BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications celebrated the historic joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads
On May 10, 1869, history was made in the small town of Promontory, Utah. A single golden spike signified the completion of one of the biggest engineering feats in history.
The golden spike — driven into the final link of track — joined the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads, creating the first transcontinental railroad in the United States. The marriage of the railroad tracks in northern Utah marked the start of a new era, completely revolutionizing transportation in the United States.
With Utah’s close historical tie to this momentous event, members of the BYU community joined in the 150th anniversary celebration happening in their own backyard.
This event has connected a BYU alumnus, an illustration professor and others within the College of Fine Arts and Communications who have joined to commemorate the golden spike anniversary.
Golden spike postage stamps for USPS
BYU alumnus Kevin Cantrell was hired by the USPS to illustrate the forever stamps recently added to the 2019 stamp program.
In collaboration with USPS art director Greg Breeding and painter Michael J. Deas, Cantrell helped create a set of stamps that depict the uniting of the two railroads with the Golden Spike.
These new stamps are considered to be the most intricate stamps to ever be executed by the USPS — requiring them to get a new machine that is capable of the ornate details in the design.
For Cantrell, a native Utahn, this project hit close to home, especially since most of the work he does is outside of Utah and the U.S.
“The biggest significance about this project for me was finally being able to work on a project of historical significance for my home state,” said Cantrell. “When I tell people I designed the golden spike stamps, everyone’s eyes just light up and they immediately recognize it. It is personally very gratifying.”
Commemorative posters for city of Ogden
BYU illustration professor David Dibble was commissioned to design posters for the city of Ogden’s railroad anniversary celebration.
“I loved getting to know the trains better,” said Dibble, who grew up in Ogden surrounded by trains. “It was fun to dive in, learn about them and celebrate what they meant to the country at such a significant time in our history. Because of these trains, our nation was never the same.”
Dibble worked with train experts to design historically accurate versions of the trains — Jupiter and No. 119 — used in the 1869 ceremony. The two posters were intended to be a set, representing what it would have looked like for someone in Promontory on the day the two trains came together as the golden spike was driven.
Dibble’s posters were displayed at the Ogden Heritage Festival and were sold as prints at the Weber State University and Ogden Chamber of Commerce stores.
“After Promontory” — a special exhibit in the MOA that highlights the history of railroads
In the BYU Museum of Art, the history of the railroad — particularly the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad — is being celebrated in a new exhibit called “After Promontory,” which shows the historical importance of the transcontinental railroad and its continued impact even today.
“This exhibit merges 150 years of great railroad photography with an interesting and relevant discussion of transformation and change — both locally and nationally — that still impacts us today,” said MOA curator Ashlee Whitaker.
While this same exhibit is currently on display at other locations throughout the nation, BYU’s “After Promontory” contains additional pictures taken from the holdings of the BYU Library’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections. This added section in the exhibit emphasizes the vital role that Utah had in building and completing the transcontinental railroad.
“After Promontory” will be on display at the BYU Museum of Art through October 5, 2019. More information about the exhibit and programming can be found online at moa.byu.edu.
“Along the Line: Contemporary Explorations of the Transcontinental Railroad” in the HFAC
The paintings and art currently featured in the main gallery of the HFAC offer a modern perspective of the transcontinental railroad and how it continues to affect lives today.
“This exhibition seeks to bring together contemporary artists’ interpretations of the cultural, social and economic effects of the railroad,” said graduate student curator Meagan Anderson Evans.
The majority of the works in the exhibit were created by regional artists, BYU alumni and faculty who Evans personally reached out to. A few pieces were included from students at BYU, UVU and Snow College.
HFAC gallery director Jason Lanegan mentored Evans as she sought to make her vision a reality and help audiences increase their understanding of the impact of the railroad.
“There are so many different events taking place both statewide and outside of Utah. It’s about recognition and knowledge,” said Lanegan. “This exhibit helps to bring awareness and different insight.”
The show will be up in the HFAC through June 26. A companion show — also curated by Evans — is on display in the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley, Utah.