Today, during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) reintroduced a resolution that urges the United States Postal Service to issue a commemorative postage stamp in honor of the Chinese railroad workers who helped build America’s first Transcontinental Railroad from 1865 to 1869. This week marks the 148th anniversary of the railroad’s completion.
Approximately 12,000 Chinese immigrant laborers worked under extremely dangerous and challenging conditions to help construct the railroad – which connected the U.S. from the east coast to the west coast – by laying tracks, breaking through granite and planting explosives that blasted through mountains. The workers are credited with playing an integral role in the growth of America, and being a key part of U.S. history.
“The story of the Chinese railroad workers and the tremendous contributions they made to the growth and prosperity of our country must be told,” said Meng. “They deserve the recognition they earned, and a commemorative postage stamp would be a very appropriate tribute to this important part of American history. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.”
“I am proud to be a lead sponsor of legislation honoring the thousands of Chinese immigrants who made tremendous sacrifices to link California with the rest of the United States by building the Transcontinental Railroad,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA). “Even in the face of bitter discrimination, the nearly 12,000 Chinese immigrants who worked on the project were indispensable to its successful completion. They and their descendants have left our country with an enduring legacy that has contributed to our vibrant Asian American community.”
Meng’s measure also calls on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend to the Postmaster General that a stamp honoring the Chinese railroad workers be issued. Her resolution is expected to be referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The 12,000 Chinese railroad workers who helped build the railroad comprised more than 80 percent of the workforce. Nearly 1,200 of the workers died from the harsh winters and brutal working conditions. They were also paid lower wages than other workers.
The Transcontinental Railroad has long been considered one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the 19th century.
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