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The Golden Spike is Driven

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The Golden Spike is Driven

The Transcontinental Railroad Is Finished

National Archives

The final spike for the transcontinental railroad was driven on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah. A ceremonial golden spike was tapped into a hole which had been drilled to receive it, and photographer Andrew J. Russell recorded the scene.

As the Union Pacific tracks had stretched westward, the tracks of the Central Pacific headed east from California. When the tracks were finally connected the news went out by telegraph and the entire nation celebrated. Cannon were fired in San Francisco and all the fire bells in the city were rung. There were similar noisy celebrations in Washington, DC, New York City, and other cities, towns and villages across America.

A dispatch in the New York Times two days later reported that a shipment of tea from Japan was going to be shipped from San Francisco to St. Louis.

With steam locomotives able to roll from ocean to ocean, the world suddenly seemed to be getting smaller.

Incidentally, the original news reports stated that the golden spike had been driven at Promontory Point, Utah, which is about 35 miles from Promontory Summit. According to the National Park Service, which administers a National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, confusion about the location has persisted to the present day. Everything from westerns to college textbooks have identified Promontory Point as the site of the driving of the golden spike.

In 1919, a 50th anniversary celebration was planned for Promontory Point, but when it was determined that the original ceremony had actually taken place at Promontory Summit, a compromise was reached. The ceremony was held in Ogden, Utah.

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