Five Stanford undergraduates are working on the Chinese Railroad Workers Project this summer from late June through mid-August. In addition to implementing a new software platform and building our annotated bibliography, these students have been researching Southern Pacific Railroad records in Special Collections at Stanford, indexing our Oral Histories, and analyzing the Central Pacific Railroad payroll records, among other projects. On July 23, 2014, the group toured the Leland Stanford Mansion in downtown Sacramento, and then spent the afternoon exploring the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. In addition to being a fun day away from campus, the field trip to Sacramento was an opportunity for these students to more fully connect their research experience with the actual locations, buildings and streets where the Central Pacific Railroad began.
Summer Research Assistants took a day-long field trip to Sacramento, California with Project researcher Teri Hessel. Pictured (from left-to-right) are Teri Hessel, Debra Pacio, Maria Greer, Niuniu Teo, Hye Jeong Yoon, and Brianna Brown.
Chinese Railroad Workers Project co-directors Gordon Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin met with a delegation from Jinan University (Cao Yunhua and Chen Jianrong) to sign a cooperative research agreement.
The Committee of 100, an organization of prominent Chinese Americans dedicated to advancing understanding between the United States and Asia held its annual conference in San Francisco on April 25, 2014. The group honored Stanford University with its Common Ground Award for the Advancement in U.S.-China Relations, noting Stanford’s Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project as well as the university’s scientific and academic exchanges over the years. Stanford President John Hennessy received the award, and the Project’s co-directors Professors Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin were introduced to the audience. A short video describing the project was also viewed.
Read the Stanford News article here
In late March 2014, four Stanford members of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project—Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Jason Heppler, Teri Hessel and Denise Khor—traveled to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento to digitize every extant Central Pacific Railroad Payroll Sheet that contained the names of Chinese workers. All of these payroll records will eventually be accessible to the public in the Project’s Digital Archive.
Teri Hessel, Jason Heppler, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, and Denise Khor at the Central Pacific Railroad Depot in Sacramento, near the California State Railroad Museum.
We are enormously grateful to Cara Randall, Librarian of the California State Railroad Museum and her staff for making our visit—and our access to these documents—possible. We were excited about the chance to collaborate with the California State Railroad Museum on this important venture.
Armed with a Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera, extra batteries, a tripod and a set of halogen camera lights, we were ready for action when the Museum opened on the morning of March 24th—or so we thought.
The payroll records turned out to be so large that to capture one sheet in its entirety, the tripod had to be mounted on the table—where it cast shadows on the document that made the already-faint writing nearly illegible.
Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Jason Heppler, Denise Khor and Teri Hessel trying to capture a payroll record sheet with the equipment that they brought.
What we needed, Cara Randall realized, was something none of us had ever used before: a copy stand, a device designed precisely for the kind of challenge that faced us. But the Library didn’t have one. We began to look into renting one locally—to no avail.
At that moment, Kyle Wyatt, Curator of History and Technology at the Railroad Museum happened by and saw our long faces. He remembered that in the 1990s he had bought a copy stand. It was still in his garage. In boxes – never unpacked. In an act of wonderful generosity, Kyle drove home, loaded the pieces of the copy stand into his car, and drove back to the museum with it, where he painstakingly put it together. (He took the opportunity to donate the copy stand to the California State Railroad Museum Library, so the institution will have one available in the future—for its own use as well as for use by
Kyle Wyatt arriving at the museum with the copy stand in boxes, assembling it as Cara Randall looks on, and beaming over his work when it was finished.
The Project owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Kyle Wyatt for going far beyond the call of duty to ensure that our trip accomplished its end and to Cara Randall for all she did to set our collaboration in motion and make it all possible.
Jason Heppler and Denise Khor digitizing one of the payroll records with the copy stand Kyle Wyatt assembled.
Organized by Stanford Professor Barbara Voss, archeologists who have studied Chinese sites along the Central Pacific Railroad’s construction gathered at Stanford University, CA to discuss their research.
The program for the Archeology Workshop is available here:
Abstracts of the papers given at the Archeology Workshop are also available (in English and simplified Chinese):
Organized by Professor Pin-chia Feng (National Chiao Tung University and Academia Sinica), scholars working on the Project in the United States and Asia gathered to share their research at the Institute of European and American Studies, Academia Sinica, in Taipei, Taiwan.
The Taipei Workshop program is available here:
In Summer 2013, the CRRW research team went to the California State Railroad Museum to meet with archivists and librarians. Over two hundred payroll records from the Central Pacific Railroad company have been located and will become a part of the Digital Archive. They toured the historical downtown Sacramento and visited the original railroad depot.
From left to right: Hilton Obenzinger, Sarah Sadlier, Denise Khor, Natasha Avery, Monica Masiello, Kristen Lee, Emilia Schrier, and Gordon Chang.
The Project’s web site officially launched – on the 144th anniversary of the Golden Spike ceremony that joined the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.
May 10, 2013: “A Conversation on David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and the Railroad and the History of Chinese Railroad Workers” was held at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, Zhejiang (close to Shanghai). Playwright David Henry Hwang was joined by Professor Wen Jin (Fudan University) and Professor Shi Ke (Chinese Academy of Fine Arts). Professor Jin described the Project and invited descendants of Central Pacific railroad workers in China to contact her for the Project. The discussion focused on how the history of the Chinese railroad workers inspired Hwang’s play.
A delegation from Guangdong universities and the provincial government visited Stanford, and Yuan Ding, Sun Yat-sen University, signed an agreement of cooperation between the Project and the Guangdong Overseas Chinese History Program. Guangdong delegation included:
- Professor Zhang Guoxiong (张国雄): 五邑大学副校长（ Vice-Chancellor of Wu Yi University),
- Professor Zhang Yinglong(张应龙): 暨南大学华人华侨研究院副院长（Associate Dean of Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies in Jinan University),
- Professor Yuan Ding(袁丁): 中山大学历史系教授（Professor of Department of History in Sun Yat-sen University),
- Professor Zhu Weibin(朱卫斌) : 中山大学历史系教授（ Professor of Department of History in Sun Yat-sen University),
- Zhu Jiang (朱江): 广东省侨务办公室处长（ Director of a Department in Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Guangdong Province),
- Cui Dong (崔东): 广东省侨务办公室干部（Chief of a section in Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Guangdong Province.)
Photographs Courtesy of Chris Suh. Rights Reserved. Please contact the Chinese Railroad Workers Project for reproduction rights.
Profs. Gordon Chang, Shelley Fisher Fishkin and Yuan Ding signing agreement
Delegation of academics and provincial officials with Gordon Chang, Shelley Fisher Fishkin and Hilton Obenzinger after cooperation agreement signing.
Prof. Barbara Voss and Guangdong delegation examining artifacts of Chinese workers at archaeology seminar
Dongfang Shao and Qiu Qi visited the Guangdong Overseas Research Center, Wuyi University, Jiangmen Museum and Jiangmen Wuyi Museum of Overseas Chinese, and Sun Yat-sen University Libraries, School of Asian and Pacific Studies of Sun Yat-sen University on research collaboration. Prof. Zhang Quoxiong, vice-president of WuYi University, signed an Intention of Collaboration with Stanford University.
Meeting with Zhang Guoxiong, vice president of Wuyi University
Vice President Zhang Guoxiong signed research collaboration agreement with Stanford
Director Cheng Huanwen of Sun Yet-sen University Library gave welcome remarks on campus
Group photo in front of the Overseas Chinese Research Center at Wuyi University with Deputy Director Liu Jin, Dongfang Shao, Prof. Zhang, Qi Qiu, and Selia Tan
Meeting with Ms. Wang Dongqing, director of Wuyi City Overseas Chinese Museum
One of original documents on Chinese labors
The Project receives a letter from Yang Dongquan, Director General, State Archives Administration of China, in support of the Project, forwarding communications to Guangdong Provincial Archives of China to “assist your project energetically.”