The Golden Spike

The 1st Transcontinental Railroad is finished at last!
The 1st Transcontinental Railroad is finished at last!

Historical Context

In the middle of this famous photo by A.J. Russell, Samuel S. Montague of the Central Pacific Rail Road (CPRR) shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge of the Union Pacific (UP).

The driving of the golden spike realized the achievement of a decades held dream for most Americans, the completion of a transcontinental railroad. The railroad tied the United States together east and west.

The last spike really was golden, as it was made out of 17.6-karat copper-alloyed gold and weighed 14.03 troy ounces (436 g). It was a gift of San Francisco financier David Hewes and can still be viewed at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University.

The ceremony marked the end of the incredible government sanctioned race between the CPRR and the UP. The CPRR starting from Sacramento and working east through the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Utah. Conversely, the UP started from Omaha and laid its track east across the Nebraska plains and Wyoming. Both companies laid track at a furious pace and as quickly as possible, in order to access government loans and land grants.

By dramatically reducing travel time and the ease of shipping goods between the east and west coasts the transcontinental railroad ushered in a new era in America and led to both increased settlement and economic growth in the western states.

Photo Info


Photographer: Andrew J. Russell
Date taken: May 10, 1869
Location taken: Promontory Summit, Utah, USA

Related Events

  • 1869-05-10 Golden Spike driven, completing the 1st US Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah and connecting the Central Pacific Railroad with the Union Pacific

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