A Great and Shining Road

John Hoyt Williams, Author Crown Publishers $22.5 (341p) ISBN 978-0-8129-1668-3
In this workmanlike, panoramic account of the construction of the transcontinental railroad and tribute to those who built it across 2000 miles of near impassable mountains and deserts inhabited by hostile Indians, Indiana State University history professor Williams points out not only the railway's importance in linking the East and West coasts, but in opening up unsettled territories and providing easier access to the Far East. The author traces the roadway's history from the 1832 proposal to Congress by visionary Hartwell Carver to its completion on May 10, 1869, seven years after Lincoln signed the act authorizing its construction. He sketches engineers, promoters and investors involved, whose success was at the cost of an appalling number of human lives, notably the railway laborersChinese immigrants, freed slaves and military veterans who worked under harsh and perilous conditions. Work advanced despite the Civil War, bitter sectionalism and rivalry between the Central Pacific and Union Pacific companies, along with uncertain financing by government and corporate bonds. Bribes and profiteering were rife although congressional investigations were inconclusive, especially those involving politicians. (April)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1988
Release date: 03/01/1988
Paperback - 16 pages - 978-0-8129-1832-8
Paperback - 349 pages - 978-0-8032-9789-0
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