The Race to Promontory: The Transcontinental Railroad and the American West
10/6/2018 - 1/6/2019

Race to Promontory celebrates the 150th anniversary of the “Meeting of the Rails” at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869 through the photographs and stereographs of Andrew Joseph Russell and Alfred A. Hart. The completion of the transcontinental railroad was as celebrated and transformative a national event as the first moon landing, exactly a century later in 1969. It not only made it possible to reach California from the East Coast in seven days, rather than weeks or even months it had taken via wagon train, coach, or ship, but ushered in changes that transformed all aspects of American life. The transcontinental railroad led to the creation of Standard Time, to allow trains to move safely along a single track, and changed the way Americans ate, as our food supply became more plentiful and the centers of agricultural production shifted. The railroad also obliterated the idea of the frontier, and forever changed the lives of indigenous Plains tribes, as new migration spurred by the railroad hastened the end of the Indian Wars and the beginning of the reservation era. The Pacific Railway and Homestead Act insured the resettlement of new territories under the control of the federal government.

What's pictured: Alfred A. Hart (American, 1816-1908), Locomotive on Trestle, near American River, 1865, albumen stereograph, Courtesy Union Pacific Railroad Museum

The construction of the railroad was documented from east to west by Andrew Joseph Russell, working for the Union Pacific Railroad, and west to east by Alfred A. Hart, for the Central Pacific. Race to Promontory will feature 50 framed albumen prints by Russell, including plates from his album, The Great West Illustrated, as well as rare, unpublished images from the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, and Russell’s famous image from Promontory Summit, “East and West Shaking Hands.” Ninety stereograph cards by Hart will be displayed in wall-mounted cases, and two iPad stations will allow museum visitors to view Hart’s images in stereo. The exhibition will also include archival material from the UP Museum including popular reproductions, maps, and publicity relating to the events at Promontory Summit.