Trestle on Central Pacific Railroad
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Gift in memory of Leona Naef Merrill and in honor of her sister, Gladys Porterfield

Carleton E. Watkins
American, negative, 1868 - 1870; print, about 1880
Albumen print
8 1/16 x 12 3/8 in.

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Although the load-bearing construction of the trestle is a central part of this image, Carleton Watkins trimmed many inches off this picture's edges in an attempt to focus attention on the figures rather than the landscape.

More than a dozen Chinese laborers work at laying these tracks in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the Central Pacific Railroad, supervised by a Caucasian foreman in a white shirt and vest. In the mid-1800s, the railroads turned to Chinese and Irish laborers to perform the dangerous work of constructing bridges and lying track in rugged deserts and mountainous terrain. The Central Pacific Railroad recruited many of its Chinese laborers from farms in southern China.