Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Count of Transcontinental Railroad Workers and Deaths

20 Comments:

Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Great questions. The short answer is that nobody really knows.

The Central Pacific Railroad had a maximum of about 12,000 workers at one time, and the Union Pacific probably had a similar number, but people came and went, so the actual number who ever worked is significantly larger, but unknown.

Claims of "thousands" of Chinese killed in construction accidents are nonsensical fabrications. About 130 workers are believed to have died building the Central Pacific (based on the secondary literature), with many of those due to weather related events such as avalanches, not preventable accidents. There is a single newspaper article that reports "possibly 1200" Chinese railroad workers dead but, even if that larger number is correct, it is likely that most of those deaths were due to a documented smallpox epidemic in Nevada, not due to construction accidents, as all of the accident reports are very specific accounts of small numbers killed. As best as we can determine, the number of documented fatalities during the CPRR construction reported in the primary literature by those actually participating is quite small, totaling 28-36 (this range representing the uncertain counts as originally reported).

There is almost no information about construction casualties on the Union Pacific.

5/10/2006 5:47 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Can anyone supply a photo showing the smallpox scars on Anna Strobridge's face to illustrate the following passage?:

"A letter dated January 20, 1868 from Charles Crocker to Collis Huntington regarding track laying gangs states that : ' ... small pox has demoralized the workers ... We are breaking in Chinamen & learning them as fast as possible.' Anna Strobridge, wife of James Harvey Strobridge, Construction Foreman, nursed the workers in the pest cars – she contracted small pox while nursing the workers in Nevada. Photos of her, from 1868 on, show the effects of the disease on her face."

5/10/2006 6:27 AM  
Anonymous lcoffin said...

I am researching the death of a railroad boomer in 1906. This death was in Smithville, TX and his body was found beheaded next to the railroad tracks. Realizing that your concern is the Central Pacific I am taking a chance with several questions: Where might I find info on the number of railroad workers who died by beheading...apparently common enought to be included in rr safety legislation in l908. What would have been the attitude of regular rr workers toward boomers?

L.Coffin

1/06/2007 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A newly discovered newspaper report shows that the notion of large numbers of Chinese casualties in building the Central Pacific Railroad is almost certainly a myth based on a single erroneous newspaper article. (On June 30, 1870, the bodies of 50, not 1,200 Chinese dead were reported to have arrived in Sacramento by train for reburial, and not all of this much smaller number had died of construction accidents.)

Consequently, any claims of more than 150 Chinese killed building the first transcontinental railroad now seem extremely dubious.

1/17/2007 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any data on the amountages of Irish immigrants? I looked for it , but my friend needs it for a research project. Please help!!!

11/03/2009 7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently researching the Transcontinental Railroad in class. I need more information on the diets of the workers but I am unable to find it. If you could, please add any known information that you have. I am not asking for you to dig deep, just any information that you hold. This is a very interesting topic that I would love to know more about. Thank you!

11/04/2009 6:46 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

In answer to your question, see information about the workers' food ... food. Search for the word food on those two web pages.

11/04/2009 10:07 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

In answer to your question, also search for the word beef on the linked web page.

11/04/2009 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Leanne and I am in the seventh grade. To finish up my history class at school, my teacher assigned us a research essay and it had to be about the Wild West. I chose to write my essay about why the Transcontinental Train was not worth building. My three reasons why are the railroad companies that built it were corrupt, its construction harmed the Native American's lifestyle and the U.S. economy was negatively affected by its construction, proving that the Transcontinental Railroad should not have been built. In my first body paragraph, the corruption, I mention that many Chinese workers died while building the railroad. I handed a first draft to my teacher and he wanted to know how many Chinese workers died. I looked at other websites, but no one seems to know the answer. Do you know how many Chinese workers died while building the railroad? ...

6/09/2013 12:13 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Both the Democrats and Republicans strongly disagreed with your conclusion that the transcontinental railroad was not worth building, as shown by their party platforms in 1860.

6/09/2013 12:18 AM  
Blogger Alan Lee said...

I have to do a project about how many Chinese immigrants had helped builded the transcontinental railroad and what happened to them afterwards and I need to know who is the last official Chinese workers who had worked in the transcontinental railroad to die. Assuming you most had died around the 1890s to the 1900s though some had made it to see the 50th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad like Ging Cui, Wong fook, Lee shao to name a few. But who is the last official Chinese railroad worker to die I need to do a research project on it. Assumly the last offical railroad worker was born in 1851 and helped builded the railroad at age 18 in 1869 then the maximum year they might die was probably 1956.

4/26/2016 8:36 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Sorry, the identity of the last to die of the former Chinese transcontinental railroad workers is not known. None of the Chinese railroad workers made a written record of their life stories, and only a few surviving brief oral histories are known.

4/26/2016 10:51 PM  
Blogger Alan Lee said...

What happened to the records of the the chines e railroad builders and more importantly why where they all seem to be quiet about it. They never seem to talk about it ever. It's like working in the transcontinental railroad was a secret or disgrace to thier younger generations.

5/13/2016 12:55 AM  
Blogger Alan Lee said...

I think the only reasons that the railroad workers wouldn't talk about it is because of their labor and their hardships and the dangers and rasict and discriminations that they had to face in which case they might want thier children's and the generations that follows them to have a better living and a better life than they had before.

5/13/2016 12:58 AM  
Blogger Alan Lee said...

Oh I made a mistake it was the assuminly last offical Chinese railroad worker to die in 1955 and not 1957 because if they were born in hence 1850 and they were 18 to work at the transcontinental railroad in 1868 not 1869 because in 5-10-1869 it was finished so it wouldn't have made sense for them to start working in 1869 so it would have made sense for them in 1868 so it would be 1850-1955 if they the last Chinese railroad worker had indeed managed to live for that long of a life time. After going though the 1906 earthquake and other stuff.

5/13/2016 1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, 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."

Just the opposite of "racist ... discrimination." Also, while there were undoubtedly hardships, in the opinion of the Chinese workers who chose the railroad jobs, they were much better off than in China, and were able to become quite wealthy by the standards of a Canton peasant. Otherwise, why would tens of thousands of Chinese have voluntarily chosen this railroad employment option?

5/13/2016 2:58 AM  
Blogger Allen jeley said...

nice post

1/29/2017 3:22 PM  
Blogger Alan Lee said...

None of the former railroad workers had left oral stories or any kind of history of their work in the transconital railroad. This is very sad.


2/05/2017 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i need help what disease was around with the railroad

3/03/2017 8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See diseases.

3/05/2017 9:07 PM  

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