1826 – Railroad pioneer Theodore Dehone Judah was born. He studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, worked on a number of railroads in the Northwest, then became chief engineer for California’s Sacramento Valley Railroad in 1854, the first railroad to be built west of the Mississippi River. He went to Washington D.C. in 1859 to convince Congress of the importance of a transcontinental railroad. Sometimes known as “Crazy Judah,” he surveyed a route of the Sierra Nevada range. He succeeded in getting funding from the “Big Four” Sacramento merchants; Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker to build the Central Pacific Railroad.
Judah lobbied for the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, authorizing the first transcontinental railroad. Judah died of yellow fever in 1863 while crossing the Isthmus of Panama, six years before the golden spike was driven at Promontory Point, Utah, May 10, 1869, joining the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads and completing the first railroad to cross the United States from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans.
In the United States
1917 – Jeanette Rankin took her seat in the United States Congress. After being elected to represent Montana’s “at-large district,” she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress but I won’t be the last.”
Although the 19th Amendment was not ratified until 1919, fifteen states: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, gave women the right to vote before then. Referring to that, Congressman Rankin said, “If I am remembered for no other act, I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote.”
In the World
1890 – The Forth Rail Bridge was opened on this day. Spanning 8,296 feet across the Firth of Forth, it was the longest cantilever bridge in the world until the Quebec Bridge was completed in 1917. It still has the second-longest span, worldwide. The bridge connects Edinburgh, Scotland, with the former Kingdom of Fife, an important Pict stronghold in the 7th and 8th centuries.
With a penchant for using iconic landmarks in his movies, director Alfred Hitchcock included the Forth Rail Bridge in the 1935 of “The 39 Steps.” Landmarks in other films include the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur, and Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest. Click here to see footage from the movie.