Thursday, May 23, 2019

Glimmering in Gold

The U.S. Postal Service marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad with three distinct Forever stamps. On May 10, a First-Day-Of-Issue ceremony for the stamps was held at the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, Utah.

President Abraham Lincoln promoted the railroad during the Civil War as a way of binding the nation. The Central Pacific Railroad Co. built the western portion of the railroad starting from Sacramento, CA. The Union Pacific Railroad Co. built the eastern section beginning from Omaha, NE. Both companies employed many workers at a time when roadbeds had to be dug and tunnels excavated without the benefit of machines.

A large workforce — primarily Chinese and Irish immigrants — carried out most of the backbreaking and often dangerous work that made the achievement possible. The workforce, totaling more than 20,000 at its peak, also included German and Italian immigrants and some African Americans. Thousands of Mormon workers helped make the final push across Utah.

The completed railroad covered nearly 1,800 miles and reduced travel time across the country, from as long as six months to about a week. By easing the movement of goods and people across the country, the transcontinental railroad made the American West an integral part of the nation.

Photographs of replicas of the two locomotives at the Golden Spike National Historic Site were used as visual references for the stamp artwork. Separate stamps feature the Jupiter and the No. 119 locomotives that powered the trains carrying the officers and guests of the two train companies to the Golden Spike ceremony. Centered between them, a third stamp portrays the famous golden spike that was a prominent part of the ceremony. 

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