Friday, September 03, 2010

Total fabrication?

Is there any factual basis for the following claim, or is this a total fabrication?

"While working for the railroad, [the Chinese] were ... treated poorly ... forced to buy their supplies from the railroad company store at double the prices of privately owned general merchandise stores."

From the article, "Travelin' in Time: Early Chinese pioneers faced hardships in the gold fields." Record-Searchlight, redding.com 9-2-2010

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

39 Comments:

Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See related discussion.

9/03/2010 10:52 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

The Chinese workers on the Central Pacific Railroad could not have experienced an exorbitant cost of living because we know that they were able to save two-thirds of their pay, thereby becoming wealthy by the standards of a Canton peasant:

"The Chinese [railroad workers] ... are paid from $30 to $35 in gold a month ... They are credited with having saved about $20 a month." —Alta, California, November 9, 1868 Newspaper.

9/03/2010 11:09 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: vandtrr@cs.com

Can't speak for what happened on the CPRR in particular. However it is my recollection that the Chinese worked in gangs managed by a Chinese headman who spoke English and managed all of the material and financial transactions for the group. There is more than one instance recorded of the Headman going south with the money and leaving his countrymen stranded without food or money at the end of a job. Where the Headman got his supplies and what he charged his employees for them is an open question.

—Charlie Siebenthal

9/03/2010 11:31 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves" caliron@cwnet.com


See pages 3139 and 3140 of the Report of the US Pacific Railroad Commission 1887-1888.
James Harvey Strobridge testimony:
"Question – what did you pay the Chinamen during 1865?
Answer: I think we paid them $30 a month.
Question – Did that include board?
Answer: Yes, sir; that did. They boarded themselves."

Chinese foods were imported for the Chinese laborers from China by Sisson and Co., that Company remains in business today, in the Bay Area.

As to supervision, the Railroad Commission hearings go on to say that at Tunnel 6, the work was completed by gangs of 20 Chinese, each under the direction of one Anglo. So, as there were four faces being worked at Tunnel 6, at any one time there were 80 Chinese working. They worked an 8 hour day, it can be determined therefore that Tunnel 6 was completed by 240 Chinese.

Chinese, as well as Anglo workers were paid in gold.

—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal.

9/03/2010 12:53 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly" lmullaly@jeffnet.org

Workers were sub-contracted under a commissary system whereby the labor company, in this case Sisson & Wallace, provided them food imported from China and deducted the charges from their pay. This practice was observed by the SP up until 1940 or so with maintenance-of-way labor.

I have seen no evidence that provided to the Chinese was at "double the prices" of other stores. Prices were perhaps inflated, but apart from rice, few stores outside of specialty shops in the larger cities carried oriental foodstuffs.

The Chinese were also quick to notice any discrepancies in pay scale (for example differences between payments to SP workers in northern California vs. Southern California) and quick to complain. I suspect they did the same about food costs if differences were too disparate. The Chinese were well-organized and quite capable of group action in the form of work stoppages, etc.

"Treated poorly" is relative. Chinese labor was valuable, indeed indispensable to the long-line construction efforts of the associates. I would suggest, however, that as a practice, railroad labor, just as operating crews were treated surprisingly "well" rather than "poorly."

—Larry Mullaly

9/03/2010 12:59 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I'm working on a project for History Fair, concerning the debate if the success of the railroad, achieving Manifest Destiny, redeems the cruelty to the Chinese. I need eight more sources for the project, and I've already cited a lot of the CPRR Museum webpages.

Do you have any tips, info, or suggested sites?

—Lucy

10/13/2010 8:50 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

When you write of "cruelty to the Chinese" can you please be more specific, as this description does not seem correct when applied to the railroad. Are you talking about the anti-Chinese sentiment encouraged by politicians and labor in 19th century California which led to the Chinese exclusion act?

See the links at,
Chinese
Chinese readings
Chinese Laborers
Accuracy about Chinese RR workers
Corrections about Chinese workers
Fudging facts doesn't promote tolerance
Fabrication
Manifest destiny
How many died building the Central Pacific Railroad?
Chinese RR worker deaths

10/13/2010 9:04 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Thank you for the links. When I said "cruelty to the Chinese," I was referring to the unjust treatment and racism the Chinese experienced during
the building of the railroad and how they had to work a lot, doing all the very arduous work while the white and Irish did less for more pay. I based this
conclusion on my research from the CPRR museum and Iris Chang's book The Chinese in America, Chapter 5.

The links were very helpful. Thank you very much!

—Lucy

10/14/2010 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was afraid of that. Unfortunately, Iris Chang's book The Chinese in America, Chapter 5 is mostly wrong. We have pointed out the numerous errors in that chapter with links to the primary source evidence showing the correct information. We don't think that the Chinese transcontinental railroad workers were subject to unjust treatment and racism because they were probably treated better than the Irish workers, and were paid essentially the same wages as the caucasian workers on the Central Pacific Railroad.

The descendants of the Chinese railroad workers should look back with enormous pride at the incredible accomplishment of their ancestors in building the greatest engineering project of the 19th century. Iris Chang did a terrible thing by spoiling this heroic story with her incompetent story telling which is factually incorrect.

10/14/2010 4:18 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

The Chinese workers on the Central Pacific Railroad were paid about 30 dollars a month in gold which is about $2,070 a month in today's money [with a gold price of $1,381/oz today]. They were so well paid, in fact, that they were able to save 2/3 of their income so that they would become rich by the time they returned to Canton.

10/14/2010 4:31 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Begin forwarded message:

A lot of the primary sources I viewed said the same thing, how the Chinese received racism from the management people and had to work much in terrible, extreme temperatures in the Sierras. The Chinese had to do more of the arduous and dangerous work than the whites, and many sources said the whites received more than the Chinese in wages and free board. All my sources added to the same conclusion. I didn't only base the conclusion on Iris Chang's book.

Also, sources said that the Chinese were "well--behaved and economical", but they revolted. It usually takes such people a large quantity of unfairness to lead to a revolt. Also, sources spoke that the Chinese were not credited in celebrations and the famous painting of the famous Last Gold Spike. I also saw pictures referring to how the Chinese were painted nameless, the way their deaths were not recorded and lives were not recorded.

Thank you!

—Lucy

10/15/2010 12:16 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Are you sure that what you read are actually primary sources that were published in the 1860's? Which primary sources "said the same thing" and "all ... added to the same conclusion" of "racism from the management" and "cruelty to the Chinese"?

10/15/2010 1:02 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

My primary sources were created in the 1860s, and included paintings of the time that reflected the attitudes of the people of that time. They portrayed how the Chinese were not included and such. Other sources said how Leland Stanford called Chinese "degraded people" and such. I also found a timeline that spoke of the Chinese being whipped by overseers. The timeline also spoke that Huntington refused to arm the Chinese against attacks, claiming the Native American was wortha lot more than a Chinese. Most of my sources all said that the Chinese did not receive just treatment.

Thank you!

—Lucy

10/15/2010 12:47 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "RANDALL HEES" hees@astound.net

You cannot judge the treatment of the Chinese railroad workers by today’s standards.

Victorian America was racist, not just towards Chinese, but also in their views of Irish, as well as Italians, Greeks, Mexicans, Chilanos, Germans, Native Americans, Catholics and any other identifiable ethnic/religious group. In 19th century California news reports everyone is identified not just as white, but as English American, German American, or possibly with their eastern State affiliation.

You were not just Spanish sur-name, but Spanish, Chilano, Peruvian, Californio or Mexican.

In general work camps and gangs were segregated by race. Work assignments were by race… Scottish engineers, Chinese and Irish as track workers (in California Chinese were particularly valued for their skill and experience in irrigated fields or in the salt ponds and farms along the edge of the bay where dikes and drains were used both a racial identification, but one based on experience in managing flooded rice fields) In many communities fire wood was cut by Italians, lumber cut by Swedes.

Of the European immigrants, the Irish were the least educated, (and were Catholic as well) so were only offered the worst work, generally physical labor… It is widely reported that signs looking for domestic labor in major eastern cities would include the line “Irish need not apply”. Chinese being very different, very identifiable were also generally limited to the least desirable work, so the two groups were in economic competition… and conflict. Most of the anti Chinese riots are Irish vs. Chinese… The Workingman's Party led by Denis Kearney was a primarily Irish group.

The Chinese were also well organized… and self contained, in ways the other groups were not. This lead to conflict in the placer gold fields, where competition for claims was fierce. This same competition resulted in slavery being banded in the camps… not for issues of social justice, but because it was believed that this gave the slave owner an unfair labor advantage…

It appears that the CP management (particularly Strobridge) thought highly of the Chinese workers. The fact that they came self organized into labor gangs, and provided their own (probably better) diet would likely have been seen as a benefit.

The conditions the Chinese workers endured in the Sierras, and later across Nevada and Utah were no worse than those the Irish endured across the Rockies…

Chinese were not at the “Gold Spike” ceremony in part out of a fear of conflict between them and the Union Pacific’s Irish workers… it the days leading up to the ceremony, both groups, working in proximity had set off explosions in the process of grading the line, near the other railroad’s crews… Additionally, by May 10th much of the CP's work was done, so the crews were sent back westward. Many show up on construction crews building the Western Pacific railroad between Sacramento and Oakland/San Jose in April and May.

There was a “ceremonial” squad of Chinese, there to bring in the last rail. There are reports that a ‘representative’ group of Chinese workers were served lunch in a CP official car.

Please try to judge the facts in context of the time.

—Randy Hees

10/15/2010 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Working in the wilderness in the 1860's building a railroad was certainly arduous and somewhat dangerous work (although not as dangerous as often portrayed), but "race" or "cruelty" had nothing to do with this as the conditions were the same for everyone there. Those Chinese railroad workers were heroic men of amazing accomplishment, certainly not victims.

It appears that you are confusing incorrect secondary sources with primary sources, and confusing the treatment of Chinese in 19th century California (especially after the panic of 1873 when unemployment in California rose) with the treatment of the railroad workers on the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860's.

It is difficult to point out the errors because you have only described but not cited actual sources. If you will tell each of the sources, they can be reviewed and analyzed. For example, we challenge you to show an 1860's painting of the CPRR Chinese railroad workers as we don't believe that any such painting exists. (We would be thrilled if you have found one that we don't know about.) You might be confusing The Last Spike painting by Thomas Hill, but that painting was done years later by a commissioned artist who was not an observer. That famous painting does show Chinese railroad workers, contrary to what you read.

The Chinese were not excluded from the joining of the rails ceremony. We show a photograph of them there at Promontory Summit, and give their names. (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.) The Chinese men who participated in the ceremony were not in the famous photograph by A.J. Russell, because that photograph was not taken during the ceremony. Instead it was taken just after the ceremony at the same time that the Chinese men were in Superintendent Strobridge's rail car being cheered and honored by the railroad management at a dinner. Our website has the words of the San Francisco newspaper article published at the time describing these events. Besides, the number of Chinese men at the May 10, 1869 ceremony would be expected to be few because the ceremony was held in Utah where the transcontinental railroad was mostly constructed by Mormon contractors.

[continued below]

10/15/2010 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A modern timeline with fabricated stories of beatings is not a primary source. Those Chinese workers came to work on the railroad voluntarily and were free to leave, so why would ten thousand of them stick around to build the railroad if they were being beaten? If they believed that they were being treated unjustly they would have left, for example, to do gold mining. We profoundly respect their choices and think that is it very disrespectful to the Chinese railroad workers to say that they were wrong in taking the railroad jobs and wanting to stay. Modern writers are being incredibly arrogant because they don't get to substitute their own judgements and disregard what those heroic men decided for themselves as to what was best for them and what was dangerous, fair, or cruel.

You are also confusing the Central Pacific Railroad Chinese workers in California and Nevada with the Union Pacific Railroad Irish workers who were attacked by Plains Indians a thousand miles away. The Central Pacific Railroad treated the local Indians with respect, had cordial relations with them, and hired Indians to work on the railroad. (Shoshone women were supposedly especially good railroad workers.) Indian attacks on the Central Pacific Railroad were not a problem, as they were for the UPRR. "The problem had never seriously affected the C.P. Charlie Crocker had made sure of that by issuing lifetime passes to Shoshoni, Cheyenne and other local chieftains permitting them to ride the passenger cars, and had also decreed that tribesmen of lesser rank might ride the freight cars free for 30 years."

Chinese laborers were not paid less than caucasian laborers. It was not a matter of the caucasian workers receiving free board, it was that the Chinese workers did not eat a 19th century western diet, and ate their own Chinese food instead.

The Chinese did not "revolt." Instead they had a brief strike asking for slightly higher wages. Wanting more money often happens today too and has nothing to do with racism, cruelty, or unfairness.

If you think that all the Chinese were "nameless," read their names on the CPRR payroll,

There unfortunately was virulent, widespread, and well documented anti-Chinese sentiment in 19th century California, but the testimony at the U.S. Senate inquiry in San Francisco was that the Central Pacific Railroad officials facing economic necessity rapidly overcame their initial prejudice against the Chinese once they hired some Chinese laborers and discovered that their work was outstanding. This realization and their consequent apparent respect for the Chinese workers accounts for their hiring about 10,000 Chinese workers and made possible the successful completion of the rail line.

So the Central Pacific Railroad is a superb example of business necessity in a market economy causing men to rapidly overcome common prejudices to hire and treat a hated minority quite well, and come to honor and respect them, which is the very opposite of supposed unfairness, racism, or cruelty.

10/15/2010 2:38 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I understand what you are saying, but every single one of my source emphasized how the Chinese received less pay than the whites. Some sources also said that they were beat and whipped, such as The Brown Quarterly, The Chinese and the Transcontinental Railroad, by Robert Chugg. A book with praising reviews that complimented the thorough research said that the Chinese were treated like slaves, and when I looked it up, most of the sources did say the Chinese were whipped. I also did see a painting that showed the faces of whites and Irish, but the Chinese's faces were hidden, and they appeared to be lower than the others and "nameless," the caption read. I'll see if I can find it again. If I do, I'll send it to you.

Thank you!

—Lucy

P.S. Did Leland Stanford call the Chinese "a degraded people" and "dregs of Asia?" Three of my sources said that.

10/15/2010 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice that every one of the sources you cite are secondary sources that did not observe what they state as fact. How did they know what they are saying, i.e., where did this information or misinformation come from? Why would you trust what someone later says if there is no connection with anyone who was there to see what actually happened? Unfortunately, even most of the secondary source citations are not precise enough to allow anyone to retrieve them. For example, what author, title, volume, pages, and date of The Brown Quarterly? (Use MLA citations or similar.) The Irish and Chinese worked for different railroads, so why would you believe a painting that shows them together (except at the joining of the rails ceremony)?

Why would you believe that the Chinese railroad workers "were treated like slaves" when they worked for Charles Crocker who was an abolitionist all his life? Why would you believe someone who was not there who says that the Chinese railroad workers "were treated like slaves" when the people who were there were specifically asked this and clearly said that this was not true?:

"... it is free labor; just as free labor as yours and mine. You cannot control a Chinaman except you pay him for it. You cannot make any contract with him, or his friend, or supposed master, and get his labor unless you pay for it, and pay him for it.

... not ... slaves.

Q. Is it not a kind of servile labor ?—A. Not a bit. I give you my word of honor under oath here that I do not believe there is a Chinese slave in this State, except it may be a prostitute. I hear of that, but I do not know anything about it. If you do, you know more than I do. ...

Q. In your opinion, is it not building up a kind of servile labor here, as you have admitted yourself?—A. No, sir; I have not admitted it. I have told you, on the contrary, that I do not believe there is a slave among them. I do not think when you employ a man and pay him his wages that it is servile labor ... "

It is important not to oversimplify people's beliefs and prejudices. Leland Stanford's wife recovered from a life threatening respiratory illness in 1862 only when he sought out Chinese Dr. Yee Fung Cheung who administered herbs containing ephedrine, and he personally hired many Chinese, but he was a politician and while California governor he did pander to anti-Chinese sentiment, for example in his January 10, 1862, inaugural address. But that and the subsequent actions in hiring large numbers of Chinese railroad workers and honoring them at the completion of the railroad construction is entirely consistent with our understanding that the Central Pacific Railroad officials facing economic necessity rapidly overcame their initial prejudice against the Chinese.

So the CPRR experience is not an example of practicing racism, but instead of turning away from racism.

10/15/2010 10:34 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: kylewyatt@aol.com
Subject: "racism from the management" and "cruelty to the Chinese"

There has been a LOT of mythology built up about the experiences of the Chinese in building the Central Pacific. As is generally true with myths, there is often (but not always) some underlying truth, which is then built upon with fabrications and imaginations into something much much bigger than the underlying true bit.

For instance on the "whippings", this was not an uncommon thing with labor of the time regardless of race. Refer to the work conditions of white sailors at the time. The Chinese were not experiencing any "exceptional" work conditions here.

On "nameless" I'll point out that we DO know the names of some of the Chinese workers, and that we do NOT know the names of most of the White workers. Again the Chinese are not exceptional.

On pay – there were no standards on pay to regulate what workers were paid. The Chinese were generally receive the same pay as comparable White workers, except that the White workers also received board (food) while the Chinese supplied their own. This may well have been as much by the Chinese own choice so they could have their own preferred food. The railroad would certainly not have been willing to provide custom (Chinese) food. Meat and potatoes, and coffee would have been the offering. The Chinese had a MUCH healthier diet as a result of providing their own food.

On Stanford – he complimented the Chinese at times, and disparaged them at other times. He was a politician, and said what he thought did him the most good. And this changed over time.

As to recognition of the Chinese at ceremonies – statements that they were not recognized are false. A hand-picked crew of Chinese laid the last Central Pacific rail as part of the ceremony – although most CP rail layers were actually White. The Chinese were photographed at the ceremony, too.

After the ceremony CP construction boss Strobridge hosted a luncheon in his car. The 8 man Chinese crew were honored guests as representatives of all the Chinese who worked on the railroad, and received an ovation when they entered the car. And three of the of the Chinese were also honored participants in the 50th anneversary celebrations in 1919, and we have their names.

Chinese hanging in baskets at Cape Horn appear to be 20th century creation – there is virtually no 19th century evidence, and the physical land actually would make it impossible as commonly described. But it is wonderful imagery, and many academic historians have have picked it up and repeated it. This shows how myth can become accepted "fact" even when false.

These are only a few examples.

—Kyle Wyatt

[Kyle Wyatt is Curator of History & Technology at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.]

10/16/2010 9:40 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman" wendellhuffman@hotmail.com

To address the question you propose for your project ("if the success of the railroad ... redeems the cruelty to the Chinese") you must establish 1) what you mean by "cruelty" and 2) whether the Chinese experienced a particular "cruelty" based solely on their race. The problem is, by today's standard nearly everything experienced by everyone working on the railroad was "cruel". Life then was tough; tougher than most of us can imagine.

Everyone who worked in the Sierra cold experienced the same temperature. Most of what nearly every worker did was physical, but I'd think that only what the few rail layers did was really arduous – requiring work to the limit of their strength. There was danger in it all. Chinese and whites were killed in blasting accidents. Chinese and whites were killed in avalanches. The only issue that truly seems race-based was the wage differential. But was that truly "cruel"? The Chinese who came over from China were probably paid more than they would have received at home, and they apparently came willingly. Some of the Chinese did strike over wages, but the ones who actually quit did so over frustration with the hard rock, not wages. Some of that wage differential may have been to offset the cost of providing the Chinese transportation to and from China to the job site.

—Wendell

10/16/2010 9:50 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See related discussion about wages.

10/16/2010 10:40 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

In 1867, Albert D. Richardson, authored Beyond the Mississippi describing his trip to the CPRR construction sites, and reporting that: "Irish laborers received thirty dollars per month (gold) and board; Chinese, thirty-one dollars, boarding themselves."

10/17/2010 6:15 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I think you're right, that the Chinese did not experience that much cruelty from the management, but I still believe that some of the Central Pacific's actions were not very fair. So, instead of saying racism cruelty, could you give me some info about dangers and physical challenges?

Thank you!

—Lucy

10/17/2010 6:17 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

The idea that there were enormous dangers comes from the dubious claim that "thousands died" building the railroad. When you go back to the primary sources in an attempt to determine what really happened and where this notion came from, the myth falls apart. What you find is that there was only a single very short newspaper article saying that the bones of 1,200 Chinese railroad workers arrived in Sacramento by train – no other primary source evidence of large numbers of casualties. Problem is that there were two Sacramento newspapers that published stories that day, and the other newspaper said that it was the bones of 50 Chinese, not 1,200! So the only report of many deaths is contradicted by another report the same day.

(We put these newspaper articles online – read them for yourself.)

While the number is uncertain, probably about 100-150 Chinese died building the railroad (this based on the very specific reports at the time), including some who died in Nevada from smallpox. The likely most dangerous part of the construction was blasting the summit tunnel through solid rock while winter blizzards resulted in enormous snowdrifts with avalanches. Yet the best information that we have is that the summit tunnel construction was surprisingly safe.

Given how difficult it must have been to build a railroad through the wilderness by hand, it is amazing that there are not more reports of accidents and deaths. But note, that we have specific reports of Chinese who died, and each of the bodies was carefully treated, labeled with the name of the deceased, and shipped by train to the coast and then by ship back to China – these were the terms of the CPRR Chinese railroad workers' employment contracts. By contrast, we know nothing about the deaths of Irish UPRR workers which seem not to have been reported.

Moreover, it is important not to lose sight of the sixty-fold reduction in the passenger death rate when travelling by train rather than by using horses – so that the railroad's completion undoubtedly saved vast numbers of lives.

10/17/2010 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you be more specific as to what you mean when you write that "some of the Central Pacific's actions were not very fair"? If you are referring to accidents and deaths, these were certainly sad and tragic, and the people who endured the conditions heroic, but if they were due to avalances, smallpox, and accidents that no one in the 19th century had any ability to prevent, how can they be considered "unfair"? How can things that happen that are unintentional and unpreventable be "unfair"?

10/17/2010 6:46 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Challenges that needed to be overcome to build the transcontinental railroad.

10/17/2010 7:08 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I never referred to the diseases. That was unfortunate, but yes, unpreventable if the workers had to work in deep snow and very sweltering days. Simply having deaths, accidents, and such without more protection, such as goggles or stronger supports seems unfair to me. You might not agree, that they were workers of their own record, but I believe Central Pacific could have given more protection and such. They only had their bare hands and worker uniforms. I also read that they had 6 out of 7 days of arduous work. Based on US protection, this dangerous work could have been safer. I still think that they could have ensured better work conditions. So, if only 100-150 workers died, then why did the rather specific number 1,200 appear?

Thank you,

—Lucy

10/18/2010 1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments are frustrating because, despite the admonition from Randall Hees, you are mixing up what was possible in the 1860's with what is possible today. What goggles or stronger supports are you talking about? Show us where these were for sale in 1865 and how they would have prevented actually reported accidents. Do you really want to insist on safety goggles almost a century before the plastic needed was invented? Show us what primary source report of a death that you read would have been prevented by these supposed protections. What is unfair is demanding that people in 1865 should have used devices, materials, and methods from the future that would not have helped and were not available there or then. How would goggles or supports have prevented avalanches, or premature detonation of black powder? Stronger supports? The CPRR used wooden beams that were much thicker and stronger than anything used in modern wood construction. Steel I-beams did not exist in 1860's California. Based on what existed in 1865 this dangerous work could not have been safer like modern US worker protection standards. You can't blame the past for not being in the future, and especially not blame those whose hard work was building a dramatically safer future. Also, they did not only have their bare hands – they used horses and mules, dump carts, picks, shovels, hammers, pry bars, rail benders, rock drills, black powder, and nitroglycerine manufactured on site, etc.

10/18/2010 2:37 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Actually, I read one of your webpages, a link you sent me that said the Irish and Chinese did not work together. Therefore, it would be unfair to compare wages of different companies. And when I compared wages, I was referring to the Chinese and whites. Every single source I read, from primary to secondary, said that the Chinese received less than the whites and boarded themselves.

—Lucy

10/18/2010 2:42 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Again, cite sources.

In 1867, Albert D. Richardson, authored "Beyond the Mississippi" describing his trip to the CPRR construction sites, and reporting that: "Irish laborers received thirty dollars per month (gold) and board; Chinese, thirty-one dollars, boarding themselves." He is talking about Irish workers on the Central Pacific, not Irish workers on the Union Pacific.

J. O. Wilder, for many years a Central Pacific-Southern Pacific employee, in an interview with the late Erle Heath, one-time Southern Pacific historian, said that "The Chinese were paid $30 to $35 in gold a month, finding [maintaining] themselves, while the whites were paid about the same with their board thrown in .... "

Testimony of J. H. Strobridge in the "US Pacific Railway Commission," pp 3139-41, as printed in Stuart Daggett, "Chapters in the History of the Southern Pacific," p 70n was that Chinese and white workers were paid about the same, i.e., $30-$35 per month.

10/18/2010 2:57 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I read a letter from CPRR that stated how the Chinese hung on baskets over the American River, but now you say it is false. The letter was from a woman, I think was named Carolina, to her mother on CPRR.

I don't think that every Chinaman would have refused the offering of beans and potatoes, if it meant they did not have to pay for it. They still received less and had to pay for their own food, and it wasn't impossible for CPRR to pay for it.

—Lucy

10/18/2010 2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cite sources. Historians have concluded that there were no baskets used in the Cape Horn construction and there are no 19th century letters known to exist in which Chinese railroad workers describe their experiences. We don't believe that the letter you are talking about is real. Prove it! Edson T. Strobridge in "The Central Pacific Railroad and the Legend of Cape Horn 1865 - 1866" shows in detail how the basket myth was fabricated by a series of authors each embellishing the falsehood.

The historical evidence is that the Chinese railroad workers did not eat a western diet: "The difference in the eating and drinking habits of the Chinese and white workers building the Central Pacific was as great as their other living habits. The Chinese menu included dried oysters, abalone, cuttlefish, bamboo sprouts, mushrooms, five kinds of vegetables, pork, poultry, vermicelli, rice, salted cabbage, dried seaweed, sweet rice crackers, sugar, four kinds of dried fruit, Chinese bacon, peanut oil, and tea. Seemingly, this was the forerunner of the modem American well-balanced diet. The fare of the Caucasian laborer consisted of beef, beans, bread, butter, and potatoes." Cite sources and please don't make stuff up.

10/18/2010 3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Labor and politicians wanted to exclude the Chinese from California, but the railroad management disagreed:

"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

10/18/2010 3:59 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I'm only brainstorming stuff that the Central Pacific could have used. I wasn't stating it as true! It's that I never read that they ever had anything to help them blast through rock, or survive in bitter cold. Could you just tell me some info on their work and life?

—Lucy

10/18/2010 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

History is not what someone who does not know brainstorms. Sorry no, you don't get to "brainstorm" stuff that you or others that weren't there just make up, and ask others to disprove the errors. It is your obligation to quote and cite primary sources to prove your claims. Nobody else has the obligation to do your research for you or to disprove false allegations of racism, cruelty, or unfairness. Anybody can claim anything which should be ignored until proven – If you/they can't prove it using primary sources, it did not happen, i.e., innocent until proven guilty, not the reverse.

10/18/2010 9:00 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Didn't they just want the Chinese for reliable labor?

—Lucy

10/18/2010 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, of course. Nothing "unfair", "racist", or "cruel" about that.

10/18/2010 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those who falsely claim that "the Chinese [railroad workers] were treated like slaves" fail to understand the horrendous treatment that actual slaves endured in the United States, as recorded in the first person by a slave who responded to his former "master" who requested that the former slave and his family return after the civil war. The former slave's letter has been reprinted by the Associated Press:

Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy — the folks call her Mrs. Anderson — and the children — Milly, Jane, and Grundy — go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

[continued below]

7/14/2012 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve — and die, if it come to that — than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.

7/14/2012 11:37 AM  

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