The Golden Spike.

The Golden Spike (In Transition)

Field review by the editors.

Stanford, California

The Golden Spike was supposedly the last piece of metal hammered into the last piece of wood to complete the Transcontinental Railroad. In fact, no one ever hammered the Golden Spike into anything; it was gently nudged into a pre-drilled hole, like hardware in a ready-to-assemble shelving unit.

The Golden Spike.

And it wasn't an official national icon commissioned by the federal government. The Spike was created by a San Francisco businessman, who thought that the "Wedding of the Rails" ceremony should have a little pizzazz.

And it's only 73 percent gold.

Visitors to the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, Utah, are sometimes disappointed to find that the Spike is not there. It has never been there, except for a few minutes during the Spike ceremony in 1869. It was then pulled out of the hole and whisked back to civilization. The Spike was given to California railroad baron Leland Stanford, and eventually found its way into Stanford University's museum (now the Cantor Center for Visual Arts), where it's been ever since.

The museum was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and it was decided that the Spike needed a sturdier showcase -- so the museum gave Utah the old Wells Fargo safe where the Spike had been displayed. Utah displays the empty safe at the State Railroad Museum in Ogden.

Sometimes a replica Spike is placed inside.

The Golden Spike

Cantor Center for Visual Arts

328 Lomita Drive, Stanford, CA
Cantor Center for Visual Arts. On the Stanford University campus, at the intersection of Museum Way and Lomita Drive. The Cantor Center faces the Bing Concert Hall across Palm Drive, northwest of The Oval and the Main Quad.
Spike is on tour, should return to the museum Sept. 2019. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
In Transition
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