A Reenactment Script for the Golden Spike Ceremony
Adapted For Use By School Groups
Cast of Characters
Narrator: Telegrapher, Mr. W. N. Shilling
Edgar Mills: Sacramento Banker and Master of Ceremonies
Dr. H. W. Harkness: Sacramento Newspaper Editor and Publisher
Reverend Dr. John Todd: Reporter of the Boston Congregationalist
Leland Stanford: President of the Central Pacific Railroad and Ex-Governor of California
Dr. Thomas C. Durant: Vice-President of the Union Pacific Railroad
General Grenville M. Dodge: Union Pacific Railroad Chief Engineer and former Civil War General
Mr. F. A. Tritle: U. S. Railroad Commissioner and Candidate for Governor of Nevada
Governor A. P. K. Safford: Governor of the Territory of Arizona
Major Milton Cogswell: 21st Infantry Band Leader
Mormon Band Leader: Leads the Salt Lake City Mormon Band
Railroad Worker: Who drives the last spike
(The Narrator sits at the telegrapher's key and the rest of the cast stands between the two locomotives. The audience quietly murmurs and then becomes quiet as the Narrator begins to speak.)
Narrator: The date is May 10, 1869. The location is Promontory Summit, Utah Territory - an unlikely place for the completion of the Pacific Railroad. The gathering is both festive and anxious, awaiting that moment of miracle when a common railroad spike driven into an ordinary tie will link a continent. A gentle breeze blows under an almost cloudless sky. The thermometer in the shade registers 69 degrees. Above the babble of voices can be heard the hissing of the steam locomotives. A polished tie has been placed in its ceremonial position by the construction superintendents of the two railroads. Then Edgar Mills, a rich banker from Sacramento steps forward, and signals for silence. The drama of men's hopes, prayers and dreams begins on this the 10th day of May, 1869, and YOU ARE HERE!
(If desired, Major Cogswell and the Mormon Band Leader lead the audience in song at this time. Divide the audience down the center into two equal groups and have each half portray a different band.)
Mills: Ladies and gentlemen, in behalf of the officials of both railroads, I bid you welcome. We are assembled here to link the ends of the earth, to complete a new and shorter route between Europe and the Orient, and to join the raw riches of the American West with the finished products of the industrial East. We are also met today with mixed emotions; with joy that the brains, the sweat, and the muscle of thousands of men have joined together this great adventure under the guidance of Almighty God. It is also with profound sorrow we remember and pay respect to the hundreds of men who gave their lives in building the railroad that you and I might share this moment. It is noteworthy that this Pacific railroad has been completed six years ahead of the time allotted for its construction. We are honored to see a number of Pacific Railroad officials in addition to those taking part in the ceremony. We are pleased to have reporters from some of America's great newspapers. Of utmost importance is the telegrapher, who is keeping the entire nation informed of these proceedings as they happen. He is Mr. W. N. Shilling, Western Union operator from the Ogden, Utah office. We take pride in the presence of the battalion of the 21st U.S. Infantry with their Regimental Band, under the command of Major Milton Cogswell. A second band, with their new instruments, is from the Mormon Church Tenth Ward in Salt Lake City. Now, to give thanks to our Creator, may I introduce Reverend Dr. John Todd of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
(Reverend Todd comes forward. Todd and Mills shake hands.)
Narrator: (Tapping the key as he speaks.) Bulletin! Almost ready. Hats off! Prayer is being offered.
Todd: Let us pray. (Everyone stands quietly for one moment of silence.) Amen.
Narrator: (Tapping the key as he speaks.) Bulletin! We have got done praying. The spike is about to be presented.
(Reverend Todd steps back and Mills steps forward)
Mills: Thank you Reverend Todd. Now it is my pleasure to introduce a fellow resident of Sacramento, Dr. H. W. Harkness from Sacramento, who will present to Vice President Thomas C. Durant of the Union Pacific, two railroad spikes. Dr. Durant will then place these spikes in holes already made in the polished laurel wood tie (Mills points in the direction of the tie). Ladies and gentlemen, these two spikes are no ordinary spikes, Ladies and gentlemen, these are GOLDEN SPIKES MADE FROM PURE CALIFORNIA GOLD! (The audience Oohs and Aahs). Dr. Harkness...
(Harkness steps forward and shakes hands with Mills as audience applauds).
Harkness: Mr. President: The last rail needed to complete the greatest railroad enterprise of the world is about to be laid; the last spike needed to unite the Atlantic and Pacific by a new line of travel and commerce is about to be driven. The East and the West have come together. California, where the Pacific Railroad was begun wants to express her appreciation. From her mines of gold she has given a spike, and from her laurel woods she has hewn a tie. With them accept the hopes and wishes of her people to the success of your enterprise.
(The audience applauds. Harkness gives the spikes to Durant who places them in the prepared holes in the laurel tie, at the outside of each rail.)
Mills: Thank you, Dr. Harkness and Dr. Durant. It is my pleasure at this time to acknowledge the presentation of two other spikes of precious metal - a silver one from the state of Nevada, presented by Mr. F. A. Tritle (Tritle bows), a U. S. Railroad Commissioner and candidate for governor of that great new state. A spike of iron, silver, and gold presented by the Honorable Anson P. K. Safford (Safford bows), the new appointed governor of the Territory of Arizona. Both spikes will be given to Governor Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific Railroad.
Mr. Tritle: To the iron of the East and the gold of the West, Nevada adds her link of silver to span the continent and wed the oceans.
(Audience cheers. Tritle shakes hands with Stanford and gives him the spike).
Governor Safford: Ribbed with iron, clad in silver and crowned with gold, Arizona presents her offering to the enterprise that has banded the continent and dictated the pathway to commerce.
(Audience cheers. Safford shakes hands with Stanford and gives him the spike.)
(Stanford raises the two spikes into the air, showing them to the audience. Then he places them in the holes of the laurel tie, on the inside of the rails.)
Mills: Now Friends, it is my honor to present a man of vision and courage. Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the Central Pacific Railroad, Governor Leland Stanford.
(Audience applauds and cheers.)
Stanford: Gentlemen: The Pacific Railroad Companies accept with pride and satisfaction these golden and silver spikes tokens to this great railroad that is so important to our nation. (While Stanford speaks Durant gets a severe headache, suddenly shows it, and steps over to Mills and whispers in his ear). The day is not far distant when THREE tracks will be necessary to provide transportation for commerce and travel across the continent (people murmur in disbelief). Now, gentlemen, with your assistance we will proceed to lay the last tie, the last rail, and drive the last spike.
Mills: Thank you, Governor Stanford, for your remarks. We regret that Dr. Durant has asked to be excused from speaking (Durant smiles weakly and waves a hand to the audience). In his place General Grenville M. Dodge, Chief Engineer, will now represent the Union Pacific with a few remarks. General Dodge...
(As Dodge come forward, he hands a silver maul to Mills and shakes his hand).
Dodge: Gentlemen, Senator Benton proposed that some day a giant statue of Columbus should be built on the highest peak of the Rocky Mountains, pointing westward to the great route across the continent. You have made this a fact! THIS IS THE WAY TO INDIA! (He raises his hand with the spike and points to the West).
(Excitement grows and cheers increase).
Mills: Thank you, General Dodge. Ladies and gentlemen, we have just about reached that moment for which you and the nation have been waiting - the driving of the last spike. However, a final presentation in the form of this silver plated spike maul is a gift from Mr. L. W. Coe, President of the Union Express Company. Governor Stanford and Mr. Durant will now make a few taps with it on the gold and silver spikes.
(Mills gives the silver maul to Governor Stanford who makes a few taps. Stanford then hands the maul to Durant who also taps the spikes).
Mills: At this point we should explain that the last spike is a regular iron spike which can be driven with a maul. Both the spike and the maul are wired to the transcontinental telegraph wire so that the entire nation can hear the blows as the spike is driven. Now ladies and gentlemen, the moment has arrived. As Mr. Shilling, the telegrapher, gives the signal over the wire, announcing that the last spike is driven, bells and whistles will sound across the nation. Dr. Durant and Governor Stanford will now share the honor of driving the last spike in the Pacific Railroad. Gentlemen, are you ready?
Stanford and Durant: (In unison). We are ready!
Narrator: (Tapping the key as he speaks). Bulletin! All ready now. The spike will soon be driven. The signal will be three dots for the start of the blows.
(Stanford swings the maul and misses the spike. Everyone laughs. Stanford hands the maul to Durant).
(Durant takes the maul, swings and misses, much to the merriment of the group).
Durant: Will someone lend a hand? Here, you try it! (The railroad worker steps forward and takes the maul from Durant. With a few swings the iron spike is driven).
Narrator: (Tapping the key as he speaks). Promontory to the country. Bulletin: D-O-N-E Done!
(The audience cheers especially loud, exclaiming "it is finished! and "it is driven!").
Durant: Let's give three cheers for the Central Pacific Railroad! Hip, hip... (everyone: HURRAY!). Hip, hip... (everyone: HURRAY!). Hip, hip... (everyone: HURRAY!).
Stanford: Let's give three cheers for the Union Pacific Railroad! Hip, hip... (everyone: HURRAY!). Hip, hip... (everyone: HURRAY!). Hip, hip... (everyone: HURRAY!).
Mills:Mr. Shillings, send this telegram: General U. S. Grant, President of the United States, Washington, D.C. Sir: We have the honor to report the last rail laid and the last spike driven. The Pacific Railroad is finished.
Narrator: At this moment one era ended and another began. The golden spike became a symbol of hope for a better way of life. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for being with us today.