Centennial 1969

The visitor center at the Golden Spike National Monument (designated a National Historical Park in 2019) opened to the public just before the Golden Spike Centennial in 1969. Before the visitor center, which allowed for space for educational exhibits, park personnel, and restrooms, facilities were scarce at Promontory Summit. Not only was the Golden Spike Centennial the 100th anniversary of the wedding of the rails, but it was also the debut of the new park facilities.

John Volpe, United States Secretary of Transportation spoke at the Centennial celebrations, patriotically boasted "Who else but Americans could drill ten tunnels in mountains 30 feet deep in snow? Who else but Americans could chisel through miles of solid granite? Who else but Americans could have laid ten miles of track in 12 hours?" In actuality, it was the Chinese laborers, who were banned from becoming American citizens, who accomplished all these great feats on the Central Pacific line.  The Chinese laborers that were banned from becoming American citizens. In fact, Philip Choy, President of the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA), traveled to the centennial celebrations with a plaque to honor the Chinese laborers on the Central Pacific route and was promised a spot on national television to tell the story of the Chinese railway workers. At the last minute, however, the speaking time that was promised to the CHSA was cut. The plaque Choy brought is on display at the Golden Spike Historical National Park, but the insult of the centennial event is still felt within the Chinese community. In 50 years, the Golden Spike anniversary ceremonies would be much different. 

It was estimated that over 12,000 spectators came to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the "wedding of the rails." University of Utah history professor, Dr. David Eugene Miller not only organized the Golden Spike Symposium held at the University,  he edited a collection of essays in conjunction with the symposium, but was also present at the event.  The Golden Spike, includes 10 papers presented at the Golden Spike Symposium and is available at the Marriott Library. Miller's donated materials to Special Collections includes memorabilia from the event and a collection of color negatives documenting the Centennial events at Promontory Summit and Ogden. Also contributing to  Golden Spike Centennial memorabilia held at the University of Utah Special Collections is Ralph D. and Ruth Thomson.  Ralph D. Thomson was the Director of the J. Marriott Library and his wife Ruth was also a librarian in the Salt Lake County schools. Please see the Invitations and Programs page for digital copies of this material. 

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