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January 25, 2019

The County Library Celebrates the 150th Anniversary of Chinese Railroad Workers with a Special Exhibit

Jeff Buydos - Email

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah—During the 150th anniversary of the efforts of Chinese railroad workers, the County Library’s Viridian Event Center will host an exhibit honoring and detailing the contributions of Chinese-Americans to the construction of the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad.

“The story of these men is America’s story. It needs to be honored and remembered now more than ever,” said Patrick Santee, Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association (CRWDA) board member. “Southern Chinese workers played an important role in building the physical infrastructure of the American West.”

The 60-panel exhibit, entitled “The Chinese Helped Build the Railroad. The Railroad Helped Build America.” will include photos and infographics that chronicle the railroad’s construction and the challenges faced by those who built it.

“Together, these paired historic and modern pictures capture the immense distances, the grandeur of these isolated wilderness expanses and the monumental efforts it took to bring the rails from California, over and through the Sierras, across the basins and ranges of Nevada to the shores of the Great Salt Lake and the foot of the Wasatch Mountains,” said Siu Lin Santee, CRWDA Exhibit Chair.

As many as 15,000 Chinese workers braved a harsh environment, excruciating work and racial discrimination while building the railroad. Many left their families in southern China, never seeing them again. Some sacrificed their lives in hopes that their hard work would someday bring honor and glory to those in their homeland.

The railroad was completed at nearby Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869. The Golden Spike Historic Site marks the point where the final nail was pounded into railroad. People of Chinese descent arrived in large numbers in Utah just 22 years after the first Mormon pioneers. There are more than 500 Chinese railroad laborers buried in Utah.

The exhibit is a partnership between the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, Spike 150, the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University and Salt Lake County Library.

What: The Chinese Helped Build the Railroad–The Railroad Helped Build America 
When: February 1–28
Where: Library’s Viridian Event Center, 8030 S 1825 W West Jordan, UT 


About Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association

Chinese Railroad Workers Descendant Association’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect important historical sites, landmarks or other places associated with Chinese railroad workers through financial support, litigation, education and advocacy. CRWDA secures equal justice, treatment and recognition for the contributions of Chinese railroad workers; eliminates ignorance about Chinese railroad workers—specifically those workers engaged in the construction of the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad; promotes the cultural heritage of and fosters

positive images of Chinese railroad workers; and preserves, promotes and protects the contributions and sacrifices made by Chinese railroad workers to the United States of America.

About Spike 150

Utah’s Transcontinental Railroad 150th Celebration Commission will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the “wedding of the rails” by the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869 on the weekend of May 10–11, 2019. The Commission is also engaged in promoting other commemorative events and activities that inspire, unify, educate and advance the legacy of this historic moment.

About Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University

The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West. The Project coordinates research in North America and Asia in order to publish new findings in print and digital formats, support new and scholarly informed school curriculum, and participate in conferences and public events.

About Salt Lake County Library

Salt Lake County Library is committed to making a positive difference in the lives of our community by inspiring imagination, satisfying curiosity and providing a great place for everyone to visit. You belong at the County Library and your interest to read, create, learn, play and connect is supported by our employees, programs, collection and online resources. Early and lifelong learning, as well as equal access for all, are at the forefront of all that we do.


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