Chinese Labor Contribution To The Central Pacific Railroad

1258 words - 5 pages

Chinese Labor Contribution to the Central Pacific Railroad


In port cities of China, leaflets distributed by labor brokers said, “Americans are very rich people. They want the Chinamen to come and make him very welcome. There you will have great pay, large houses, and good clothing of the finest description. Money is in great plenty and to spare in America.”

And so thousands of Chinese flocked from China to America, in search for work in the gold mines. After the profits from gold mining decreased because most of the easily obtainable gold had been found, an estimated 10,000 Chinese left the mines and were in search of jobs. From independent miners who had worked for themselves, many Chinese immigrants now became wage earners who worked for bosses. A growing number of Chinese were working in businesses owned by whites. But earning wages instead of prospecting did not discourage Chinese from moving to America. A paycheck of up to $30 could be made working for the railroad, which was 10 times as much than could be earned in China.
The Act of 1862 called for construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast. So on January 8, 1863, with a ground breaking ceremony in Sacramento, Central Pacific Railroad started work on the western end of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Two railway companies competed in this venture: The Central Pacific company laid track eastward from Sacramento, California and at the same time The Union Pacific company began laying track westward from Omaha, Nebraska and when the two lines met, the transcontinental railway would be complete. Each company wanted to cover more ground than the other – not just out of pride and competitiveness, but because they were being paid by the government for each mile of track they laid. Obviously the Central Pacific faces the bigger of the two challenges. Being in the western part of the country, the railroad was obliged to overcome 7,000 feet of mountain rise in 100 miles, where as the Union Pacific had 500 miles to which to overcome a gradual rise of 5,000 feet.

About two years after the commencement of construction, the line had completed less than 50 miles of running track. Central Pacific's construction superintendent, J. H. Strobridge, needed 5,000 laborers "for constant and permanent work." But the largest force that he was able to assemble at any time during the spring of 1865 was 800. Charles Crocker was the first to suggest Chinese were the answer to no labor, Chinese were in search of employment, but Irish Construction Superintendent J.H. Stobridge said, “I will not boss Chinese. I will not be responsible for work done on the road done by Chinese labor.” Stobridge changes his mind because Labor was scarce and unreliable. He then experimented with 50 Chinese, paying them $28 a month. They were restricted to only filling dump cars. But they proved to be so good at that task that they were soon given...

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