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The woman in this painting is Hoffman’s wife Hazel, who posed for some of his most famous paintings and illustrations.

A railroad linking America’s east and west coasts had been a dream almost since the steam locomotive made its first appearance in the early 1830s. The need for such a link was dramatized by the discovery of gold in California in 1848 that brought thousands to the West Coast. At that time only two routes to the West were available: by wagon across the plains or by ship around South America. Traveling either of these could take four months or more to complete.

Construction of the railroad presented a daunting task requiring the laying of over 2,000 miles of track that stretched through some the most forbidding landscape on the continent. The Union Pacific began laying track from Omaha to the west while the Central Pacific headed east from Sacramento.

Progress was slow initially, but the pace quickened with the end of the Civil War. Finally the two sets of railroad tracks were joined and the continent united with elaborate ceremony at Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869. The ceremony culminated with Governor Stanford of California (representing the Central Pacific Railroad) and Thomas Durant (president of the Union Pacific Railroad) taking turns pounding a Golden Spike into the final tie that united the railroad’s east and west sections. As the spike was struck, telegraph signals simultaneously alerted San Francisco and New York City, igniting a celebratory cacophony of tolling bells and cannon fire in each city. The impact was immediate and dramatic. Travel time between America’s east and west coasts was reduced from months to less than a week. [Excerpted from EyeWitness to History]

The actual Golden Spike now resides in the Art & History Museum at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.

PROVENANCE
The Artist
The artist’s sister, Chicago, IL
[Patrick Albano, Aaron Galleries, Chicago and Heart of the Country Antique Show, Nashville, TN]
Dr. John Lee Smith, Dallas, TX, 1992

EXHIBITED
National Wildlife Art Museum, Jackson, WY, May 1995 - January 1996

LITERATURE
Catalog (Chicago, IL: Montgomery Ward & Co, Fall and Winter 1924-25), front cover, illustrated

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