Carter Williams, KSL.com

Utah unveils new copper spike for 150th anniversary of transcontinental railroad

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - May 8th, 2019 @ 9:33pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The golden, Arizona and Nevada spikes present the day the transcontinental railroad was completed have a new companion.

One hundred and fifty years after the transcontinental railroad completion, Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill that made a commemorative 10-ounce copper spike Utah’s official spike. The spike, designed by O.C. Tanner using copper from Utah's Rio Tinto mines, was unveiled Wednesday evening during a private unveiling at O.C. Tanner Jewelers.

“It’s about time we had our own spike as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike. There’s no better time than to do it now and we thank those who make that happen,” Herbert said.

He was joined by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams and several other state politicians for the ceremonial signing.

On May 10, 1869, officials presented four spikes for the ceremony when workers from the Central Pacific and Union Pacific companies met at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County.

The most famous spike is the 17.6-karat golden spike created to celebrate the completion of the Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County. As Patricia LaBounty, curator of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum said, it was “gently tapped” into the ground during a ceremony on May 10, 1869, to signal the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It was later donated to the Stanford University in 1892, according to the National Park Service.

An image of the golden spike was later used on the back of the Utah state quarter during the U.S. Mint state quarter campaign in the 2000s.

However, the golden spike was joined with ones from Arizona and Nevada, which was made from Nevada silver. Officials aren’t sure what happened to the fourth spike — another one made from California gold — presented that day, LaBounty said.

The golden spike, center, flanked by the Arizona and Nevada spikes put on display at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts during a tour on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. It's the first time all three spikes, which were presented at the merging of the rails, have been in Utah since 1869. The location of a fourth spike presented that day is unknown. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com, File)

While the event happened in Utah, the state didn’t have an official spike to honor the event. That’s why the copper spike was commissioned.

O.C. Tanner CEO Dave Petersen added during the ceremony that his company was delighted to participate because the transcontinental railroad helped create an expansion for people to settle in the western U.S. and for businesses in the West ship goods eastward faster and more efficiently.

"It transformed our country. It made travel possible from coast to coast in days instead of months," he said.

The copper was pulled from the Rio Tinto copper mine, which Herbert touted as being the largest in the world, he said.

“What other metal would you rather have? I think copper is very fitting,” Herbert added.

An image of the Utah copper spike during an unveiling event at O.C. Tanner Jewelry in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill to designate the spike as Utah's official spike for the transcontinental railroad. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

The spike will be placed along with the other three remaining spikes, which have been in Utah since late January. It’s the first time all three spikes were together in Utah since 1869.

Those three spikes will eventually be returned to where each one is housed, but the copper spike will remain at the Utah Capitol after all the Golden Spike 150 festivities. It’ll remain in Utah for years to come.

“It represents Utah and really the significant role we played here in the joining of the railroads from the east and the west,” Herbert said. “I think we forget the magnitude and the significance of this event. We know about it from our history books, but it joined our country together and united the country in a time of significant divisiveness (after) the Civil War. What it represents is we can do hard things during difficult times. We can dream big, work hard and if we work together, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.”

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