With the Starbucks app, you can make a moment with a tap. So next time you order your morning coffee, treat someone else and make their day. To tell them you're grateful for them, or that you've got their back, or simply to say thanks. Share the moment.
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They're some of our favorites. Stephen Ambrose was one of America's leading biographers and historians. His bestsellers chronicle our nation's critical battles and achievements, from his war works D-Day and Band of Brothers to Undaunted Courage, Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the opening of the American West. Stephen Ambrose passed in 2002, but his epic storytelling accounts can now be heard here at Our American Stories, thanks to those who run his estate. Here is Stephen Ambrose to tell us the story from his bestseller, Nothing Like It in the World, The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad. My editor, Alice May, who said, when I completed my last book, she said, you got to do the Pacific Railway. How did they build it?
And I said, oh, Alice, I don't want to do that. These guys were robber barons. They went on and stole the country blind. And then they used all their ill-gotten gains to get a grip on American politics, which they held on to until the first of the populace and the progressive parties were formed. And I don't want to deal with these robber barons.
And she said, you do, so I read for six months, and I learned that I had been badly wrong. That far from being villains, these guys are heroes. I'm talking about the big four. I'm talking about Dr. Ranton. I'm talking about all the others that were at the top and all of the men who built the tracks. So that was how I got started on it. This book opens with Abraham Lincoln. And somebody asked me about that a couple of days ago. They said, how could you possibly open with Abraham Lincoln?
I said, listen, I'm a writer. You've got an opportunity to open your story with Abraham Lincoln. In his story, Lincoln was a railroad lawyer before he went into full-time politics. He was involved in the biggest case of all with the Rock Island when they had built a bridge over the Mississippi River and a steamboat crashed into one of the pilings and it burned up and the steamboat company sued the railroad. You can't put those bridges over this river.
Our steamboats are going to run into them. Lincoln defended the Rock Island. And one of the things he did was say it was the pilot's fault. He crashed into the piling, but secondly, he said the railroads have as much right to go east and west as your steamships have to go north and south. And that principle was accepted by the Illinois Supreme Court and that's what made railroading in America. Lincoln got written into the 1860 Republican platform support for the building of a transcontinental railroad.
And that was done. He was the promoter of the 1862 bill and then he promoted the 1864 revision which gave even more subsidies to the railroad because he wanted to see that railroad built and he wanted it seen fast. Lincoln was in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was 1859. And the man he was staying with, his name was Pusey, pointed to a man down the way on the veranda of the hotel and he said, that's Grenville Dodge.
He was 28 years old, Dodge was. And Pusey said to Lincoln, he knows more about railroads than any two men in the country. And that snapped Lincoln's head around.
Let's go meet, he said. And those great big long legs of his, he began striding down and he stuck out that long arm and he said, Dodge, what's the best route for the Pacific Railroad? And like that, Dodge said, right here, Mr. President, straight out from Omaha, right up the Platte River Valley. Why do you think so? Lincoln asked.
And Dodge told him why he thought so. And from that moment on, Lincoln was fully committed to what became the first transcontinental railroad. Next to winning the Civil War and abolishing slavery, building the first transcontinental railroad from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California was the greatest achievement of the American people in the 19th century. Not until the completion of the Panama Canal in the early 20th century was it rivaled as an engineering feat. The railroad took brains, muscle and sweat in quantities and scope never before put into a single project. It could not have been done without a representative democratic political system, without skilled and ambitious engineers, without bosses and foremen who would learn how to organize and lead men in the Civil War, without free labor, without hardworking laborers who would learn how to take orders in the war, without those who came over to America in the thousands from China seeking a fortune, without laborers speaking many languages and coming to America from every inhabited continent, without the trees and iron available in America, without capitalists willing to take high risk for great profit, without men willing to challenge all at every level in order to win all.
Most of all, it could not have been done without teamwork. The United States was less than 100 years old when the Civil War was won, slavery abolished and the first transcontinental railroad built. Not until nearly 20 years later did the Canadian Pacific span the Dominion. It was a quarter of a century after the completion of the railroad, the American road, that the Russians got started in the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Russians used more than 200,000 Chinese to do it. As compared to the American employment of 10,000 or so Chinese. In addition, the Russians had hundreds of thousands of convicts working on the line as slave laborers. Even at that, it was not until 32 years after the American achievement that the Russians finished. And they did it as a government enterprise at a much higher cost with a road that was in every way inferior. The Americans did it first. And they did it even though the United States was the youngest of countries. It had proclaimed its independence in 1776, won its independence in 1783, bought the Louisiana Purchase through which much of the Union Pacific ran in 1803, added California and Nevada and Utah to the Union in 1848 through which the Central Pacific ran, and completed the linking of the continent in 1869.
Thus ensuring an empire of liberty running from sea to shining sea. And more of Stephen Ambrose's remarkable storytelling on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history from war to innovation, culture and faith are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.
Go to hillsdale.edu to learn more. It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech ODT remejipant 75 milligrams.
Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family, but thankfully nerd tech ODT remejipant 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Hi, I'm Jonathan Strickland, host of the Restless Ones. Join me as I sit down for in-depth discussions with the leaders at the intersection of technology and business.
Leaders like Elliot Katz and Shai Magsamov, co-founders of Phantom Auto. Technology decouples labor from location because with remotely operated forklifts, you can have someone doing that exact same work in the exact same warehouse, but be sitting thousands of miles away. So our customers are using our remote operation platform to connect people all around the country who want and need to work with the hundreds of thousands of essential jobs that must be filled to keep our supply chain intact. The Restless Ones is now available on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you listen to podcasts. Presented by T-Mobile for Business. 5G that's ready right now. What up?
It's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday.
I'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture, and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in. Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm.
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. And we continue here with our American stories and Stephen Ambrose telling the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad and his terrific book, Nothing Like It in the World. Go to Amazon.com. By the way, while you're there, pick up all of Stephen Ambrose's books. Read them with the family.
There is no better storytelling about our great country than Stephen Ambrose. Let's continue with the story. One of the most feared stretches ran three miles along the precipitous gorge of the North Fork of the American River, nicknamed Cape Horn. The slope was at an angle of 75 degrees, and the river was 1200 to 2200 feet below the line of the railroad.
There were no trails, not even a goat path. The grade would not be bored through a tunnel, but rather built on the side of the mountain, which required blasting and rock cuts on the sheer cliffs. The mountain needed to be sculpted because the railroad would be curved around the mountain.
The curves that hugged the monolith were either upgrade or occasionally down. Men had to be lowered in a bosun's chair from above to place the black powder, first of all to drill a hole for it, then to place the black powder, fix and light the fuses, and then yell to the man above to haul us up. With regard to Cape Horn, Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine, the premier magazine for engineers of the day, said in 1870, good engineers consider this undertaking preposterous. One day in the summer of 1865, a Chinese foreman went up to Strobridge, who was the foreman for the Central Pacific. The Chinese nodded and then waited for permission to speak. When it was granted, he said that men of China are skilled at work like this. Our ancestors built fortresses in the Yangtze Gorges. Would you permit Chinese crews to work on Cape Horn? If so, could reeds be sent up from San Francisco so we can weave them into baskets?
Strobridge would try anything. The reeds came on. At night the Chinese wove baskets similar to the ones their ancestors had used. The baskets were round, waist high, four eyelets at the top, painted with symbols. Ropes ran from the eyelets to a central cable. The Chinese went to work.
They needed little or no instruction in handling black powder, which was a Chinese invention. And they went to work with a hauling crew at the top. Hundreds of barrels of black powder were ignited daily to form a ledge on which a roadbed could be laid. Some of the men were lost in accidents. We don't know how many.
The CP didn't keep a record. The Chinese working men, hanging in their baskets, had to bore the holes with their small hand drills, then tamp in the explosives, set in light the fuse, and holler to be pulled out of the way. They used a huge amount of power that was shipped to them from Sacramento. The Chinese made the roadbed and laid the track around Cape Horn.
Though this took until the spring of 1866, a year, it was not as time consuming or difficult as had been feared. Still, it remains one of the best known of all the laborers on the Central Pacific. Mainly because, unlike the work in the tunnel, it makes for a spectacular diorama.
As well it should. Hanging from those baskets, drilling holes in the cliff, putting in the powder, placing the fuse, and getting hauled up was a spectacular piece of work. The white laborers couldn't do it. The Chinese could.
If not as a matter of course, then quickly. And, at least they made it look this way, easily. Young Lewis Clement did the surveying and then took charge of overseeing the railroad engineering at Cape Horn. What Clement planned and the Chinese made became one of the grandest sights to be seen along the entire Central Pacific line. Trains would halt there, so tourists could get out from their cars to gasp and gape at the gorge and at the grade.
In the fall of 1865, the CP went to work on its tunnels. Now, you need to know that California has on its eastern side the Sierra Nevada. That is granite. And it goes up very high.
And you get more snow on the Sierra Nevada than you do anyplace else in the United States, save only Alaska. And the tunnels had to be drilled through this granite. And in the fall of 1865, the CP went to work on these tunnels. Six of the thirteen that would have to blast out before getting to the east slope were clustered in a small stretch of two miles at the top of the long climb. The biggest, number six, right at the summit, within a few hundred feet of Donner Pass, with Donner Lake right down below it, was 1,659 feet long.
And as much as 124 feet beneath the surface. Of all the back-breaking labor that went into the building of the CP and the UP, of all the dangers inherent in the work, this was the worst. The drills lost their edges to the granite, and had to be replaced frequently. One Chinese worker would hold that drill up, and then there were two men behind him with sledgehammers. And the other guy, and the other guy, and that went on for eight hours.
There was room for only one gang at a time, three men to a gang. The drills lost their edge to the granite, and had to be replaced frequently. The CP soon learned to order his drills in 100-ton lots. The man holding the drill had to be steady or he would get hit by the sledgehammer. The man swinging the hammer had to have muscles like steel. When a hole was at last big enough for the black powder to be packed in, the crew would fill it, set a fuse, yell as loud as they could while running out of the range of the blast, and they would hope.
Sometimes the fuse worked, sometimes it didn't. Often the workers had put in too much powder, and most of it blew toward them. Harmlessly as far as the granite was concerned, but a great danger to the Chinese. Clement's assistant, Henry Root, explained that more powder was used by the rock foreman than was economical. For the simple reason that the workers were told that time, not money, was of the essence. At Summit Tunnel alone, 300 kegs of blasting powder a day went up. That's more than went up in a day in the Civil War. Progress was incredibly slow. With men working round the clock, this is 24 hours a day, 8 hours, 8 hours, and 8 hours. Between 6 and 12 inches was a normal 24-hour day of how much they gained. Charlie Crocker, in charge, gave orders to establish permanent work camps on each side of the summit to facilitate the round-the-clock drilling, blasting, scraping, shoveling, and hauling by the Chinese.
Charlie figured there was no night or day within a tunnel. The men worked in groups of 20 or so because only a handful could work at any one time. They ate healthy, well-cooked, and tasty food. Unlike the white workers on the Union Pacific, the Central Pacific provided, as did the Union Pacific, the Americans with boiled beef and potatoes, and that's all they wanted.
And some salt. The Chinese demanded and got an astonishing variety. Oysters, cuttlefish, fin fish, abalone meat, oriental fruits, and scores of vegetables, including bamboo sprouts, seaweed, and mushrooms. Each of these foods came dried, purchased from one of the Chinese merchants in San Francisco. Further, the Chinese ate rice, salted cabbage, vermiculae, bacon, and sweet crackers.
Very occasionally, they had fresh meat, pork being a prime favorite along with chicken. That food helped keep the Chinese healthy. The water they drank was even more important. The Americans drank from the streams and lakes, and many of them got diarrhea, dysentery, and other illnesses. The Chinese drank only tepid tea.
The water had been boiled first and was brought to them by youngsters who carried two pails on a sturdy pole across their shoulders, and they would dip in and drink their tea. What remarkable storytelling, painting, word pictures like no one else can. When we come back, more of this remarkable story.
Stephen Ambrose, nothing like it in the world, the men who built the Transcontinental Railroad. This is our American Stories. And such an exciting event like Wango Tango.
It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech O.D.T. and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech O.D.T. Remedia pants, 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family. But thankfully, nerd tech O.D.T.
Remedia pants, 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Hi, I'm Jonathan Strickland, host of the Restless Ones. Join me as I sit down for in-depth discussions with the leaders at the intersection of technology and business. Leaders like Elliot Katz and Shai Magsamov, co-founders of Phantom Auto.
Technology decouples labor from location because with remotely operated forklifts, you can have someone doing that exact same work in the exact same warehouse, but be sitting thousands of miles away. So our customers are using our remote operation platform to connect people all around the country who want and need to work with the hundreds of thousands of essential jobs that must be filled to keep our supply chain intact. The Restless Ones is now available on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you listen to podcasts. Presented by T-Mobile for Business, 5G that's ready right now.
What up, it's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in. Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm.
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. And we continue with our American stories and let's return to Stephen Ambrose telling the story of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. According to contemporaries, the white worker had a hydrophobia which induced him to avoid any contact with the water. In contrast, the Chinese are accustomed to daily evolutions of their entire person. The Chinese were ideal workers. Cheap.
Three dollars a day. They did as they were told. Made a quick study and after something was shown or explained to them, did it skillfully. Few if any strikes.
The same for complaints. They did what no one else was willing or able to do. When Charlie Crocker first proposed a strawberry, let's use Chinese. Because they were getting white workers who would sign up and then get a ride up to the top of the Sierra Nevada and then dessert. Because they just wanted a free ride out to the gold fields. The Chinese didn't do it that way and Crocker said a strawberry, let's try Chinese. And the strawberry said, you're crazy. They're only that high. They only weigh 110 pounds.
They can't possibly do this work. And Crocker said they built the Great Wall of China, didn't they? And strawberry soon became one of their great advocates. Now to the men who made the Union Pacific who were primarily Irishmen. Although the myth has it, it was exclusively and it wasn't. There were German descendants and there were Scandinavians and there were Italians and there were Russian descendants. And there were quite a lot, 500 by my own count, African Americans, newly freed slaves.
The whole world worked on the Union Pacific. But the Irishmen made up maybe 50%. Another factor here is they were almost all of them veterans. They were 18 or 19 or 20 or 21 years old. They had been in the Civil War. Whether in the Confederate Army or the Union Army. You look at pictures of them.
Very famous pictures. And you're going to see a lot of gray coats and a lot of blue coats. And these were kids who the war was over and they ain't going to go back to Indiana and plow.
I'm not going to go back to Ohio and get behind a horse and hold that plow all day long falling behind. I want something more exciting in my life. I want something that is significant. I want to be a part of something big. In addition, they had caught that most American of all diseases.
The wanderlust. They wanted to see new country and they signed on with the Union Pacific to go to work. To build something that they knew and they did.
They could bring their grandchildren to and say, I helped build that. And General Dodge, who he wasn't General anymore, he had been in the Civil War. But he was Superintendent and Head of Construction and the Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific.
He said it was the best organized, best equipped and best disciplined workforce I have ever seen. And Dodge built a lot of railroads. And they were being attacked by Indians.
Pretty much constantly when they were in Nebraska and more occasionally, and still fairly often when they were in Wyoming. And the Indians had a number of objections to the building of this road. First of all, it was going through their land.
Nobody had asked them and nobody had ever paid them. And second, they knew it was bringing civilization. And that meant, first of all, Army post. And that meant that they could no longer outrun the Army. That a regiment could get on a train and go all the way out to Cheyenne or go on to Rawlins or wherever in Wyoming and disembark from the train and boom. They could hit the Indians just like that. And the Indians were aware of that. They were also aware that these settlements were going to come. And that spelled the doom for the Indian way of life. And most of all, the Indians were aware Buffalo would not cross the track.
So the laying of the track across the Great Plains meant you were splitting the Buffalo herd in half. So they attacked. Often. And sometimes with some effect.
And sometimes with great effect. Because they would pry up the track in the middle of the night and the locomotive would come through. And the engineer wouldn't see this in the dark and woof, over it went.
And then the Indians would attack. And they would take everything they could out of the cars, especially if they could find some whiskey. And that became very notorious at Julesburg in Colorado. One of the ways that the railroad got control over that was they learned to hang lanterns on the front of the locomotives. And that provided a spotlight.
So you could at least see ahead and see if the track had been torn up or not. But Dodge had all of these young men, 10,000 of them that were working for the Union Pacific, they were all armed. And their foremen had all been officers in the Civil War. And they would see a hostile Indian force up on the ridge. Getting ready to come down on them and boom.
Like that. Those guys would switch from being railway workers to being soldiers. And they would grab their rifles and they would line up and they would repel these Indian attacks. How hard they worked is an astonishment to us at the beginning of the 21st century. Except for some of the cooks and bakers, there was not a fat man among them. Their hands were tough enough for any job. One never sees gloves in the photographs.
The jobs included pickaxe handling, shoveling, wielding sledgehammers, picking up iron rails, and using other equipment that required hands like iron. Their waists were generally thin, but oh those shoulders. Those arms. Those legs.
Nebraska can be hotter than hell, colder than the South Pole. They kept on working. They didn't whine. They didn't complain. They didn't quit. They just kept working. They had taken on a job that is accurately described as back-breaking.
It was, in addition, a job that experts said could not be done in the ten years it had been allotted. If ever. A day's routine was something like this. In the morning, the men were up at first light. After their toilet and washing their faces and hands in a tin base and they had a hearty breakfast and then went to work. At noon time, it was called, and they had an hour for a heavy dinner that included pictures of steaming coffee, pans of beef soup, platters heaped with boiled beef, potatoes, sometimes condensed milk diluted with water. The men were there to eat.
There was a little conversation. They made a business of it. Afterward, they sat around their bunks smoking, sewing on buttons, or taking a little nap. Then back to work with the bosses cursing and exhorting them to overcome their noontime lassitude. Time was called again an hour before dark to allow some rest.
The evening meal was more leisurely. Then to the bunk houses for card games, the smoke, lots of talk, railroad talk. It was said to consist entirely of whiskey, women, higher wages, shorter hours. Sometimes the men protested about being cheated. When they did, they were shot. One a day or more.
There was no law. And then a song such as, poor Patty, he works on the railroad, or the great Pacific railway for California hail. Then to bed, the whole to be repeated the next day and the next and the next. And what storytelling by the great Stephen Ambrose and we thank his estate for allowing us to use his voice and to keep his work alive at a time when fewer and fewer people know the story of this great country.
Hearing Stephen Ambrose tell these stories, well, it's more than a breath of fresh air. It's life itself. It's sustenance. And by the way, this story of the Union Pacific of the Irish, 50 percent of the Irish dominated this and these crews, and almost all were vets, as he pointed out. They didn't want to go back to the farm, Ambrose pointed out, after the war. And some fought for the north and some fought for the south. They wanted to be a part of something big. They wanted to see a new country built.
And they also wanted to be able to bring their grandchildren to the finished product and say, I helped build that. When we come back, more of this remarkable story, the building of the transcontinental railroads and Stephen Ambrose here on Our American Stories. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jennie with the 9021 OMG podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by Nerd Tech ODT. We recorded it at I Heart Radio's 10th Poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that Nerd Tech ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?
It's true. I had one that night and I took my Nerd Tech ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by Nerd Tech ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.
But thankfully, Nerd Tech ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. The Restless Ones is now available on the I Heart Radio app or wherever you listen to podcasts. Presented by T-Mobile for Business. 5G that's ready right now. What up?
It's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in.
Listen to Life as a Gringo on the I Heart Radio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. And we continue here on Our American Stories. Let's pick up where Stephen Ambrose last left off. During the spring of 1866, Jack Caseman, in charge of one of the construction crews, offered each man a pound of fresh tobacco for every day that they laid more than two miles of track. This was done. Dan Caseman went out in the early summer to offer time and a half pay to ensure that the UP reached the hundredth meridian before any other line. He also offered double wages for any four-mile work days. Henry Morton Stanley, who was one of the many reporters who was out there covering this. And Henry Morton Stanley is a reporter who found Dr. Livingston, I presume. And he was reporting for two American papers. He was impressed by the results.
The workers, he said, display an astonishing amount of enthusiasm for their jobs. The workers on the CP, from the bosses down, believed there was more rain and snow in the winter of 1865-66 than had ever before been seen in California. The winter of 1866-67 was much worse. The snow came early and stayed late. There were 44 separate storms. Some of them deposited 10 feet of snow, some deposited more.
At the summit, the pack averaged 18 feet on the level. More snow falls on the Sierra Nevada than any place else in the 48 states. Only Alaska gets more snow than the Sierra Nevada. Strawbridge put hundreds of the Chinese to work doing nothing but shoveling the snow away to keep open a cart trail to the tunnel opening. If it had not been for the race with the UP, the CP would have closed down that winter.
But the fear of losing all Utah and Nevada to their rival drove them on. The Chinese laborers dug snow tunnels from 50 to 500 feet long to get to the granite tunnels. And they lived in these igloos, is what they were.
And these Chinese, for sometimes as long as six months, never once saw the sky. Some of these tunnels were large enough for a team of horses to walk through. Windows were dug out of the snow walls to dump refuse and let in a little bit of light.
Also chimneys and air shafts. But for the most part, the Chinese worked, ate, drank their tea, gambled, smoked opium, which they did on Sundays. They got Sundays off and they smoked opium. They didn't get themselves intoxicated with it or act silly or anything like that. They just wanted to relax on that day off. So they smoked their opium and slept in the remarkable labyrinth that they were building under the snow. This was cruel work, dangerous and claustrophobic.
Still they pressed on, drilling the holes in the granite, placing the black powder and then the fuse, lighting the fuse, getting out of the way, then going back in to clear out the broken granite. Of all the things done by the first transcontinental railroad, nothing exceeded the cuts in time and cost it made for people traveling across the continent. Before the Mexican War, during the gold rush that started in 1848 through the 1850s and until after the Civil War ended in 1865, it took a person half a year and might cost well over $1,000 to go from New York to San Francisco.
They either went overland in the covered wagons with the oxen drawing them or they sailed down to Panama, got across Panama, a very great peril, the fear of getting tropical diseases and then hoped to hell they could find a steamer going north to take them up to California or they went all the way around South America and came back up again. And then it's months and big money. But less than a week after the pounding of the golden spike, a man or woman could go from New York to San Francisco in seven days. That included stops.
So fast they used to say, you don't even have time to take a bath. And the cost to go from New York to San Francisco is listed in the summer of 1869 was $150 for first class, $70 for immigrant. By June 1870, that was down to $100 for first class, $65 for immigrant class. This was at a time when a common laborer was making about $100 a month. And first class meant a Pullman sleeping car.
The immigrants sat on a bench. Freight rates by train were incredibly less than for ox or horse drawn wagons or for sailboats or steamers. Mail that once cost dollars per ounce and took forever now cost pennies and got from Chicago to California in a few days. The telegraph, meanwhile, which was built beside the track was stipulated in the 1862 Pacific Railway Act and which, pause for a minute and talk about the telegraph, we like to think we live in the age of the greatest change ever. My parents thought we lived through the biggest change. We lived through the Depression and then we went through the Second World War and we defeated Hitler and we defeated Tojo and we were there when the atomic bomb came about and we went through the biggest change. And my grandparents, they felt we went through the biggest change. We were there when Henry Ford brought out the automobile. We were there when the Wright brothers flew for the first time. Obviously, our generation.
You know who went through the biggest change? The generation that lived between 1850 and 1870. They won the Civil War, they abolished slavery, and they built the Transcontinental Railroad. And in the building of that railroad, they brought in the telegraph. We think we are in instant communication today. The telegraph puts you in instant communication. You could get a message from Chicago to San Francisco or from Los Angeles to New York or wherever like that.
That's what made the National Stock Exchange possible. And so much else in American business that came about because of that telegraph. So the telegraph, meanwhile, could move ideas, thoughts, statistics, any words or numbers that could be put on paper from one place to another from Europe or England or New York to San Francisco or anywhere else that had a telegraph station instantly. The Pullman Company published a weekly newspaper called the Transcontinental for its passengers.
On May 30, 1870, that's almost exactly one year after the golden spike, the paper had this item. It was a curing incident in our smoking car last evening when one of our party who had telegraphed to Boston to learn if his wife was well received, after we had run 47 miles further west, this answer. All well at home, which fact was announced and loud applause followed from all in the car. Just imagine that. It's almost like a telephone, but nobody ever did that before.
And now you could find out how your wife was when you're way the hell out past Salt Lake. Together, the Transcontinental Railroad and the telegraph made modern America possible. Things that could not be imagined before the Civil War now became common. A nationwide stock market, a continent-wide economy in which people, agricultural products, coal and minerals moved wherever someone wanted to send them and did so cheaply and quickly.
A continent-wide culture in which mail and popular magazines and books that used to cost dollars per ounce and had taken seemingly forever to get from the east to the west coast now cost pennies and got there in a few days. There's another factor here that I should mention, and that's time. The railroads changed so much, and one of the things that they changed was time. Before the railroads, nobody carried a watch around.
Nobody cared what time it was. And you want to know when it's high noon, you look up in the sky. And when the sun is straight overhead, it's high noon. Now, that's going to be different in Chicago than it is going to come later when you get out to Des Moines. And in Des Moines, it's going to come earlier than it's going to come in Omaha, and so on.
But if you're going to have—it's only one track, remember, that they laid. If you're going to have trains going in both directions, and you don't have the same time in Cheyenne as you do in Omaha, they're going to—and so that's where standard time came from. The railroads demanded standard time, and the Congress put in a standard time in 1879. And then we all suddenly became obsessed with time, as we still are. Time's up. Time's wasting.
The train is leaving the station, and so on. None of this might have happened if different choices had been made by any of the foregoing groups and individuals. But a choice made is made.
It cannot be changed. Things happen as they happen. It's possible to imagine all kinds of different routes across the continent, or a better way for the government to help private industry, or maybe to have the government build and own it. But those things didn't happen. And what did take place is grand. So we admire those who did it, for what they were and what they accomplished, and how much each of us owes them. And what storytelling. And thanks again to the Stephen Ambrose estate for allowing us to use his voice. We're deeply appreciative, as I'm sure you are, the listening audience. And by the way, nothing like it in the world. The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad is a terrific read, here on Our American Stories. What up?
It's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture, and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in.
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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-27 07:47:16 / 2022-12-27 08:04:04 / 17