Assignment 4: Chinese Railroad Workers in the United States

Jacquie Burkhardt

chinese railroad

The Industrial Revolution paved the way for increased transportation particularly with railroads. In the 1850’s-1880’s the number of railroads in the western half of the United States grew exponentially. The most common people to work on these railroads were Chinese immigrants. These immigrants were often men coming to seek riches from America. They were willing to work for small wages and often were not responsible for providing for families. This caused hatred among other workers because they often lost their jobs to the lower paid Chinese workers. Anti-Chinese sentiments encouraged Congress to create the first immigrant exclusion law toward the Chinese. Before these laws however the railroad work caused a large increase of Chinese male immigrants to the United States.

The creation of these railroads caused a lot of social change within the society. In towns where it was rare to see anyone of Asian descent suddenly there would be a whole section of town devoted to Chinese customs, often called “China Town”. The railroad itself brought increased numbers of people to work the railroad and to reap the advantages of the easy transportation of goods and services. Western towns had to change in order accommodate the vast growth of the people and the changes in the town demographics. Often sentiments toward the Chinese were negative causing many people to request exclusion laws and furthering the divide between the Chinese and the other people of western America.

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