Monday, August 25, 2008

The Last Tie

From: "Alfredo Gillespie"
Subject: The Last Tie

I have doing some extensive research for a friend on the designer and maker of a 1879 c. billiard table Jacob Strahle (Straalee) . Strahle an immigrant from Germany lived in San Francisco in the mid 1800s though the early 1900s. The billiard table is made of Laurel wood (Native tree to Marin County-just north of San Francisco).

During my recent research at the Mechanics Institute library it was verified that Strahle was commissioned by Evans to make the railroad tie for the driving of the golden spike. The commemorative railroad tie was made by Jacob Strahle, also made of Laurel wood that was hand honed by Strahle. Strahle was known for his fine furniture making skills and had many items displayed at the annual San Francisco Mechanic Institute's trade shows during the late 1800s. The tie was then removed from the main track line and stored in Strahles' furniture warehouse in San Francisco but during the great San Francisco earthquake it was destroyed by fire. I have viewed a very poor quality picture that purports to be that of a National Guard Unit in San Francisco that identifies one of the Guard's men as Strahle. Compared to your picture the man bears a strong resemblance to that of Jacob Strahle.

—Al Gillespie


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

This is a continuation of the discussion of a photograph of the laurel wood Last Tie used in the joining of the rails ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869.

8/25/2008 5:20 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I'd love to see a scan of the (whole) National Guard photo, even if of poor quality. And also of Strahle cropped from the photo.

Strahle posing with the tie certainly make a lot of sense, given the pride he no doubt felt in making it. I hadn't thought of him as the possible "poser" before, but it does seem a very good possibilty. The other "candidate" that seems a possibility is West Evans, the man who commissioned the tie. So far we seem to lack any photos of him, either.

Kyle Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

8/25/2008 5:21 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Revisiting the last tie discussion, and the speculation that the man in the photo might have been Stanford, I remain convinced that it is not him. For reference attached are a few images of Stanford from the 1860s, and possibly early 1870s. For one, note that he always kept neatly trimmed beard, much shorter than our man in the tie photo. And I think Stanford's beard was fuller and thicker, too.


8/25/2008 5:32 PM  

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