Today in History: May 10

One definition of the word “promontory” is “point of high land over water.” Another would be “great view here.”

The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed with a single golden spike on this date in 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah, almost 5000 feet above sea level. The rail lines were laid down on a steep incline to such a high elevation because the Great Salt Lake was considered an impediment; the west-to-east Central Pacific line detoured around the lake. Great view, indeed.

Promontory Point was selected by cartographers after conferences in Washington, DC, were held to determine where the Central Pacific line construction (heading east, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains) and the Union Pacific line construction (heading west across the plains, from Omaha, Nebraska) would meet.

The meeting of the rail lines (the “Wedding of the Rails” as newspapers headlined it at the time) was to take place on May 8, but bad weather held the ceremony (photo above) until May 10. Remarkably, the last 10 miles of track had been laid down in only 12 hours to be ready for the May 8 ceremony.

By the turn of the century, a trestle bridge was built across the northern part of the Great Salt Lake, which was replaced by a causeway. The line that passed through Promontory Point was allowed to fall into disuse. It is now a National Historic Site, a park, at which the moment from this date in 1869 is depicted, but trains no longer rumble through on their way west to the Pacific or east to Omaha and points beyond.

* * * *
Walker Percy died on this date in 1990. His novels and his quirky book “Lost in the Cosmos” have influenced my own skepticism about my discontents and my discontents with my skepticism.

* * * *
Fred Astaire was born on this date in 1899.

The late Gary Owens was born on this date in 1934. The late Wayne Dyer was born on this date in 1940. Sid Vicious was born on this date in 1957.

* * * *
Donovan is 70 today. “Jennifer Juniper”:

Dave Mason is 70 today. “Feelin’ Alright” from 2013:

Chris Berman is 61. Bono is 56 today. Bono sings for Raif Badawi:

Kenan Thompson is 38 today.

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One comment

  1. lifelessons · May 10, 2016

    And on this date in 1969– I met John Wayne thanks to the 100th anniversary celebration for the wedding of the rails that you describe! Thanks for reminding me! R.I.P. John. You can read that story here:


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