the United States. By 1880, Chinese immigrants in California alone numbered 75,000 ? about 9 percent of the state's total population.

Such was the demand for Chinese labor that the United States reinforced its "open door" policy by treaty: the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 guaranteed to the Chinese Government the unrestricted immigration of its citizens to the United States. The State of California applauded the arrangement at the time.

But there was an almost immediate backlash from workers in California, who had organized themselves into so-called "anti-coolie" associations beginning in the mid-1850's.

In the 1870's, the anti-Chinese movement gained momentum in the face of an economic downturn and the near-completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. In 1876, a special committee of the California State Senate examined the problem and issued a report to the United States Congress entitled "An Address to the People of the United States upon the Evils of Chinese Immigration."

And in July 1876, the United States Congress established the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, chaired by Senator Oliver Morton of Indiana. The Joint Committee held 18 days of hearings in San Francisco in October and November 1876, and issued its final report in February 1877. A statement presented to the Joint Committee on October 26, 1876 on behalf of the "Labor Union of San José, California," was typical:

Do they [the Chinese] prevent white immigration? We know that most assuredly they do, as of our personal knowledge we know numbers of laboring-men during the past year that have come to the coast, and have had to leave the coast for lack of employment, in consequence of their inability to compete with Mongolians, and thus sustain a loss, through their influence, when they return to their old homes, not yet cursed by the presence of the Chinese. [Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, S. Rep. No. 689, 44th Cong., 2d Sess. at p. 1172 (1877)] ...

The Joint Committee's final report[*] makes painful reading:

To any one reading the testimony which we lay before the two houses it will become painfully evident that the Pacific coast must in time become either American or Mongolian. There is a vast hive from which Chinese immigrants may swarm, and circumstances may send them in enormous numbers to this country. These two forces, Mongolian and American, are already in active opposition. . . The American race is progressive and in favor of a responsible representative government. The Mongolian race seems to have no desire for progress, and to have no conception of representative and free institutions. . . .
It further appears from the evidence that the Chinese do not desire to become citizens of this country, and have no knowledge of or appreciation for our institutions. Very few of them learn to speak our language... To admit these vast numbers of aliens to citizenship and the ballot would practically destroy republican institutions on the Pacific coast, for the Chinese have no comprehension of any form of government but despotism, and have not the words in their own language to describe intelligibly the principles of our representative system. [Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, S. Rep. No. 689, 44th Cong., 2d Sess. at pp. v and vii (1877)]

The Joint Committee's report paved the way for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended immigration by Chinese laborers for 10 years. The scope of the Act was expanded in 1888, and renewed for another 10 years in 1892. In 1902, Congress indefinitely renewed the Chinese Exclusion Acts."

*Chinese Immigration Report, 1876 (portions of the voluminous testimony):
Gov. Frederick F. Low pp. 76-77 and 78-79; and Charles Crocker pp. 666-667 and 668-669.  [Click to see full pages.]

The Chinese Historical Society of America

- Chinese Population Map of the San Francisco Bay Area, 1990

How many actually died building the railroad?likely no more than 150 were killed by construction accidents and smallpox.




.  Includes entry for Hung Wah (maybe same person?), and also Ah Tong
 
"China Foremen."

( ... Ah Toy was listed as a Chinese Foreman in the Jan and Feb 1864 CP payroll sheets ... If it is the same person [who 12 years earlier worked for James H. Strobridge on his farm, and who is recorded in the Calfornia Special Census of 1852], he would be [about] 43 years old in 1864.)


Chinese filling in Secret Town trestle with dirt

Twelve years after the original construction, the great curved Secret Town trestle (the largest structure of its type on the railroad) was completely buried and the valley filled in with dirt from the mountainside by Chinese laborers! This was done to eliminate the fire hazard and avoid replacement of the aging timbers. The Southern Pacific Bulletin later reported that: "a large force of Chinese laborers [was] kept busy during the summer of 1877 making the fill across the canyon to replace the hastily constructed trestle. The trestle was 1100 feet long and 90 feet high and was constructed over the divide between the American River and Bear River when the original lines of the Central Pacific were being extended over this section of the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the spring of 1865."



... No Chinese in baskets at Cape Horn; fewer than 100 worker related deaths on the CPRR; ... powder barrels were wooden, and weighted 25 lbs." ...

One of the earliest employers of Chinese was James Harvey Strobridge, later to become the Construction Superintendent on the Central Pacific Rail Road. Mr. Strobridge had 18 Chinese employees in 1852, working on his hay ranch in Sacramento County. One and one half years after ground breaking, on June 6, 1864, scheduled trains were running between NewCastle and Sacramento (31 miles from Sacramento) and on May 15, 1865 (28 months from ground breaking) rails reached Auburn, 35 miles from Sacramento. On May 31, 1865, Mark Hopkins wrote, in a letter to C P Huntington "There are today not above 1,600 men on the work. Two thirds of them are Chinamen...." A thorough searching of the payroll records of the CPRR, now located at the Library of the California State Railroad Museum, reflects at most 9,000 Chinese workers. As the work progressed, and the difficulty increased in supplying these workers with food and materials, Leland Stanford contracted with Brigham Young to bring in Mormon workers. Letters between Hopkins, Stanford and Crocker describe a "pulling back" of at least 5,000 Chinese workers at "Mormon Hill," now known as Toano, Nev., Mile Post 562, in the Spring of 1869. So, fewer than 5,000 Chinese workers were employed by the CPRR when Promontory Summit was reached, on May 10, 1869. When writing of Cape Horn, "The Great Trans-Continental Railroad Guide", published by Geo. Crofutt and Co. in 1869 says in part:" the men who broke the first standing ground were held by ropes." William Minturn in 1877, writing "Travels West", says "...hardy industrious Chinese were held and steadied by the aid of rope securely tied around their bodies." The "Pacific Tourist", again in 1877 "...the narrow ledge was gained by men who were let down by ropes from the summit." Cape Horn is not granite, it is shale — soft, easily broken, shale. The Official Report of the Engineer, dated December 1865, which when writing of Cape Horn, says in part "...The work at Cape Horn has proved less difficult and expensive than was first anticipated." So, who invented the baskets? In 1919, Edwin L. Sabin wrote "Building the Pacific Railway" in which he wrote "...laborers, yellow and white, were suspended by ropes while they hacked, drilled and blasted." But, in 1962. Wesley Griswold got carried away in "Work of Giants: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad" and wrote "...lower Chinese from the top of the cliff in wicker baskets ..."

Chris Graves also reports that following a recent fire in the Pequots that cleared away the brush he has observed black powder cans, bottles, and a number of holes in the ground about 3-5 feet across that the Chinese workers slept in curled up to protect themselves from the elements. In one of these depressions in the ground there was a pile of rocks in the center still holding a vertical stick in place which he believes was used to support a tarp covering the hole. "Mark Zwonitzer wrote, that he too, saw the holes: 'Along the grade, there is evidence of dozens of little dugouts — maybe three feet deep and five feet in diameter — where the Chinese workers took some measure of shelter from the winds. To this day the ground yields artifacts the Chinese workers left behind more than a century before.' "

Graves further explains that the reason few Chinese were at the Promontory Summit ceremony is that the CPRR's Stanford contracted with Brigham Young for Mormon workers in place of the Chinese to complete the construction of the rail line and consequently the Chinese were pulled back once the construction reached "Mormon Hill" at Toano, Nevada, where the Mormon crews took over.





work as a "basket man" suspended by ropes over
> sheer cliff faces, planting explosives, lighting fuses and then scrambling up
> the rope before the explosion.  He says that many of these workers were 15
> year old boys, chosen because they were light enough to be held by the wicker
> baskets, and because they were agile.  How to document this?  Where would
> names, ages, of workers, other accounts of these dramatic scenes be?  One
> special place they worked was at Cape Horn Passage, in the fall of 1865.
>



Cape Horn:  Ropes or Baskets?

No photographs of the Chinese constructing Cape Horn are known to exist, but the detail of A.J. Russell, stereoview #27 at the left shows Mormon workers suspended on ropes  at the cliff face at the East portal of UPRR Tunnel No. 3, Weber Canyon. Kyle K. Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum, comments that "Personally, I do think it possible that the workers may have used ropes to support them in some places.  A nice rope around the waist (or tied to something like a boson's chair) that one can lean back against (with feet planted firmly on the ground) might be a real asset while swinging a double jack hammer, or holding and "shaking" a drill steel."

A.J. Russell Stereoview #27. Mormons (detail)Several historians have commented that "ropes" are mentioned in multiple 19th century guidebook accounts describing the Chinese workers suspended during the construction of Cape Horn, but state that there is no mention of "baskets" :

"Great Trans-Continental Railroad Guide ..." By Bill Dadd, The Scribe.  Chicago, Geo. A. Crofutt & Co., 1869.  Section entitled "Cape Horn" p.202:
" ... When the road was in course of construction, the groups of Chinese laborers on the bluffs looked almost like swarms of ants, when viewed from the river.  ... When the road-bed was constructed around this point, the men who broke the first standing ground were held by ropes until firm foot-holds could be excavated in the rocky sides of the precipitous bluffs."

"Morford's Scenery and sensation Handbook of the Pacific Railroads and California," by Henry Morford, c. 1878, beginning on p. 160 relates a story told by a "General" who was a passenger with him on a train trip from Junction to Truckee that Stanford had taken him up the line to show "the General" what they had done. Under the heading "the General's sensation at Cape Horn" (p.163-4) he told how Stanford had shown him "the greatest spectacle that [he] ever expect[ed] to see, until they commence putting up that great tramway to the moon. Down from the face of the very worst peak to be surmounted, they had that day commenced lowering men, with ropes around their waists and pickaxes in their hands; and there, at the point you passed when you came over, now called Cape Horn—there they hung, five hundred feet of rock almost sheer above them, and about twenty-five hundred feet of sharp precipice below, picking away in that solid granite to make places into which to put their feet to begin picking, drilling, and blasting for the road."

"Travels West," by William  Minturn.  London, Samuel Tinsley, 1877, p. 227:
"The  first workmen on this elevated rocky point — hardy industrious Chinese — were held and steadied by the aid of rope securely tied round their bodies. Thus they hammered away at the rock, until they made for themselves standing room, appearing like swarm of ants on a loaf of sugar."

"The Pacific Tourist. Adams & Bishop's Illustrated Trans-Continental Guide."  New York, Adams & Bishop, 1884, p.252 (same  description in the 1877 edition):
"Around the Cape, the railroad clings to the precipitous bluff at a point nearly 2,000 feet above the river and far below the summit, and where the first foot-hold  for the daring workmen on the narrow ledge was gained  by men who were let down by ropes from the summit."

A letter, written by Caroline Amelia Clapp Chickering, dated in Oakland, Cal. on Thursday, Nov. 9, 1876 (published in THE CALIFORNIAN, volume 12, No. 1) to her mother, after she came to Calif. in 1876 by train:  "At 7:00 we were to to round 'Cape Horn'.  Miss Carmony and I were disturbed though, and could not sleep after three, so we rose and dressed, but when we went out on the platform the snow sheds shut out everything.  So after a while we concluded to lie down until nearer dawn.  Between six and seven we made our way to the last car, notwithstanding the fact that we had to pass through some emigrant cars, and there we had a glorious view.  The track is laid around this point, Cape Horn, on the side of a mountain so precipitous that the first workmen had to be lowered from the bluff above by ropes. Away below is the American River,  called beautiful in the Guide book, ... "

"A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" by Isabella Bird, trip over the Sierra Nevada taken in September 1873, text excerpted from her letters to her sister, published in book form in 1879 (Letter I):
"The light of the sinking sun from that time glorified the Sierras, and as the dew fell, aromatic odours made the still air sweet. On a single track, sometimes carried on a narrow ledge excavated from the mountain side by men lowered from the top in baskets, overhanging ravines from 2000 to 3000 feet deep, the monster train snaked its way upwards ... "

"Building The Pacific Railway," by Edwin L. Sabin. J.B. Lippincott, 1919, p.119:
"Early in the Spring, throwing forward one of those high, curving trestles (in this case 1100 feet long) with which the road strode across the deep gorges and ravines, the rails moved out from Colfax for the attack on the gigantic Cape Horn.  Here a bed had been literally chiseled from the granite slope so sheer that the laborers, yellow and white, were suspended by ropes while they hacked, drilled and blasted, 2500 feet above the rushing American River."

"From Trail to Rail." by Earl Heath.  Southern Pacific Bulletin, May, 1927.
"Collis Potter Huntington" by Cerinda Evans, 1954. Vol. 1, p. 156.
"At a point on the line called "Cape Horn," the road was cut out of almost perpendicular mountain side about fifteen hundred feet above the American River. To enable the Chinese to drill and blast out a foothold, they lowered over the cliff in "Bosun's Chairs supported by ropes to do the preliminary cutting."
 [The definition of a Bosun's Chair is "a wooden plank or canvas chair for a worker hung by ropes over the side of a ship, Building or Bridge." But it is also a rope sling made to support ones thighs and rump while hanging from a rope as any sailor can tell you, like those used by rock climbers of today.]

Courtesy Edson T. Strobridge, Charles Sweet, Wendell W. Huffman, and G.J. "Chris" Graves.

However, Nelson's Pictorial Guide-Book (1871) states that:
"The line is carried along the edge of declivities stretching downwards for 2000 or 3000 feet, and in some parts on a narrow ledge excavated from the mountain side by men swung from the top in baskets."

See: "The Central Pacific Railroad and the Legend of Cape Horn." by Edson T. Strobridge, 2001.
and the
Book Review of this book.

See: Cape Horn Slope.

 

The Cape Horn track overlooked the North Fork of the American River, at an elevation above the bank given, When trains began to run, "passengers gazed straight down from their windows into thin air"

"Here," Griswold says, "[James H.] Strobridge had to lower Chinese from the top of the cliff in wicker baskets." They "chipped and drilled holes for explosives, and then scrambled up the fines while the gunpowder exploded beneath. Inch by inch the roadbed was gouged from the granite" (Chinn, 1969). After the Chinese had cleared the grade, "the work train cam nosing after them, its grab irons and journal boxes literally hanging over space"

the Chinese diet was healthier than that of the Caucasian workers, and that the Chinese workman bathed and changed clothes daily, "to the astonishment of his white neighbors."

The Chinese who came to offer his plan to Strobridge "politely waited, hat in hand ... The carving of roads that clung to cliffsides like birds' nests on inaccessible ledges, was very ancient art to Chinese engineers. Feats of road construction such as this had been commonplace in China for thousands of years. If .. their Yankee bosses sneered in disbelief at the thought, it was not new to Chinese technology"

To start with, the terrain, Cape Horn, so named by railroad surveyors, is not a "huge mountain" but a south-facing nose or rib on an irregular ridge between Bear River and the North Fork of the American River. The highest spots on this modest promontory are slightly over 2720 feet above sea level. The surveyors laid out a switchback-type curve around its south face to gain altitude at an acceptable rate of about 2 percent. The "cape" is fifty-seven rail miles northeast of Sacramento, in the western part of the railroad's big climb toward Donner Pass (el. 7044). The rock removed by the sidehill cut isn't granite, but a much softer, slate-like argillaceous mineral.

The average downhill slope to be dealt with was not vertical, not 75°, but about 50°. The length of the sidehill cut is about 1500 feet. The vertical distance from roadbed to river is about 1332 feet, the horizontal distance to the middle of the visible stretch of river about 4000 feet. Hence the line of view is only 18.4° below horizontal-not straight down as one writer, a railroad P.R. man, implies (Heath, 1927).

Since the slope was too steep to stand on, men-first the surveyors who marked the ascending line of roadbed, then laborers-were let down on ropes, walking backward. They may have been slung in a boatswain's chair, but more simply and more probably tied a padded rope harness around their waists. The laborers would have used picks to cut out a secure footpath at the prescribed grade, and drills to blow away projecting masses. With the path cut, work would have moved inward on the rock face, with more drilling and blasting of the high obstructions, more filling of two deep natural draws that cut into the outside of the grade.

 


Chinese by the Numbers

Research resulting from the payroll records of the Central Pacific Railroad Company becomes significant because it changes currently accepted historical data concerning the initial employment date and total number of the Chinese employed. The original records are archived in the basement of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.1

The basic issues have, from time to time, raised several questions, which I hope to answer with my findings.

1.       When and who were the first Chinese employed?

2.       What was the maximum number employed?

3.       How was this number quantified and qualified?

Employment of the First Chinese Workers

Four of the most popular books about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad overlooked documents that pointed to the exact date of the hiring of the first Chinese railroad workers.

In Chapter Seven, "The Central Pacific Attacks the Sierra-Nevada, 1865," Stephen E. Ambrose writes in Nothing Like It In The World:

In February, a month after Strobridge's all-but-fruitless call for labor, Charlie Crocker had met with him and raised the question of hiring Chinese. He said some twenty of them had worked, and worked well, on the Dutch Flat-Donner Lake Wagon Road. 2

However, the Central Pacific Payroll Sheets No. 26 and No. 34 dated January and February 1864, are the documents that record the first Chinese railroad workers, Hung Wah and Ah Toy,3 who supervised a crew of 23 unnamed workers.

How Many Chinese Worked for the Central Pacific?

It was the railroad's policy that a headman or labor contractor collected pay (in coins) for all the workers in his crew. George Kraus states in his article "Chinese Laborers and the Construction of the Central Pacific," that a method was used by the railroad company to count the total number of workers at the beginning of the morning shift, at lunch, and at the end of the shift to compare the total hours of wages turned in by the gang boss to prevent overpayment. It was said that one could not tell the difference between the Chinese and the Indian workers. Because of this policy it is improbable that the individual names of the actual laborers will ever be known.10

It is commonly reported that peak employment of Chinese workers by the Central Pacific ranges from 10,000 to 20,000. For instance, Kraus states in his book, High Road To Promontory: "The force at work on the road probably averaged from six to ten thousand, nine-tenths of them being Chinese. . ."11

CHAPTER TEN

The Insignificance of Life

It has been said that an ordinary life is as insignificant as a grain of sand is to a desert. This cynical hyperbole may apply to the estimated 1,200 Chinese railroad workers who died from 1864 to 1869 while working on the western route of the Transcontinental. This approximates five Chinese deaths for every three miles of track laid from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, a total of 690 miles. No one knows the exact number of Chinese deaths. Some estimates are as high as 2,000.

Deaths were caused by blasts, avalanches, landslides, rail accidents, falling trees, fatal falls, pneumonia, and freezing to death. But not a single death was reported as being caused from sun or heat stroke, because of the protection that "coolie" straw hats gave the Chinese. The lack of reported deaths from dysentery is attributed to their custom of boiling ground water to make tea while the Irish who drank directly from the streams, suffered from dysentery resulting in many deaths. In general, there was little, if any, news or concern of the Chinese who died. Was it because they were expendable?

Ambrose writes:

Hundreds of barrels of black powder were ignited daily to form a ledge on which a roadbed could be laid. Some of the men were lost in accidents, but we don*t know how many: the CP did not keep a record of Chinese casualties.1

The Chinese volunteered to be lowered in handmade reed baskets 1,400 feet above the riverbed. They drilled holes in the granite and stuffed them with black powder, lit the fuse, and then hoped the men above would pull them up the cliff fast enough to avoid death.

In 1866 the Central Pacific tried using nitroglycerin instead of black powder, because of its greater explosive force.2 However, the use of nitroglycerin was soon abandoned because too many workers were dying from the blast or falling rock. The Central Pacific could not afford to lose workers. Maintaining the schedule of the railroad was more important.

Snowdrifts from 30 to 40 feet in the winter of 1867 caused avalanches burying alive many Chinese whose bodies would not be found until the next spring*s thaw. Many were never found. These Chinese came from the southern part of China, where the climate is semi-tropical. They had never needed nor owned warm clothing until immigrating to the colder regions of the United States. Not acclimated to the extreme cold, many workers died of pneumonia.

No official records of the deaths of Chinese railroad workers were kept.

Thousands of these young men gave their lives in building of the railroad. The dead were never counted, nor have they been memorialized. Some twenty thousand pounds of bones were gathered from shallow graves along the roadbeds and rights of way, according to an 1870 newspaper article quoted in The History of the Chinese in America, by Philip Choy and H. Mark Lai. These bones of about 1,200 Chinese who died in the building of the Transcontinental line were eventually shipped home. But many others lie to this day in unmarked graves in every western state.14

 


Between 1860 and 1880, the majority of the approximately one hundred thousand Chinese arriving at the port of San Francisco came from Guangdong Province. In its capital, Guangzhou (Canton), trade between China and Western nations flourished in the late eighteenth and nearly nineteenth centuries. This commercial atmosphere brought news of American current events, such as the California gold rush, which stimulated the imaginations of adventurous Cantonese. But nineteenth-century Chinese came to the United States for many reasons. Floods, typhoons, droughts, and general poverty were endemic in the Pearl River delta of which Guangzhou was the center. Besides insufficient protection from natural catastrophe, further insecurity stemmed from the loose and faltering central government in Peking, twelve hundred mi les north of Guangdong, as well as numerous local bandits roaming the hills, local ethnic disputes, local official corruption, heavy taxes, meager earnings, and unparalleled population density.

The emigrants made their way to Hong Kong and from there to San Francisco, a journey averaging about two months. The earliest groups were sponsored as indentured servants by Chinese companies in San Francisco. This later was replaced by a credit-ticket system, wherein a Hong Kong brokerage firm advanced the forty-dollar passage fee, and a connecting firm in the United States found work for the immigrant and collected the voyage debt from his eventual earnings.

A number of those original Chinese immigrants found their way to Utah first as construction workers on the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento, California, to Promontory, Utah, in the late 1860s. More than twelve thousand Chinese were employed in the building of the Central Pacific. They not only laid track with consistent precision but also became legendary through their blasting of tunnels and ridges with nitroglycerin, sometimes while lowered in baskets over cliffs, such as those fourteen hundred feet above the American River Canyon. Their Chinese food was more conducive to good health than the meat and starch diet of American workers, and their tea drinking helped protect them from diseases transmitted through polluted water.

Promontory became the gateway for most Chinese coming into Utah in frontier times. Between 1870 and 1880 the majority of Chinese in the state lived in Box Elder County, and were almost all employed as section hands on the railroad. Corinne, the once-booming railroad center, had a Chinese community of up to three hundred people in its heyday.

As the railroad center for Utah, Ogden witnessed the development of a Chinatown, with census figures rising from 33 Chinese in 1880 to 106 in 1890. The Chinatown was characterized by "many rows of low wooden structures . . . built along Twenty-fifth Street from the Broom Hotel to the railroad station, four city blocks west of Washington Boulevard, and many of these establishments were operated by the Chinese."

Wong Leung Ka was one of the first Chinese merchants in Ogden. He arrived around 1880 but did not come with the influx of railroad workers. However, like many other Chinese of that period, he came to this country without wife or family. Unlike settlers from northern Europe, most Chinese most intended to return to their homeland. Wong Leung Ka resided in Ogden for forty-six years. During those years, he returned to his family in China twice; each visit lasted less than a year because he traveled with a business visa that did not allow him to remain away longer.

Wong Leung Ka had a shop in Ogden that carried groceries, canned goods, and Chinese imported items. Above the store, in the upper level of the building, were sleeping rooms. Wong Leung Ka was known for his compassion and generosity. When times were hard and men were unemployed, Chinese in the area sought Leung Ka's store as a place of refuge. Sleeping rooms and meals were provided. When and if employment was found, the men would pay back what they could.

Since 1900 the largest Chinese population in Utah has been in Salt Lake City. The 1890 census counted 271 Chinese in Salt Lake City. Plum Alley ran north and south, dividing the city block between Main and State streets, the cross streets being 100 and 200 South streets. Within and around Plum Alley the Chinese developed a microcommunity with grocery and merchandise stores, laundries, and restaurants.

Another Utah Chinatown existed in Park City. According to the 1890 census, 131 Chinese resided there. The first railroads into Park City were constructed in part by Chinese labor. A landmark in old Park City was the "China Bridge" that stretched across Chinatown from Rossie Hill, the residential section of Park City. The bridge was built so that the residents of Rossie Hill would not have to pass through Chinatown. The Chinese in Park City continued to be victims of sporadic, racially inspired difficulties into the first decade of the 1900s. During 1902 and 1903 the miners union campaigned to boycott Chinese restaurants and laundries, to end employment of Chinese, and to prohibit the selling and buying of Chinese goods.

In Carbon County during the 1880s, the Chinese worked in Pleasant Valley as coal miners. According to one observer, "the mine entry that was driven by them . . . is as beautiful a piece of work as one could wish to see in a coal mine. Evidently no powder was used for blasting. Entry was driven exclusively with pick work. The sides are perfectly straight to a certain height and the roof is semi-arched. Due to the method of working this entry will stand indefinitely." However, the Chinese in Pleasant Valley also met with prejudice and were forced through violence to abandon their jobs.

Despite the anti-Chinese sentiment found especially in Utah's mining camps, some Chinese did prosper as business men. In the Uinta Basin during the 1890s and the early part of the twentieth century, few personalities stand out with such prominence as Wong Sing. He had a humble beginning as a laundryman at Fort Duchesne in 1889, but during the 1920s he owned and operated a merchandise store which boasted an inventory of between sixty and seventy thousand dollars. Besides general merchandise, the store handled furniture, ready-to-wear clothing, meat, and groceries; and Wong Sing also acted as general agent for machinery companies and other firms. Wong Sing spoke the Ute language and displayed a knowledgeable interest and respect for Indian culture. When he died in an auto accident in 1934, sixty Ute men assembled at the office of the Indian agency to mourn his passing.


"I like the idea of your getting over more Chinamen ... It would be all the better for us and the state if there should a half million come over in 1868." —Collis Huntington, 1867

Hart stereoview #90, detail.

Hart Stereoview #90, detail. "Bank and Cut at Sailor's Spur. 80 miles from Sacramento".


Chinese Wall
Hart Stereoview #88. Horse Ravine Wall, detail. Courtesy Steve Heselton Collection.






A.A. Hart stereoview #317, detail, "End of Track, on Humboldt Plains."
"End of Track, on Humboldt Plains."