Thursday, March 27, 2008

Help with college paper on Chinese RR Workers

From: "Richard Winters"

I'm working on a college thesis paper detailing the contributions of Chinese immigrants. I'm essentially trying to prove that, without their help, it wouldn't have been finished near as quickly.

I've picked up a couple books (the best being Nothing Like It In the World), but I'm looking for more sources with statistical information to help make the case. This site looked like the best bet, and it was referenced in my ECON textbook. If you have any suggestions on sources with good statistics, I would be most appreciative. ...

—Richard Winters


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


"Q. Did you commence the construction of the Central Pacific with Chinese or white labor ?—A. We commenced with white labor.

Q. How long did you continue it?—A. We never discontinued it; we have always employed white labor.

Q. I mean how long did you continue with that kind of labor extensively ?—A. We continued about a year and a half, when we found we could not get sufficient labor to progress with the road as fast as was necessary, and we felt driven to the expediency of trying Chinese labor. I believe that all our people were prejudiced against Chinese labor, and that there was a disposition not to employ them.

Q. You mean that the railroad people were prejudiced ?—A. Yes, sir; especially Mr. Strobridge and myself, who had charge of the construction more particularly. I had the charge of the construction and Mr. Strobridge was under me as superintendent. He thought that Chinese labor would not answer, including what they eat, and other things, and from what he had seen of them ; he did not think they were fit laborers; he did not think they would build a railroad, We advertised very thoroughly and sent circulars to every post-office in the State inviting white labor, and offering large prices for that class of labor, but we failed to get over 800 men. Our force, I think, never went much above 800 white laborers with the shovel and the pick, and after pay-day it would run down to six or seven hundred, then before the next pay-day it would get up to 800 men again, but we could not increase beyond that amount. Then we were compelled to try Chinese labor, and we tried them on the light work, thinking they would not do for heavy work. Gradually we found that they worked well there, and as our forces spread out and we began to occupy more ground and felt more in a hurry, we put them into the softer cuts, and finally into the rock cuts. Wherever we put them we found them good, and they worked themselves into our favor to such an extent that if we found we were in a hurry for a job of work, it was better to put Chinese on at once. Previous to that we had always put on white men; and to-day if I had a big job of work that I wanted to get through quick with, and had a limited time to do it in, I should take Chinese labor to do it with, because of its greater reliability and steadiness, and their aptitude and capacity for hard work."

3/27/2008 8:50 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Also see,
Chinese Contribution to Transcontinental Railroad
Chinese Railroad Worker sources
Chinese Laborers

Reliable statistics are really hard to come by.

Errata for Ambrose's book, Nothing Like It In the World.

The best modern history of the transcontinental railroad is Bain's Empire Express.

3/27/2008 9:00 PM  

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