150th Anniversary of Transcontinental Railroad

20 Apr 2019  Sat

On 10th May, the USPS is going to release a set of three non-denominated forever stamps in a pane of 18, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The stamps will be issued at Promontory Summit, Utah, where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads connected on 10th May 1869 after a golden spike joined the two rail lines, linking America’s East and West coasts by rail. A first-day ceremony will also be organised at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

Three stamps are in two different sizes, featured together in six horizontal rows on the Pane. The stamp on the left features the Central Pacific locomotive engine, Jupiter, while that on the right features Union Pacific’s engine No. 119. Both these engines met at Promontory Summit in 1869, upon completion of this project. The famous golden spike with decorative lettering is featured on the smaller stamp at the centre.

Michael J. Deas painted the illustrations while USPS art director Greg Breeding designed them. Typography and border treatments were offered by Kevin Cantrell. 50.4 million postage stamps were printed by Banknote Corporation of America in four-colour offset lithography on a Gallus RCS press. It is the first U.S. postage stamp printed on this press. Apart from colours like cyan, magenta, yellow and black, a gold foil was also used to print the stamp.

Two special first-day cancels have been designed. One looks like the golden spike in front of a decorated arched frame. The digital colour postmark shows the lettering "Transcontinental Railroad" just like it’s printed on top of the stamp pane.

As many as 20,000 labourers were responsible for completing this dangerous and challenging task. Many of them were immigrants from China, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland etc. African-Americans and former Civil War soldiers from the Union and Confederate armies were also involved. Several Mormon workers completed the final phase across Utah. The Republican Party and its 1860 presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln promoted this great rail project during their campaigns.

When the railroad project was launched in 1869 at Promontory Summit, the last spike was driven by Leland Stanford, the former California governor and president of Central Pacific Railroad. Officers and guests of the two train companies were also invited. This project was instrumental in America’s development. It helped communities and military outposts greatly. A safe passage west was offered to people. California and Oregon were also connected to the rest of the country. Communication improved greatly due to the faster mail services offered. The economy boomed on the West coast as travel time reduced from several months to almost a week.

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Image Courtesy: The USPS

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