Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jobs - Pay

From: "John/LaDonna Norjen"

What did the American workers on the Transcontinental Railroad get paid? What jobs could the American workers do that the Chinese couldn't do?


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


It would be interesting to gather up systematically what information can be found on rates of pay for various Central Pacific works, and similar (separate) information for Union Pacific.

As to work actually performed by different workers, my perception is that actual rail layers (spikers at least) were generally White, as witness the timesheet for the men who officially laid the 10 miles, and also the rail benders in the Hart 333 Curving Iron, Ten Mile Canyon. Hart 317 End of track, on Humboldt Plains does suggest that Chinese unloaded and placed rails. We also know that the Central Pacific used a select crew of eight Chinese to bring forward and place the historic last rail at the Promontory ceremonies, as memorialized in Russell stereo 539 Chinese at Laying Last Rail UPRR [sic – CPRR].

Chinese appear to have done most of the grading and such work. The Chinese were organized in crews, with a White crew boss coordinating with a Chinese crew leader (I don't recall the actual titles of the positions).

My perception is that pay rates for general White workers and Chinese workers were similar with the specific exception that White workers received board (food) in addition, while the Chinese had to supply (purchase) their own food. Given the dietary preferences of each group, the Chinese got the better of that one because they had a much healthier diet as a result, even though they had to pay for it themselves. Bosses of course received higher pay, as did skilled workers.

Overall, I believe that pay rates in California were higher than in the east (presumably including the Union Pacific) because of the scarcity of available workers in California generally. Many White workers preferred other available jobs which paid better and did not have such hard conditions – which was probably the major reason why the Central Pacific began hiring Chinese in the first place – the difficulty in finding enough White workers. (Many Chinese were already in California from the 1850s as miners and laborers.) Overall, my suspicion is that CP workers (including the Chinese) received higher pay that comparable workers on the UP, but I've never actually seen any information on UP workers and their pay. We know that the UP employed many Civil War veterans – from both sides.

Also keep in mind that across Nevada many local Indians (Native Americans) were hired by the CP. And at the Utah end, the CP contracted with several Mormon companies for grading and the like (for political reasons as much as anything else). Most of the Chinese workers stayed closer to the Nevada boarder, although we know from archeological evidence that there were some Chinese workers going up to Promontory, and likely beyond.


4/29/2007 4:29 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

One thing to bear in mind when comparing CPRR wages with those of the eastern United States, California's was a gold-based economy and a dollar paid in gold was worth more than the paper dollars of the East.


4/30/2007 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be thankful If anyone could give me a payment amount for an Irish american on the Union Pacific company soon.
I need this for a paper

10/19/2009 2:08 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

"On the Union Pacific the laborers were white men, paid $3 to $4 per day currency ... "

10/19/2009 4:20 PM  

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