Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"China comes to Sacramento to celebrate countrymen who built transcontinental railroad"

"China comes to Sacramento to celebrate countrymen who built transcontinental railroad" by Stephen Magagnini, © Sacramento Bee, May 23, 2015. (News Article)

"China came to Sacramento earlier this month for a gala celebrating the 150th anniversary of a feat that many said couldn’t be done – the building of the transcontinental railroad over the Sierra Nevada. At the May 15 gathering at the California State Railroad Museum, several hundred of the region’s leading Chinese Americans joined Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in welcoming a delegation from the Chinese consulate general in San Francisco to see an extensive photo display featuring murals, figurines and sculptures depicting Chinese railroad workers. The exhibit – including 122 sequential photos depicting laborers, work camps, stores and tunnels blasted through the hardest granite – is open to the public for free at the Sacramento County Administration Center, 700 H St., Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. through June 19[, 2015]. ... " [More]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Bill George" W_george1@msn.com

I am wondering if someone could post the Sacramento Bee story published Sunday, May 24 “Chinese role in rail history profiled in capital exhibit”? I would be interested in reading comments about the story. ...

—Bill George

5/26/2015 8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See related discussion.

5/26/2015 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Larry Mullaly" lmullaly@jeffnet.org
Re: Sacramento Bee story about CPRR and Chinese

Overall, the author of the Sacramento Bee article made a real effort to get his facts right while telling a good yarn.

I have one quibble.

Mr. Yin’s comment that the Chinese were “treated like slaves” is inaccurate. The Chinese were not coolie (indentured) labor in the correct sense of the term. The Chinese were paid wages. They could quit whenever they wished to, and workforce attrition was a constant problem for the railroad.

It is true that the nature of their employment required hard physical work. But there is no evidence of high mortality rates among Chinese railroad workers, and conditions on the railroad with its well-established commissary system under Sisson & Wallace were probably superior to those encountered by Chinese in the mines or in canal building.

As popular sentiment against the Chinese increased through the 1870s, the Big Four’s construction arm was one of the few companies in California that continued to employ Chinese in large numbers.

—Larry Mullaly

5/28/2015 1:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Denny dickinson" echosdad@hotmail.com

The Sisson & Wallace warehouse is still standing on West River St. I'm sure there are people in Truckee would like to see it gone.

—Denny D.

5/29/2015 6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Stephen Harris" stephenh321@gmail.com

I have a small quibble about the quibble: "treated like slaves" does not mean they were slaves; by today's standards most laborers of that era fared little better than slaves. True, conscription was voluntary (though leaving was not exactly an easy matter) and they received payment– wages were almost as fair as those paid the Irish.

—Stephen Harris, TDHS

P.S., The warehouse is near the location I recently found the narrow-gauge spike.

5/29/2015 6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Chaun Mortier" cmortier@truckeehistory.org

Again, what exact location? There are no buildings known of on West River Street that remain from that time frame. You guys know how I am, validate the statement for me!

5/29/2015 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Bill George" w_george1@msn.com

Thanks, I agree with you [Larry Mullaly].


5/29/2015 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 19th century Congressional testimony was that the Chinese railroad workers were not treated anything like slaves. The treatment of Chinese laborers of that era by the Central Pacific Railroad was vastly better than the horrible treatment of some of the negro slaves in the southern states experienced, and better than the Union Pacific Railroad's treatment of its Irish workers. Leaving railroad employment must have been an easy matter as there was a large turnover of railroad workers, with many leaving for the gold fields. Wages paid to Chinese and Irish were essentially the same, and must have been considered fair by them, as they travelled great distances to take the jobs, coming in large numbers to voluntarily work for the Pacific Railroads, and was sufficient to allow the Chinese workers to save 2/3 of their income to become wealthy by the standards of 19th century southern Chinese peasants.

5/29/2015 7:18 AM  

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