For four years Americans closely followed the progress of the Pacific railroad in their newspapers, anxious to see it completed. By May 1869, intense attention was focused on this desolate corner of northern Utah. The entire country was eager for word that the last spike had been driven.
A telegraph signal sent from the tracks just 100 yards ahead triggered a truly transcontinental extravaganza. As the word went out over the wires, the nation went wild. In city after city, church bells rang, trains hooted, fire engines howled, gongs clanged, and cannons thundered. Citizen thronged the streets to watch parades. People sang The Star-Spangled Banner, prayed, and shouted themselves hoarse. Countless orators hailed this as a "great day" of national destiny.