Tuesday, May 10, 2005

On 10-May-1869, the first USA transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory UT. Four precious metal spikes were used in the ceremony: two golden (one commissioned by Leland Stanford, the governor of CA, the other by the San Francisco News Letter), one silver (from the governor of NV), and one of an alloy of gold, silver, and iron (from the governor of AZ). But the real final spike was an ordinary iron one, which was rigged to automatically send a telegram as it was driven in, letting the world know that the railroad was complete. Except that it didn't work, and the telegram was sent by hand.

The silver spike and Stanford's golden one, as well as the silver hammer with which they were driven, may be in the Stanford museum. The gold-silver-iron spike has disappeared. But the second golden spike was probably returned to the News Letter offices, where it remained until 18-Apr-1906, when it was taken by a chrononaut, just before the building was destroyed in the earthquake and subsequent fire.

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