Transcontinental Railroad Sesquicentennial
Value: 55¢ 1-ounce First-Class Letter Rate (Forever)
Issue Date: May 10, 2019
First Day City: Promontory Summit, Utah
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Format: Pane of 18
Constructing the Transcontinental Railroad is considered one of the greatest achievements in 19th-century America. On May 10, 1869, its completion was marked by the “Golden Spike Ceremony,” when Central Pacific and Union Pacific rail lines were joined together at Promontory Summit in Utah.
California Governor Leland Stanford had the honor of driving the final golden spike. The hammers and spike used in the ceremony were wired to the telegraph line so that each strike could be heard as a telegraph “click” across the nation (though the hammer didn’t register). The ceremonial golden spike was then removed and replaced with an ordinary iron spike and a telegraph was sent out simply stating, “DONE.” Celebrations immediately broke out at telegraph stations around the country. The 1,776-mile transcontinental railroad was complete. The journey that once took six months or more was now down to just one week.
This historic achievement marked the first time a railroad had spanned an entire continent. The transcontinental railroad did a great deal to speed the settlement and industrial growth of the U.S. By the end of the 1800s, the U.S. had five transcontinental rail lines. The “Pacific Railroad,” as it was first called, opened the west to trade, travel, and settlement. It marked the end of dangerous stagecoach and wagon journeys.