Utahans are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Chinese people in California faced additional, racially targeted taxes in California during these years. Please view our Work of Giants: Chinese Railroad Worker Project page to find out more about our initiative to deepen the narrative and our understanding of the contributions of the Chinese railroad workers. Ninety-five percent of this population was male. Crocker cut off their pay and stopped supplies from reaching them, leaving them alone at the work site for one week. [5], On arrival in California, most of the migrants from China found work through family or social connections, or through district associations, the huiguan. Almost all of the immigrants from China arriving in California between 1850 and 1900 planned to return to their native country. The young Chinese men who came to California were likely to practice one of the primary Chinese religions: ancestor worship, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Leland … In 1882 the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prevented Chinese workers from entering the country. Collectively, Chinese railroad workers had no future. He voiced a colonialist anxiety about dispossession, a racial paranoia centering on fears of invasion and divestment. It stressed respect for elders and people of higher rank. Epidemics of infectious diseases often spread in the close quarters. (October 16, 2020). According to the Chinese Railroad Workers Project, Central Pacific started with a crew of 21 Chinese workers in January 1864. They are also honoring the hundreds and thousands of Chinese workers who actually completed the job. Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association. Photograph by Alfred A. Hart, between 1865-1869. The area north of San Francisco Bay was home to over 100,000 Indigenous people in 1846. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list. Yates had played a leadership role in the 1865 Colored Citizens’ convention. Late in May 1867, as the snow finally began melting between Cisco and the Truckee River, the Central Pacific directors prepared a full push on the summit. Discharge experienced Chinese workers, Crocker worried, and they would move into mining, putting the Central Pacific at a decided disadvantage during the short summer season. Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. The participation of Chinese merchants and labor contractors in breaking the strike clarifies their investments in the organization and management of labor on Central Pacific construction. [34] Recruiting and controlling labor seemed to be resolved. Instead, this social body acts on Chinese people in North America, and beyond. The Chinese lost the wars and were forced to open their ports to Europeans. 19, No. For more information on Chinese history and culture, seeVol. [28] Mark Hopkins to Collis Huntington, June 28, 1867, Huntington Papers; Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 569. The Central Pacific directors were inclined to reinvest in a racial division of labor. The eight-week journey from China to California was dangerous, and conditions aboard the ships were unhealthy and cramped. Chinese workers at one point may have constituted close to 90 percent of the Central Pacific workforce. But their work was so impressive that eventually 80% of all the workers were Chinese. Judge Crocker explained to Huntington. Contra Stanford, Kwong presented Chinese people not as alien invaders, but as constituents in the colonial pageant of California. Chugg, Robert. “When any commodity is in demand beyond the natural supply, even Chinese labor, the price will tend to increase.”[25]. In 1867 two thousand Chinese workers in the Sierra Nevadas walked off their jobs, going on strike for better pay and shorter working hours. "The Transcontinental Railroad," Linda Hall Library website. That October, the Committee on Industrial Pursuits at the 1865 California State Convention of Colored Citizens forwarded a resolution to send three representatives to present to Central Pacific directors “the expediency of employing from twenty to forty thousand freedmen on the Great Pacific Railroad” and to petition members of the California state legislature and congressional representatives for aid. Perl, Lila. "Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers There was almost no law and order in the camps, and some of the miners began to attack the Chinese. "The Chinese and the Transcontinental Railroad." 4 (2015): 1096. For the second, they could bluster and impress. Most were extremely loyal to their ancestors, villages, and families and were highly disciplined. In China at the time, all males were required to wear their hair in a long braid called a queue, in honor of Chinese tradition. For many Chinese the situation in their homeland was unbearable. Known in San Francisco as the Six Companies, district associations functioned as mutual-aid societies where new and indigent arrivals could find shelter and basic amenities, following organizational models among Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. At some point the two companies and the tracks they were laying would meet. Stanford urged the California government to request land and credit from the U.S. federal government, to support the construction of a transcontinental railroad, to remake California as a site of continental imperialism. Three-fourths of all Chinese immigrants in the United States in 1870 lived in California, with a large number concentrated in San Francisco. The success of their labor would ensure the obsolescence of their lives. Merchants developed business around arrivals to California and departures to China, situated strategically between Chinatown communities and major corporations. Chinese Workers and the Transcontinental Railroad – Boom California. The previous summer, construction managers had difficulty keeping workers at the grueling hard rock tunnel work. Few records remained of the individual men who accomplished this overwhelming task through courage and discipline, and there were no known first-person accounts, such as memoirs or letters, left by the railroad workers. Five weeks after Stanford gave his speech, the U.S. Congress approved “An Act to prohibit the ‘Coolie Trade’ by American Citizens in American Vessels.” The act prohibited U.S. citizens and residents from transporting “the inhabitants, or subjects of China known as ‘coolies,’” defined as individuals “disposed of, or sold, or transferred, for any term of years or for any time whatever, as servants or apprentices, or to be held to service or labor.” U.S. law associated coolie status with indenture, a status marked in time, distinct from slavery. After completion of the railroad, Chinese exclusion formalized racial violence and labor control on a continental scale, evacuating models of relationship governing the movement of people across Indigenous lands and waters. It is our only security for strikes. [33] E. B. Crocker to Collis Huntington, July 6, 1867, Huntington Papers. © 2019 Encyclopedia.com | All rights reserved. Chinese railroad workers in North America Project. Their presence is regarded as a social danger”: Hobson, Imperialism, 276. American Experience: PBS. [21] E. B. Crocker to Collis Huntington, February 15, 1867, Huntington Papers. The judge calculated, “Each white man costs us in board and wages $2 1/2 each 8 hours, but Chinamen cost us $1.19 each 8 hours, and they drill nearly as fast.” Chinese railroad labor was a quantity measuring time in relation to price, and the price was lower than that of white labor. The Irish were the first group to be hired in great numbers for work on the transcontinental railroad. Over the same period of time China had experienced major floods and droughts (shortages of rain), and its farms were unable to feed the rapidly growing population. One firm, Sisson, Wallace & Co., eventually “furnished pretty much all of the Chinamen that we worked.”[9] Clark Crocker, brother of Charles and E.D., was the “& Co.” in question. About half of the early Chinese sojourners returned to China. 3; Hobson wrote of Chinese workers, who were “introduced into the Transvaal as mere economic machines, not as colonists to aid the industrial and social development of a new country. Development of the Industrial U.S. Reference Library. Hopkins expressed hope in a Central Pacific “application for 5000 Freedmen from the Freedmen’s Bureau.” It was a lesson in political economy. In his 1851 inaugural speech as the first U.S. civil governor of California, Peter Burnett had called for a “war of extermination” against Indigenous peoples in California. 3 (1979): 228. For thousands of years, under a series of long-term ruling families, the Chinese developed a highly advanced culture in which the arts, philosophy, science, commerce, and the military flourished. The Daily Union printed a more detailed account of the strike action and demands, clarifying the demand for eight hours from those working the tunnels, and ten hours from those on open ground. BOOM California is a publication of the University of California Press. As soon as word of the California gold rush reached China, thousands of young men set off for the United States. The workweek was exhausting, consisting of six twelve-hour days. The Chinese workers on the railroad lived separately from the other laborers. Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers But China laborers are coming in slowly so that Charley thinks the force will steadily increase from this time on.”[11] A report from the Sacramento Daily Union a little over a year later, in June 1866, provides a sense of the rapid increase Chinese labor as Central Pacific construction proceeded. The Central Pacific Railroad transformed California from an overseas possession to a continental possession of the United States. The U.S. military government in San Francisco had already begun enforcing compulsory Indigenous labor in 1847. A. W. Loomis, “The Chinese Six Companies,” Overland Monthly 1, no. Chinese workers were finding work in quartz mills, building roads and canals, and many were going to Idaho and Montana, looking for work. They do not accomplish so much in a given time as Irish laborers, but they are willing to work more hours per day, and are content with their lot so long as they are promptly paid. 5; Kornel Chang, Pacific Connections: The Making of the U. S.-Canadian Borderlands (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 12; Stacey L. Smith, Freedom’s Frontier: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 23–24; Hurtado, “California’s Indian Labor Force,” 219, 220, 222; Kwee Hui Kian, “Chinese Economic Dominance in Southeast Asia: A Longue Duree Perspective,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 55, no. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2004. But they also struck for an end to physical punishment, and for the right to leave employment when they wanted to. [32] Sacramento Daily Union, July 2, 1867. Some families in the Kuangtung Province, where the capital city and port of Canton was located, began to prepare their sons to travel to other lands to find work. [22] E. B. Crocker to Collis Huntington, February 17, 1867, Huntington Papers. Library of Congress. These are not the hallmarks of free labor. . Some Chinese miners pooled their funds and bought claims that other miners had abandoned, and they were often able to find gold where others had not. These workers gained the respect of many who worked with them, but strong anti-Asian sentiments in the United States, due mainly to uninformed opinions, kept most of the Chinese on the outskirts of American society. The Sacramento Daily Union printed a telegram attributed to Huntington, dated June 28, stating, “There will be no trouble in getting all the laborers you want. The railroad workers blasted and scraped their way through the Sierra Mountains at great risk to their lives. 4 (Winter 1997): 520–46 at 540; Richard Steven Street, Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769–1913 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), chaps. Chinese labor was an instrument, not a subject, of colonialism. More than forty feet of snow fell as the Central Pacific crew worked. 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