NEW YORK, May 29 (Xinhua) -- New postage stamps were unveiled at a ceremony held Wednesday in New York city to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad, to which thousands of Chinese railroad workers made great contributions.
The ceremony was held by Grace Meng, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She was joined by officials from the U.S. Postal services, and the Museum of Chinese in America to pay tribute to the Chinese immigrant workers.
"The story of the Chinese railroad workers is a story that must be told, and today we are doing exactly that," said Meng at the ceremony.
The railroad, first of its kind to connect the country from coast-to-coast, was more than 3,000 kilometers' long. It has long been recognized as one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the 19th century. After its completion, the railroad reduced cross-country travel time to just a week from six months.
Some 12,000 Chinese workers helped construct the railroad under extremely dangerous and challenging conditions between 1865 and 1896.
During the time, the Chinese workers who comprised more than 80 percent of the workforce of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, were tasked with the most difficult and hazardous jobs, but were poorly paid.
Growing up in New York city as a kid, Meng did not learn much about the history. She said one of the reasons why she pushed through the issuing of the stamps is that she wanted to make sure "future generations know and understand the profound impact that these Chinese railroad workers had made on this country."
Meng said that while the economic benefits the railroad brought were often mentioned, the blood and toils of the Chinese railroad workers were almost always neglected.
"While working in the Sierras, Chinese workers hung in baskets, 2,000 feet above raging rivers, during two of the coldest winters in history, to blast into the impenetrable granite mountain -- to make way for laying the tracks," said Meng, emphasizing the harsh working condition.
Descendants of the transcontinental railroad workers attended the ceremony.
One of them named Larry Lee said his great-grand-uncle was "one of the thousands of Chinese who were nameless and faceless to the outside world," and who are "finally being remembered as heroes who united and built America."
A set of three Transcontinental Railroad Forever Stamps were unveiled at the ceremony. Two separate stamps feature the Jupiter and the No. 119 locomotives that powered the trains carrying the officers and guests of the two train companies to the Golden Spike Ceremony. The other stamp portrays the famous golden spike that was a prominent part of the ceremony.
Frances Wong, director of Asian Health Institute of New York Methodist Hospital, attended the ceremony as a member of the Chinese American community.
"I'm very, very excited about the stamps. I think the stamps will go far in helping people to understand how much we've contributed to the history in America and what we've done to help the America grow," said Wong.
Ann Ko of the U.S. Postal Service's New York District said it was sobering to reflect upon the labors that built the railroad.
"Those labors helped to bind the families, the frontiers and the economies of two coasts," said Ko.