The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Call of Opportunity - West
Beginning in the 1850s, immigrants mostly from the Chinese province of Canton came to the United States, leaving poverty and overpopulation. Rumors of finding Gold in the West fueled dreams of prosperity. Many initially found work in mines, fishing, and service. As workers began to take root, prejudice and superstitious sentiment grew in the American-born population, leading to legislation that prevented full citizenship. However, railroad companies recognized the potential of these workers and began their recruitment efforts in 1865, reaching the growing Chinese population of nearly 60,000.

Chinese workers received about $28 per month for their work. The jobs they performed were often dangerous and included planting explosives to blast rock to create tunnels and laying ties over the turbulent terrain of the Sierra Mountains. Many workers risked their lives and perished in the harsh winters and dangerous conditions.

When the railroad was completed on May 10th, 1869, a crew of eight Chinese workers was selected to place the last section of rail - a symbol to honor the dedication and hard work of the laborers.