Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
YouTube icon
RSS icon

Congresswoman Grace Meng

Representing the 6th District of New York

Meng Calls for Commemorative Postage Stamp In Honor of the Approximately 12,000 Chinese Immigrant Laborers Who Helped Build America’s Transcontinental Railroad

Feb 13, 2019
Press Release
This May will mark the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion; Congresswoman, joined by 34 other members of Congress including seven senators, sends letter to Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), joined by 34 other members of Congress including seven senators, sent a letter to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend the issuance of a commemorative postage stamp honoring the Chinese immigrant laborers who helped build America’s first Transcontinental Railroad from 1865-1869. Meng sent the letter for the upcoming 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion which will be on May 10, 2019.
 
The Transcontinental Railroad, which connected the nation from coast-to-coast, has long been considered one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the 19th century. Nearly 12,000 Chinese immigrants worked in the construction of the railroad, comprising more than 80% of the workforce of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, and nearly 1,200 of them died from work-related accidents when tasked with the most difficult and dangerous assignments.
 
“Almost 150 years ago, thousands of Chinese railroad workers, through their sweat, blood, and labor, made enormous contributions to our country by bridging together the east and west coasts of our nation,” said Meng. “It is important for us to commemorate their efforts, and recognize their stories, so that their role in America’s history is not forgotten. These workers endured both the arduous physical labor of constructing a railroad and the emotional trauma of being discriminated. I am thankful for all they did to help the United States grow and prosper and for the important mark they left in the Asian American community. It’s time to award them with this long overdue recognition.”    
 
Meng has been working toward the creation of a stamp for the 150th anniversary since 2014. The Congresswoman sent a letter to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee and U.S. Postmaster General in 2016 and further discussed the idea with officials from the United States Postal Service. She also reintroduced a resolution in the last Congress that called for the stamp to be issued.
 
In addition to her current letter to the Stamp Advisory Committee, Meng has requested a meeting on the issue with Postmaster General Megan Brennan, and the Congresswoman will soon introduce a resolution to recognize and honor the Chinese railroad workers.   
 
The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee recommends and evaluates stamp proposals on behalf of the Postmaster General, the chief executive officer of the Postal Service.
 
A copy of Meng’s correspondence can be viewed here and the text of her letter is below.
 
-------------------------------------------------
 
Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Department
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260-3501
 
Dear Members of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee:
 
We write to recommend the issuance of a commemorative stamp to honor the Chinese railroad workers for the upcoming 150th Anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 2019. Many of us have previously requested this stamp.

One hundred fifty years ago, the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad joined their tracks together at Promontory Summit, Utah to officially complete the First Transcontinental Railroad. This notable accomplishment transformed the way Americans traveled and how goods were distributed. Before the railroad, it was prohibitively expensive and took almost six months to travel between New York and California. However, the First Transcontinental Railroad drastically reduced both cost and time—changing American norms, lifestyles, and our economy.
 
Connecting the East and West Coasts of the United States would not have been feasible without the vital role that Chinese immigrant workers played. Over 12,000 Chinese laborers were employed in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad and over 80 percent of the workforce of the Central Pacific Railroad Company was Chinese immigrant workers. Chinese immigrants were entrusted with the most difficult and dangerous jobs—nearly 1,200 Chinese workers died from work-related accidents—while being paid lower wages than other workers. Despite their extensive contributions, most, if not all, of their names were not recorded and have been forgotten. It is time for these brave workers to receive the national recognition they deserve.    
 
Congress designated Promontory Summit as a National Historic Site in 1957. There are approximately 60,000 visitors each year and the park performs the reenactment of the driving of the Last Spike, the final rail spike driven to connect the two railroads, every summer.
 
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor honored the Chinese railroad workers by inducting them into their Hall of Honor for the 145th Anniversary of the railroad’s completion. Former Labor Department Deputy Secretary Chris Lu stated that there is a special place of honor for those who do things first, and therefore, “for the community of 18 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in this country, the Chinese railroad workers are part of our first.” These early laborers are significant to the Asian American community for their pioneering work at a time of constant racism and discrimination that eventually opened doors for future generations.
 
There is community support among Asian Americans nationwide for a commemorative stamp as illustrated by a petition started by the US-Asia Institute that accumulated over 7,000 supporters. Above all, many Chinese Americans have expressed the emotional importance of having these forgotten workers receive this public recognition. Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. Accordingly, it is critical to recognize the significance of the Chinese railroad workers and share their stories by embedding them into a part of our daily life.
 
As we approach the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, we believe there is no better way to honor the rich benefits the railroad brought to our nation and bring light to the Chinese railroad workers’ significant contributions to the railroad’s completion than a commemorative stamp. Again, we have previously requested this stamp and are aware of how crucial this 150th year is based on your stamp selection criteria.
 
We ask the Committee to approve our recommendation. Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
Sincerely,
 
Grace Meng                                                                    Maria Cantwell
Member of Congress                                                      United States Senator
 
Catherine Cortez Masto                                                  Tammy Duckworth
United States Senator                                                     United States Senator
 
Kamala D. Harris                                                            Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator                                                     United States Senator
 
Jacky Rosen                                                                   Brian Schatz          
United States Senator                                                     United States Senator
 
Judy Chu                                                                        Yvette D. Clarke    
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
TJ Cox                                                                            Adriano Espaillat
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Raúl M. Grijalva                                                              Ro Khanna
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Andy Kim                                                                        Barbara Lee
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Ted W. Lieu                                                                     Carolyn Maloney      
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Ben McAdams                                                                Grace F. Napolitano
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Eleanor Holmes Norton                                                  Frank Pallone, Jr. 
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Scott H. Peters                                                               Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Michael San Nicolas                                                       Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Albio Sires                                                                       Adam Smith
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Darren Soto                                                                    Thomas R. Suozzi
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Mark Takano                                                                  Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
 
Lee Zeldin                                                                       John Curtis
Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress
                                             
Gwen Moore                                                                   
Member of Congress