THE TWO GREAT AMERICAN MYTHOLOGIES | Mythic America: Essays
Charles Dickens, author of A Tale of Two Cities, creatively foreshadows future events using suspenseful topics: A forbidden declaration of love, a tragically beautiful sunset streaked with crimson, echoing footsteps of a past that will not be forgotten, and wine stained streets soon to be smeared with blood....
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In 1859, Judah received a letter from Daniel Strong, a storekeeper in Dutch Flat, California, offering to show Judah the best route along the old emigrant road through the mountains near Donner Pass. The route had a gradual rise and required the line to cross the summit of only one mountain rather than two. Judah agreed and he and Strong drew up letters of incorporation for the Central Pacific Railroad Company. They began seeking investors and Judah was able to convince Sacramento businessmen that a railroad would bring much needed trade to the area. Several men decided to back him, including hardware wholesaler and his partner, ; dry goods merchant, ; and wholesale grocer, soon to be governor, . These backers would later come to be known as the "Big Four."
On April 9, 1869, Congress established the meeting point in an area known as Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake. Less than one month later, on May 10, 1869, locomotives from the two railroads met nose-to-nose to signal the joining of the two lines. At 12:57 p.m. local time, as railroad dignitaries hammered in ceremonial golden spikes, telegraphers announced the completion of the Pacific Railway. Canons boomed in San Francisco and Washington. Bells rang and fire whistles shrieked as people celebrated across the country. The nation was indeed united. Manifest Destiny was a reality. The six-month trip to California had been reduced to two weeks. And within only a few years, the transcontinental railroad turned the frontier wilderness of the western territories into regions populated by European-Americans, enabling business and commerce to proliferate and effectively ending the traditional Native American way of life.
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Within three years, 80 percent of the Central Pacific workforce was made up of Chinese workers, and they proved to be essential to the task of laying the line through the Sierra Nevadas. Once believed to be too frail to perform arduous manual labor, the Chinese workers accomplished amazing and dangerous feats no other workers would or could do. They blasted tunnels through the solid granite -- sometimes progressing only a foot a day. They often lived in the tunnels as they worked their way through the solid granite, saving precious time and energy from entering and exiting the worksite each day. They were routinely lowered down sheer cliff faces in makeshift baskets on ropes where they drilled holes, filled them with explosives, lit the fuse and then were yanked up as fast as possible to avoid the blast.
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Note that unlike ceremonial specimens, none of the fighting weapons exceeded 4 pounds and the heaviest ceremonial was less than 11. The catlog of the famous arsenal in Graz, Austria, contains similar weights for its two-handed great sword specimens.
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After reading “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker and “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan I realized that the two stories had the same subject matter: mother and daughter relationships.
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Finding workers was a more difficult task for the Central Pacific. Laborers, mainly Irish immigrants, were hired in New York and Boston and shipped out west at great expense. But many of them abandoned railroad work, lured by the Nevada silver mines. In desperation, Crocker tried to hire newly freed African Americans, immigrants from Mexico, and even petitioned Congress to send 5,000 Confederate Civil War prisoners, but to no avail. Frustrated at the lack of manpower necessary to support the railroad, Crocker suggested to his work boss, , that they hire Chinese laborers. Although Strobridge was initially against the idea, feeling that the Chinese were too slight in stature for the demanding job, he agreed to hire 50 men on a trial basis. After only one month, Strobridge grudgingly admitted that the Chinese were conscientious, sober, and hard workers.