Golden Spike Symbolized Completion of Transcontinental Railroad 150 Years Ago

This past Friday marked the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, an epic project that spanned six years and 1,800 miles, with the Central Pacific Railroad working from west to east and the Union Pacific Railroad from east to west.

When the two railroad lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, the engineering marvel was culminated with railroad magnate Leland Stanford driving the ceremonial final spike — a glistening symbol made from 14 ounces of 17.6-karat gold.

As Stanford gently tapped the copper-alloyed spike through a pre-drilled hole in a special tie of polished California laurel, a famous telegraph announced the news in real-time: “The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific railroad is completed. The point of junction is 1,086 miles west of the Missouri River and 690 miles east of Sacramento City.”

Celebrations ensued from coast to coast.

“It psychologically and symbolically bound the country,” Brad Westwood, Utah’s senior public historian, told the Associated Press.

The Transcontinental Railroad united a nation recovering from the Civil War and laid the foundation for its growth, economic progress and improved way of life. A coast-to-coast trip that once took six months, could now be accomplished in 3 1/2 days.

The accomplishment also symbolized American ingenuity and technical achievement, which was, at the time, as spectacular as landing a man on the moon. Incidentally, the first moon landing would take place 100 years later on July 20,1969.

The idea of using a golden spike to commemorate the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was the brainchild of David Hewes, a San Francisco financier and contractor.

The spike is engraved on all four sides.

One side says, “The Pacific Railroad ground broken January 8, 1863, and completed May 8, 1869.” A second side says, “May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world. Presented by David Hewes San Francisco.” The third and fourth sides list the names of the railroad directors and officers involved in the project.

Interestingly, the date on the Stanford spike is wrong because the celebration had to be delayed two days due to bad weather. Fearing that the golden spike would be stolen if it was left in place, Stanford (who would later establish Stanford University) extracted the spike from the laurel tie and brought it back to California. Today, it resides at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford.

A duplicate golden spike, which was engraved later with the correct date, became the property of the Hewes family. That spike is on permanent display, along with Thomas Hill’s famous painting “The Last Spike,” at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Throughout this past weekend, revelers celebrated the historic meeting of the rails at Golden Spike National Historic Park northwest of Salt Lake City. Visitors came from far and near, decked out in period attire, including top hats and bonnets.

Other celebrations throughout the state included art displays, musical performances, historical exhibits, storytelling, lectures, community festivals, parades, film screenings, model train shows, historical site tours and reenactments of the golden spike ceremony.

Credits: Photo of “duplicate” golden spike by Neil916 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. “The Last Spike” painting by Thomas Hill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shaking hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad, by Andrew J. Russell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Modern reenactment photo courtesy of the National Park Service. Utah state coin by the United States Mint [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Music Friday: Insecure Charley Pride Asks His Wife, ‘Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, music legend Charley Pride portrays a troubled and insecure husband in his amusing 1967 country hit, “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?”

Pride’s character tells his wife that he feels so proud when she wears her engagement ring for all the world to see, but questions why she goes out at night with the ring conspicuously missing from her left hand.

He sings, “I understand sometimes we all need time alone / But why do you always leave your ring at home?”

Pride wonders if there may be an innocent reason. Maybe the ring just doesn’t fit right and the problem can be solved with a simple resizing.

He sings, “When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right / Should I take it to the jeweler so it won’t fit so tight? / Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?”

“Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?” appeared as the fifth track of Pride’s third studio album, The Country Way. Both the single and the album were big hits for Pride, with “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?” reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard Country chart and #3 on the Canadian country chart. The album performed even better, zooming all the way to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart.

Charley Frank Pride was born in 1934 in rural Sledge, Miss., one of 11 children of poor sharecroppers. When Pride was 14, he was gifted his first guitar and taught himself to play. While he enjoyed music, his first love was baseball. He dreamed of being a professional baseball player.

As an 18-year-old, that dream started to come true, as he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. A year later, he signed with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. In 1960, he pitched for the East Helena Smelterites, an unusual gig that saw him splitting time between playing baseball and working for a lead smelter.

The team’s manager also recognized Pride’s singing talents and offered him an opportunity to sing for 15 minutes before each game. Before long, Pride was singing in Montana clubs with a group called the Night Hawks.

His big break came when Pride’s demo tape got into the hands of RCA Victor exec Chat Atkins, who offered the singer a record deal. By the mid-1970s, Pride was the best-selling RCA Records performer since Elvis Presley. Pride is credited with 40 #1 singles and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

He is still touring at the age of 85.

Please check out the video of Pride’s live performance of “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?”
Written by Don Robertson, John Crutchfield and Doris Ann Clement. Performed by Charley Pride.

Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won’t fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Did you enjoy yourself last night dear how was the show?
You know that I don’t mind it when you go
I understand sometimes we all need time alone
But why do you always leave your ring at home?

Does my ring hurt your finger when you’re away from me?
I’m so proud when you wear it for all the world to see
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won’t fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Credit: Photo by GREG MATHISON [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Tokyo 2020 Organizers Collect Enough Recycled Metal to Create 5,000 Olympic Medals

It took less than two years for the organizers of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to collect enough recycled precious metals to create 5,000 gold, silver and bronze Olympic and Paralympic medals. Among the 47,488 tons of donated material were five million cell phones.

Launched in April of 2017, the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project encouraged Japanese citizens to unload their outdated mobile phones, digital cameras, laptops and games units, from which tiny amounts of precious metal could be harvested. Using the slogan, “Be better, together — for the planet and the people,” the goal was to collect 30.3 kg (66.8 lbs) of gold, 4,100 kg (9,039 lbs) of silver and 2,700 kg (5,952 lbs) of bronze. By the end of March 2019, the goal had been achieved.

The average cell phone user may not realize it, but the internal components contain valuable precious metals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that one million recycled cell phones can generate 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s leading mobile carrier, placed collection boxes in each of its 2,400 stores and the results were extraordinary.

Despite being a country with virtually no precious metal mining, Japan’s “urban mine” of discarded small consumer electronics is believed to contain the equivalent of 16% of the world’s gold reserves and 22% of the world’s silver reserves.

Japan’s Olympic organizing committee is the first to create medals from 100% recycled material. At the Rio Games in 2016, by contrast, 30% of the silver and bronze medals were derived from recycled metals.

The gold, silver and bronze medals awarded at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018 (photo at top) ranged in weight from 586 grams (1.29 lbs) for a gold medal to 493 grams (1.09 lbs) for a bronze medal. If the gold medals were, in fact, made of pure gold — they would be worth $26,602 each.

But, the truth is that Olympic gold medals are made mostly of silver. They contain just 6 grams of pure gold and 580 grams of 99.9% silver. Yes, there was a time when Olympic gold medals were made of solid gold, but the last ones were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, back in 1912.

Designs for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals will be released later this summer.

Credit: Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Runner Gets Engaged Seconds After Completing the Pittsburgh Marathon

Pittsburgh-area resident Stephanie Solt captured two prizes at the finish line of last Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon — a medal for completing the grueling 26.2 mile race and a diamond engagement ring from her boyfriend, JT Mylan.

Mylan went down on one knee and popped the question just seconds after Solt turned in a time of 4 hours, 55 minutes.

With about six miles remaining in the race, Solt had seriously considered calling it quits. She was exhausted and her right knee was throbbing.

But, whatever doubts she harbored at that time were overcome by the encouragement of total strangers. Maybe, instinctively, they all knew that this race would be life changing.

“The people on the sideline kept cheering me on and calling me by the name I had on my bib,” the 25-year-old told triblive.com. “[They were] giving me high fives and just pushing me along. It was just amazing.”

Overwhelmed by their support, Solt said that she was almost in tears as she powered through the Boulevard of the Allies, the home stretch to the finish line.

As she crossed the finish line, Solt was diverted by a security guard away from the other runners and toward her boyfriend.

“And here’s JT at the finish line and I’m like ‘What are you doing here?’ He puts the medal on me and pulls out the ring and goes down on one knee, and I said ‘Oh my goodness!’ I was speechless,” Solt told triblive.com.

Pittsburgh Public Safety posted a video of the emotional scene on its Facebook page.

Mylan, 32, said that he counted on a bunch of workout buddies to help him through the planning. One friend suggested that he pop the question at the marathon and a second friend, who was set to work security at the marathon, said he could get JT behind the finish line. A third buddy hooked him up with a photographer who would document the momentous event.

“When the universe lobs you an easy one, you might as well take it,” Mylan said.

Solt said she is ecstatic that she gets to marry her best friend. The couple is planning a spring 2022 wedding, which coincides with her graduation from physical therapy school. Mylan is a health and physical education teacher.

Credits: Screen captures via Facebook.com/Pittsburgh Public Safety; YouTube.com/WTAE-TV Pittsburgh.

75.61-Carat Emerald Once Worn by Catherine the Great Is Up for Sale at Christie’s

A 75.61-carat emerald worn more than 220 years ago by Russian Empress Catherine the Great will be hitting the auction block at Christie’s Geneva a week from Wednesday. The spectacular verdant gem, which was daringly smuggled to England by a James Bond-like character during the Russian Revolution, carries a pre-sale estimate of $2.3 million to $3.5 million.

catherineemerald1

Credited with revitalizing the country and making it into the world’s largest and wealthiest empire, Catherine the Great ruled Russia from 1762 until 1796. Not only was she the longest-ruling female leader of Russia, but she was arguably the most fashionable.

In his book The Jewels of the Romanovs, Stefano Papi wrote, “Catherine was one of the greatest collectors of all time, in both scale and quality. She took great pleasure in the jewels that proclaimed her power and her rank as empress. Uniquely precious and suited for imperial elegance, Catherine the Great was particularly fond of emeralds.”

catherineemerald2

When Catherine wore this emerald in the late 1700s, it bore little resemblance to the gem you see today. It originally weighed 107 carats and had a rectangular shape.

After the Empress passed away in 1796, her cherished emerald was passed down to her children, and eventually to Tsar Alexander II, who gifted the stone to Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin upon the marriage to his son, Grand Duke Vladimir, in 1874.

Like Catherine the Great, the Grand Duchess Vladimir was famous for a great sense of style and an impressive jewel collection, which now included the 107-carat emerald.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 would force the Duchess to quickly flee St. Petersburg to the southern Russian border town of Kislovodsk with only a few “daytime jewels and strings of pearls.” All the rest of her jewels would remain behind in the palace, stowed away in a safe, concealed between her wardrobe and her dressing room.

According to Papi’s book, the Duchess confided in Albert Stopford, a well-known high society Englishman in St Petersburg. Acting as an unofficial secret agent, Stopford reached the safe with the assistance of a loyal palace caretaker and, using a false identity, smuggled the jewels from Russia to Great Britain on the Duchess’s behalf. The jewels were hidden in his suitcase.

After the Duchess’s death, her family members were forced to sell many of the jewels to support themselves. Cartier purchased the emerald from her descendants in 1927, and 27 years later, the notable jeweler would recut the gem into the current pear shape to improve its clarity. The gem was soon purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and it remained in that famous family until 1971.

For the past 48 years, Catherine the Great’s gem has been in the hands of private collectors. Next Wednesday, the fascinating emerald, which now dangles from a contemporary diamond necklace, will start a brand new chapter. And don’t be surprised if Lot 269 smashes Christie’s high estimate of $3.5 million.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Christie’s.

Unlike Europeans, US Couples Seek Parents’ Blessing Prior to Marriage Proposal: Survey

Unlike their European counterparts, the vast majority of US couples still ask for their parents’ blessing prior to the marriage proposal, according to a 14-country wedding survey conducted by The Knot, WeddingWire and Bodas.net.

The first-ever Global Wedding Report — which is based on the experiences of 20,000 couples — sought to discover the cultural differences and varying societal norms related to engagements, wedding planning and celebrations across Europe, North America, Latin America and India.

“Seeking parents’ permission ahead of [the marriage proposal] is one of the areas where we saw some of the biggest differences,” noted Lauren Goodson, Senior Director of Insights at The Knot Worldwide.

She explained that while 67% of U.S. couples will ask for parental blessings, the practice is much less common in France (14%), Spain (9%) and Italy (8%). In those European countries, it’s common for the couple to make the decision to marry and then share the news with their parents.

Another interesting finding was that the tradition of popping the question, while still immensely popular in the US, Mexico and Canada, is not as prevalent elsewhere. More than 80% of couples in North America will experience a “bended knee” proposal. But, that number is only 50% in Italy, where couples are far more likely to jointly agree to take the next step in their relationships and buy the ring together.

For nearly all countries surveyed (13 out of 14), December reigned as the most popular engagement month. However, in India, couples most often report getting engaged in either February (20%) or January (13%), likely due to the preference of holding the engagement ceremony, as well as the wedding, on an auspicious or “good-luck” day.

Planning a wedding that is a true reflection of a couple’s unique love story is no easy feat, and doing so takes couples varying amounts of time around the globe, according to survey results.

Couples in Colombia, for example, report planning their wedding in just seven months — the shortest wedding planning timeline worldwide — followed by couples in India (8 months), Chile (8 months) and Peru (9 months). On the other hand, couples in the US and UK tend to have almost twice as much time for wedding planning, with engagements lasting 14 and 15 months on average, respectively.

Internationally, the most important factor determining the wedding cost is the guest count. Although the number of wedding guests varies significantly from country to country, Chile-based couples have the smallest weddings with an average of 91 guests, while couples in India, on average, welcome 524 guests (Indian weddings typically span multiple days).

Couples based in Peru, Chile and Colombia typically pay for roughly 55% of the wedding costs, while couples in other regions tend to receive more financial support from family members — especially in Spain and Italy, where they cover roughly two-thirds of the wedding expenses.

The Global Wedding Survey, which was conducted in December of 2018, provided insights from 20,000 recently married couples in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal and India.

Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com.

Music Friday: ‘You’re a Diamond to Me,’ Sings Eric Bibb in the Inspirational ‘Shine On’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, international blues troubadour Eric Bibb inspires us to keep our eyes on the mountaintop in the uplifting 2006 song, “Shine On.”

The two-time Grammy nominee knows that we can do better, reach higher and strive harder. He believes that quitting is not an option and that making mistakes is a valuable part of the learning process. Hard-earned wisdom is something money can’t buy.

He sings, “Don’t stop ’til you win your prize / Lean on all the love that is in my eyes / You’re a diamond to me, yes you are / Shine on.”

Penned by Bibb and Figge Bostrom, “Shine On” appeared as the third track on Bibb’s studio album, Diamond Days.

In reviewing the album for popmatters.com, Joe Montague wrote, “There are no rough edges on Diamond Days or Eric Bibb, the blues artist behind this fabulous new CD. The man is so effortless when he plays that one has difficulty determining where the guitar stops and where Bibb begins.”

Born in New York City in 1951, Bibb was immersed in music at a young age. His father was a singer in the 1960s New York folk music scene and regular guests at his home included Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, to name a few.

When young Bibb became interested in playing the guitar, it was Dylan who advised the 11-year-old to “Keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff.”

Bibb went to Columbia University to pursue degrees in psychology and Russian, but left the Ivy League school after one year. Instead, he packed his bags and headed out to Paris, where he studied the best traditions of pre-war blues.

Before long, he was making a name for himself in France, the UK, Canada, Sweden, Germany and the US.

He earned two Grammy nominations for “Shakin’ a Tailfeather” (1997) and “Migration Blues” (2017). In 2018, he opened for George Benson on his UK tour, and this month, Bibb and his band will be playing at venues throughout Australia.

Please check out the audio clip of Bibb performing “Shine On.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Shine On”
Written by Eric Bibb and Figge Bostrom. Performed by Eric Bibb.

Life gives you the runaround you say
You wanna know
How much dues must you pay

Well, you can pay off what you want
When there’s a will
There’s always a way

Keeping your eyes on
That mountain top
Stepping up time
Don’t ever, ever stop

Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on ’til you find your living it
I’ll be right by your side
Yeah baby keep on
Don’t stop ’til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that is in my eyes
You’re a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on

I know what you’ve been through
I see
But it’s time to leave it behind and let it be
Yeah

Hard-earned wisdom is something you can’t buy
It’s the wings of experience
That make you fly

Don’t look back
Don’t look back
Don’t turn around
You’re on the right track

Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on ’til you find your living it
I’ll be right by your side
Yeah baby keep on
Don’t stop ’til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that is in my eyes
You’re a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on
Shine on
Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on ’til you find your living it
I’ll be right by your side
Yeah baby
Don’t stop ’til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that’s in my eyes
You’re a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on
Shine on
Baby you got to shine on
That’s what you’re born to do
Me and you
You got to shine on
Sparkle baby

Baby you got to
Shine on

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com/TheDixiefrogrecords.