In the Heart of Chinatown, San Francisco, U.S.A. Digital History ID 2599|
Credit: Library of Congress
Media type: photograph
Museum Number: LC-USZ62-70338
Annotation: The transcontinental railroad was built in six years almost entirely by hand. Thousands of workers, especially Chinese immigrants, played a part in the construction. Chinese laborers first went to work for the Central Pacific as it began crossing California's Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1865. At one point, 8,000 of the 10,000 men toiling for the Central Pacific were Chinese. At one point, Chinese workers were lowered in hand-woven reed baskets to drill blasting holes in the rock; hence the phrase: “To hell in a hand-basket.” They placed explosives in each hole, lit the fuses, and were, hopefully, pulled up before the powder was detonated. Explosions, freezing temperatures, and avalanches in the High Sierras killed hundreds. When Chinese workers struck for higher pay, a Central Pacific executive withheld their food supplies until they agreed to go back to work.
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