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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

No spike too small

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In the article "The Second Second City," Jeremy N. Smith states that William Ogden, Chicago's first mayor, was president of the Union Pacific and that he hammered in the Golden Spike (HCN, 9/13/10). William Ogden was the first president of the Union Pacific, but he was not president in 1869 when the Golden Spike was placed. The four ceremonial spikes that were used in the ceremony were put in by Gov. Leland Stanford (president of the Central Pacific) and by Thomas Durant (vice president of the Union Pacific). And the golden spike was not hammered, it was put into a pre-drilled hole and ceremoniously tapped with a silver spike maul.

Ken Kyburz, Park Guide
Golden Spike National Historic Site
Pleasant Grove, Utah

Jeremy N. Smith responds:
I was foiled in my facts by ambiguous verbiage in a Chicago history, City of the Century: "Ogden lived to see his dream take shape ... in the Promontory Mountains of northern Utah on May 10, 1869. ... The driving of the famous ‘Golden Spike' made Ogden, the first president of the Union Pacific, a nation builder." So he lived to see, but did not in fact see it. And the driving in of the spike "made" him, but he did not in fact do that driving.

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