• “Throwing Down The Ladder By Which They Rose,” a 1870 political cartoon. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Throwing Down The Ladder By Which They Rose
    • Date
    • 1870
    • Creator
    • Nast, Thomas (1840-1902).
    • Description
    • Printed on image: "The 'Chinese wall' around the United States of America." "Emigration." "Know-nothings--1870--Pres. Patrick Vice President Hans." Written on mount: "July 23, 1870.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/UND/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Art and Picture Collection. The New York Public Library

  • “They Are Prettey Safe There : When Politicians Do Agree, Their Unanimity Is Wonderful,” a 1882 political cartoon. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    They Are Prettey Safe There : When Politicians Do Agree, Their Unanimity Is Wonderful
    • Date
    • 1882
    • Creator
    • Gillam, Bernhard (1856-1896).
    • Description
    • Printed on image: "47th Congress." Printed on border: "'Give it to him, he's got no vote nor no friends!'" Written on mount: "Apr. 5, 1882.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/UND/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Art and Picture Collection. The New York Public Library

  • “Chinese Exclusion Act case file for Louie Jock Sung, 07/16/1895 - 11/07/1966.” Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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    Affidavit of Loui Young stating that he is the father of Louie Jock Sung, and deposition of non Chinese witnesses. Documents were executed in New York City
    • Creator
    • Department of Justice. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Northeast Region. INS District No. 3 (New York, NY). 6/14/1940-.
    • Description
    • This document is filed with the Chinese Exclusion Act case file on Louie Jock Sung.
    • Rights
    • Unrestricted.
    • Partner
    • National Archives and Records Administration
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Archives at New York

  • “Chin Quan Chan Family, Chinese Exclusion Act Case File, circa 1911.” Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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    [RS 27464, Chin Quan Chan; Seattle District, Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, Applications to Reenter, c. 1892-1900]: Chin Quan Chan Family, Chinese Exclusion Act Case File, circa 1911
    • Creator
    • Department of Labor. Bureau of Immigration. District 16 (Seattle). 1913-1923.
    • Description
    • Original caption: "Chin Quan Chan Family, c. 1911.".
    • Rights
    • Unrestricted.
    • Partner
    • National Archives and Records Administration
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Archives at Seattle

The thousands of Chinese laborers who worked under harsh conditions for low wages, and whose diligence made completion of the railroad possible, were met with a growing anti-Chinese sentiment. Riding a longstanding wave of anger over the perception that Chinese workers (and their low wages) were taking jobs from Americans, the Chinese Massacre of 1871 resulted in an angry mob hanging seventeen Chinese men and boys in Los Angeles. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law, putting severe limits on both the number of new Chinese immigrants allowed into the country and those who could become naturalized citizens. Anti-Chinese mobs would continue to enact violence for years to come.

While the anti-Chinese movements brought out the worst in Americans, the Transcontinental Railroad did create opportunities for communication and knowledge sharing never before possible. Poems, including Walt Whitman’s “Passage to India,” novels, and films were inspired by the new possibilities of the cross-country railroad. News, scientific discourse, and culture could travel from one side of the country to the other at new speeds. So could goods, with $50 million in freight traveling the rail line in its first ten years of operation. With the success of the original transcontinental route, tracks were laid to connect even more parts of the country. That original route, however, is still partly in use today. The Amtrak “California Zephyr” train travels via the first Transcontinental Railroad from Sacramento to Nevada.