In 1865, the Central Pacific Railroad, headed by Leland Stanford, began construction on the First Transcontinental Railroad. Chinese laborers would prove instrumental in its construction. In 1865, the first fifty Chinese workers were experimentally hired to begin work on the western portion. By 1865, as the demand for labor increased and white workers showed resistance to the backbreaking, dangerous work, the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) began hiring more Chinese laborers from California communities. Impressed by the Chinese laborers’ efficiency and dedication, the CPRR began actively recruiting from Guangdong province when local labor resources were exhausted.
Although records of Chinese workers’ names were not kept by the companies, an estimated 10,000-15,000 Chinese laborers worked on the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. While Chinese were reported as living in the area that would become San Francisco as early as 1838, the earliest Chinese immigrants to the U.S. were mainly well-to-do merchants and traders. This initial pull of common laborers from China would prove to be the first major influx of Chinese immigrants to the United States.