IT WAS 1970 when history professor Gordon Chang, then a new graduate student fresh out of Princeton, walked into Green Library to pore through Leland Stanford’s papers for the first time. Forty-five years later, he is still looking for what he went there that day to find: accounts that would describe the lives of Chinese workers instrumental in the building of the transcontinental railroad.
Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project
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.