July 1, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Bill, which opened a line from Missouri River to California.
Construction crawled, but by October, rails reached the 100th meridian, 247 miles west of Omaha.
Union Pacific celebrated.
Two trains chugged down the track to the 100th meridian. Red, white, and blue streamers billowed alongside the cars, and festive antlers perched on top of locomotives.
The first train lugged party supplies, Western style: tents, buffalo robes, cases of champagne.
The second train brought 140 party goers—the guest list loaded with influential capitalists and Congressional dignitaries.
They whooped it up for three days, dancing around a huge bonfire, peering at a prairie dog town, applauding Pawnee war dancers, and eating fresh-killed antelope for dinner.