Photo from the Golden Spike Ceremony at Promontory Summit, May 10, 1869
On May 10, 1869, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads were connected at Promontory Summit in Utah Territory, completing the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.
The Central Pacific Railroad had started building east from Sacramento, California, in 1863, while the Union Pacific Railroad had started building west from Omaha, Nebraska Territory, in 1865. It was decided that the two tracks would meet at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.
The ceremony for the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was scheduled to occur on May 8. However, the train representing the Union Pacific Railroad was delayed in Wyoming due to a labor dispute with railroad workers. So the ceremony was rescheduled for May 10.
Golden Spike Ceremony
On that day, the Central Pacific’s Jupiter engine and the Union Pacific No. 119 met at Promontory Summit. Railroad representatives, dignitaries, railroad workers, soldiers, and members of the public all gathered for the ceremony. Commemorative spikes, including the famous golden spike, were presented, and various officials gave speeches, including Leland Stanford (president of the Central Pacific Railroad) and Grenville Dodge (chief engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad).
A ceremonial railroad crosstie made of laurel was then laid, and representatives for the two railroads used a silver-plated hammer to drive the golden spike. The special tie and spike were for ceremonial purposes only and were immediately replaced with ordinary ones.
A telegraph line captured the vibrations of the driving of the last spike so the nation could “hear” the railroad’s completion. The message “Done” was likewise sent out by telegraph.
Finishing the Transcontinental Railroad was important because it meant that people and goods could travel much more quickly across the country. The two halves of the nation were now connected in a way that had never been possible before.
Learn more about the Golden Spike Ceremony through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Articles and Clippings about the Golden Spike Ceremony
Excitement grows as last spike ceremony nears; Stanford's original Central Pacific train is damaged Fri, May 7, 1869 – 2 · Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah) · Newspapers.comRailroads not joined on May 8, 1869, as planned due to Union Pacific labor dispute Mon, May 10, 1869 – 2 · Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah) · Newspapers.comCompletion of the railroads draws near; Chinese laborers set record of 10 miles of track in one day Wed, May 12, 1869 – 12 · Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah) · Newspapers.comNewspaper reports on plan to have telegraph capture the driving of the "last spike" Wed, May 12, 1869 – 11 · Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah) · Newspapers.comUtah newspaper reports on the last spike (Golden Spike) ceremony of the Transcontinental Railroad Wed, May 19, 1869 – 1 · Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah) · Newspapers.comAccount of the presentation of the Nevada and Arizona spikes during ceremony at Promontory Summit Thu, May 20, 1869 – Page 2 · The Cambria Freeman (Ebensburg, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com1869 newspaper account of celebrations in Utah commemorating the driving of the golden spike Wed, May 12, 1869 – 7 · Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah) · Newspapers.comReaction in New York City to news of the completion of the Transcontinental Railway Tue, May 11, 1869 – Page 6 · The New York Herald (New York, New York) · Newspapers.comNewspaper article about celebrations in Chicago after golden spike is driven Wed, May 12, 1869 – 3 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.comGovernment officials in Washington DC gather to receive news via telegraph of driving of last spike Sat, May 15, 1869 – 4 · Vermont Journal (Windsor, Vermont) · Newspapers.comOp-ed excerpt: Transcontinental Railroad "has demonstrated no new thing" Fri, May 14, 1869 – 2 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.comDescription of the laurel tie and golden spike used in the ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah Sat, May 22, 1869 – Page 2 · The Weekly Arizona Miner (Prescott, Arizona) · Newspapers.comHammer that drove the golden spike of the Transcontinental Railroad will be displayed around the US Wed, Jun 2, 1869 – 1 · Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah) · Newspapers.comBritish newspaper offers congratulations on the completion of Transcontinental Railroad Mon, May 24, 1869 – 5 · Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, West Midlands, England) · Newspapers.comBritish newspaper carries news that the building of the Transcontinental Railroad is finished Sat, May 29, 1869 – 7 · Leicester Chronicle or Commercial and Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, Leicestershire, England) · Newspapers.com