May 10, 1869
Promontory Summit, Utah
May 11, 2008
Yesterday, Saturday May 10th, marked the 139 year anniversary of a great event. One would have a difficult time finding it on any modern day calendar, but at the time this event dramatically changed the lives of everyone living in this country. On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit in Utah (out in the middle of an absolutely desolate nowhere), the tracks of Union Pacific Railroad were finally joined up with those of Central Pacific Railroad. Armies of men had struggled for years to complete this great work, the likes of which had never been seen before. With the driving of the last ‘golden’ spike, America took a giant leap forward, and was changed forever. It was the very beginning of these United States truly re-uniting, (fresh from its Civil War), and looking upon itself as a whole continent, from seashore to seashore. For more than a century prior to the completed transcontinental railroad, traveling across the continent had taken months, sometimes even years. Now it was six a day trip between New York and San Francisco.
One hundred forty years ago, four shopkeepers in Sacramento, California, rose to become the force behind the transcontinental railroad, achieving along the way wealth beyond measure. To build influence and maintain power, they lied, bribed, and, when necessary, arranged for obstacles, both human and legal, to disappear. Their names were Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, and they were known as the “Big Four” or “The Associates”. Their drive for money—nothing more, nothing less—was epic. Their legacy is a university, public gardens, museum, mansions, banks, and libraries—and to a large degree, California itself, where”the Gold Rush is still on, is always on, in one form or another.” Excerpted from the dust-jacket of The Associates by Richard Rayner
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