Sunday, July 16, 2006

Can you spot all the errors?

"Living History: Immigrants drawn to Utah as their El Dorado" by Eileen Hallet Stone, © The Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, 2006. (News Article)

"... In the 1860s, 12,000 Chinese immigrants, employed by Central Pacific Railroad, constructed the transcontinental rail line from Sacramento to Promontory Summit. Skilled in handling explosives for boring tunnels through stone mountains, these men comprised 90 percent of the railroad's labor force. They were proficient with power tools, cleared miles of trees and laid miles of tracks. Nevertheless, they were overworked and underpaid. In the winter of 1866, they labored in snow drifts, some more than 60 feet high. The spring thaw revealed corpses. 'Their monumental achievements, which required them to pour sweat and blood into Utah, have endured long after their names have been all but forgotten,' writes historian Anand A. Yang in Missing Stories. In a remarkable feat at Promontory Summit, the Chinese laborers constructed 10 miles and 56 feet of rail line in one day. ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Many of the Chinese had come to mine gold and were already living in California. While the peak employment was about 10,000, over time a much larger number of individual Chinese worked on the Central Pacific Railroad. The portion of the CPRR east of Mormon Hill (Toano, Nevada), was largely constructed by Mormon contractors, not Chinese workers. The skill of the Chinese workers in handling explosives for boring tunnels (using only black powder, except for nitroglycerin manufactured on site for the summit tunnel) was mostly learned on the job, as the CPRR was hiring unskilled laborers who quickly became extremely reliable and productive railroad workers. One of the most remarkable things about the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad was that it was done entirely by manual labor with the help of horses and mules. No power tools were ever used. The Chinese certainly engaged in grueling manual labor, but no different from, for example, the Irish laborers on the Union Pacific. The Chinese CPRR workers were paid in gold, receiving approximately the same pay scale as other laborers. The tunnel construction work proceeded amazingly well in winter conditions; corpses found when the snow melted were due to people being trapped by an avalanche. Many of the Chinese names are recorded in the Central Pacific Railroad's payroll records that are available at the California State Railroad Museum. Far from being nameless, for example, Ging Cui, Wong Fook, and Lee Shao not only built the railroad, and laid the final rail at the famous May 10, 1869 Promontory ceremony, but lived long enough to be on the Golden Spike 50th Anniversary Celebration Float in the May 10th, 1919, Ogden, Utah celebration fifty years later. While Chinese certainly participated in the record 10 miles constructed in one day which has never been equalled, it was near, not at Promontory Summit, Utah, and it is very misleading to omit the fact that the ten miles of rail was actually laid by eight Irishmen: Michael Shay, Patrick Joyce, Thomas Dailey, Michael Kennedy, Frederick McNamara, Edward Killeen, Michael Sullivan, and George Wyatt

7/16/2006 9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will this never end? James Harvey Strobridge said, under oath, on Wednesday, August 10, 1887:
Question: How many Chinese did you employ in 1864? (A) "I do not think we had any Chinese in 1864; if so but very few."
Question; And in 1865? (A)"In 1865 I think we had as many as eight or nine thousand."
Question: What did you pay the Chinamen in 1865? (A)"I think we paid them $30 a month...they boarded themselves."
Question: Did you pay the same wages to the Chinese in 1865? (A) "No sir, I think the wages were then $35 a month, including board....In 1868..from 5,000 to 6,000 as I recollect it.
Question: How many white men in 1864?
(A) Perhaps 1200...I think wages were about $30 a month...perhaps 2,500 (in 1865)...(In 1865) wages were raised (for white men) to $35 a month.
For a complete question and answer list, see U S Pacific Railway Commission Hearings, 1887-1888, pages 3139-3145.
And, for Heavens sake, PLEASE LOOK up the darned FACTS BEFORE you attempt to publish your stuff.
G J Chris Graves, MP 31, NewCastle, AltaCal'a

7/16/2006 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about spotting errors in the article "Legend behind building of rails around Cape Horn" in the Colfax Record of 3/3/2011?

" ... the work ... required ... diamond drills ... "

" ... Keeping the cost of labor down was a key to Central Pacific’s ultimate success. ... the Chinese would work for less money ... "

" ... Cape Horn construction project was the second of the two greatest obstacles to building the road over the Sierra. ... "

"Recently, I was given the story of Ah Goong, a Central Pacific crew worker. He said he was a basket man because he was thin and light and that some basket men were 15-year-old boys, who would ride the basket barefoot so their boots would not break through the bottom of the wicker basket. ... "


3/03/2011 3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Storyteller's ... Myth," called "primary source."

"Transwiki:American History Primary Sources The West" quotes:

c. 1865 “Swinging near the cliff, Ah Goong... dug holes, then inserted gunpowder and fuses. He worked neither too fast nor too slow, keeping even with the others. The basketmen signaled one another to light the fuses. He struck match after match and dropped the burnt matches over the sides. At last the fuse caught; he waved, and the men above pulled hand over hand hauling him up, pulleys creaking.” From Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men, an account of explosive expert, her grandfather, Ah Goong, working on building Western railroads.

However that book describes itself not as a primary source, but instead:

Product Description ... From the Inside Flap,

"The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land."

3/03/2011 4:28 AM  

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