150 years ago today, the eastern and western territories of the massive United States were finally linked by a golden spike that completed construction of the first transcontinental railroad. The last spike, made of gold, was driven in with a silver hammer at a ceremony in Promontory Summit, Utah. The coast-to-coast railroad connection which took seven years revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West. It all started when President Abraham Lincoln authorized the Central Pacific Railroad of California to build a line going east from Sacramento. At the same time, the Union Pacific Railroad would lay track headed west from the Missouri River. Each railroad was given up to $48,000 in government bonds for each mile completed—so they raced to build as many miles as they could… (1869)
Finally meeting up with the Union Pacific team, the Central Pacific crews had completed about 690 miles of track through some of the most difficult terrain ever encountered by a railroad—cutting through the thick granite of the Sierra Nevada Mountains—and completing the line from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco. Many of the train loads of construction materials were transported via ships sailing around Cape Horn at the far tip of South America.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Mother’s Day was observed for the first time in the United States, in Grafton, West Virginia (1908)
- The first Southern Sociological Congress ended after addressing social, civic and economic problems of 16 southern states, an example of government, social agencies and churches working together for social betterment (1912)
- The founder of Honey Baked Ham, Harry J. Hoenselaar, invented the spiral-slicer, a tool that allowed his company to pre-carve meats for customers (1949)
- Bill Haley & His Comets released “Rock Around the Clock”, the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the Billboard charts (1954)
- The Vietnam peace talks began in Paris between the U.S. & North Vietnam, following the success of anti-war presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy in primary elections, and President Lyndon Johnson then halting regional bombing operations in order to encourage peace negotiations (1968)
- Apollo 10 transmitted the first color photos of Earth from space (1969)
- Members of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army voted to accept the Good Friday Peace Accord, ending decades of bloodshed in Ireland (1998)
From his inaugural address: “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.” Whites and blacks filled the streets with jubilation, while a billion viewers watched on televisions around the world. (1994)
Happy 73rd Birthday to the Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist, known by the single name, Donovan. He recorded a string of hits such as “Catch the Wind”, “Sunshine Superman”, “Season of the Witch”, “Mellow Yellow”, “Atlantis”, and “Hurdy Gurdy Man”.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 and reminisced at the time about teaching Lennon and McCartney his distinct finger-picking acoustic guitar technique. He was studying Transcendental Meditation with the Beatles in India back in 1968, and recalls, “I used to play acoustic guitar all the time. In that nonstop playing, after we meditated, after we ate our health food, after we chased the monkeys off the table, we would play…and I taught them the styles which came from classical, New Orleans Blues, and Flamenco,” –and they wrote Blackbird, Dear Prudence, and more acoustic music for the White Album. WATCH a video in which he tells the story… (1946)