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Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (1852-1922) gave America a taste of the West with woodcuts depicting railroads. In the foreground of this image are Chinese laborers (Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)

This project is co-sponsored by the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

The Transcontinental Railroad was a landmark accomplishment that linked the East Coast to the West. However, the laborers who made this impressive undertaking possible are often forgotten and still not fully understood. The Bill Lane Center for the American West is a cosponsor of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, which endeavors to uncover the stories of thousands of Chinese migrants who worked to complete the railroad between 1865 and 1869.

The story of the railroad is also a part of Stanford’s story. Leland Stanford employed many Chinese migrants on campus. This effort requires extensive research and cooperation between multiple entities. While a massive amount of information has already been gathered, the project continues to move toward the long term goals of publishing books and creating a major digital archive about the Chinese railroad workers.

Center Researchers