Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on the transcontinental railroad and its impact on nineteenth-century America.
This workshop explores the impact of the transcontinental railroad on the politics, society, economy, and environment of California and the nation. Daily topics include technology and labor, geography and the environment, the social and economic impact of the railroad, and the West in the American imagination. Based in Sacramento, the western terminus of the railroad, the project includes visits to the California State Railroad Museum, Old Sacramento State Historic Park, the Sacramento History Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, and the mansion of railroad baron Leland Stanford. Farther afield, participants take day trips to Stanford University's Bill Lane Center for the West, the Chinese Historical Society of America, and the treacherous Donner Pass, an example of the difficult terrain faced by railroad workers. In addition to co-directors Ari Kelman and Eric Rauchway of University of California, Davis, the faculty includes historians Richard White (Stanford University) and Richard J. Orsi (California State University, East Bay), as well as museum curators and staff. White discusses selected chapters from his prize-winning book Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. Other readings are drawn from Amy Richter's Home on the Rails: Women, the Railroad, and the Rise of Public Domesticity; Alexander Saxton's The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California; Wolfgang Schivelbusch's The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century; Andrew C. Isenberg's The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1850-1920; and The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820-1920, edited by William Truettner. During the workshop, participants develop a resource list, annotated bibliography, and lesson or unit plans for posting on the project's website.