Iconic ‘Champagne Photo,’ Photographers Remembered On Golden Spike Anniversary

May 10, 2019, 3:35 PM | Updated: 3:38 pm

PROMONTORY, Utah —As the transcontinental railroad was nearing completion, fortunately the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads made sure the event was documented. They hired 3 photographers to preserve that great day in 1869.

One of those photographers was from Salt Lake City. Some of his relatives still live here.

The most famous photograph from that day, known as “The Champagne Photo,” was taken by Andrew J. Russell, who worked for the Union Pacific. The iconic shot shows the two train engineers holding up bottles of the bubbly, with railroad workers lined up on each side.

Another of the three photographers was Alfred Hart, who worked for the Central Pacific. The third photographer was Charles R. Savage, who lived and worked in Salt Lake City.

The three men shot photos for several hours that day, so there are variations of the ceremony.

Annetta Mower is Charles Savage’s great granddaughter and still lives in Salt Lake. She has a large photo album of Savage’s that’s been in the family for years.

“A lot of photos involve the general authorities but there are a lot of the [scenic shots], a lot of Salt Lake City,” she said.

Savage’s work was well known throughout the western U.S. at the time. Many of his scenic photos were used to promote the west, urging people to settle here after the railroad opened things up.

At a recent family gathering, Mower said her kids and grandkids were looking through the photo album and found a small photo, about the size of a playing card. It was a photo he took after the final railroad spike was in place.

“When I saw it I knew it was Promontory but I didn’t know that it was anything unusual, except that there were the women,” Mower said.

It’s a similar photo to the more famous “Champagne” picture, but some of the people posing are different or had changed positions.

Brad Westwood, a consulting historian for the Spike 150 celebration, said the photographers took photos over several hours that day, so each had a slightly different look.

“And so between the three of them they tried to stay out of each other’s way,” he said.

You can just imagine what it was probably like that day, with so many people running around hoping to be included in a photo of such a rare and historic event.

As for women, there were some who traveled along with the workers, cooking and sewing and several of them appear in the photos.

“In the 19th century, there was deep bias of women and their involvement in frontier settings,” Westwood said. “There were a few women there. The 21st Infantry which was travelling on the train had a band, some of the soldiers and officers brought their wives.”

As for railroad travel, a lot has certainly changed in the last 150-years. And to think, that the biggest change started at a desolate spot in Northern Utah.

There’s a monument honoring Charles Savage located on the corner of Main and South Temple in Salt Lake. And, on this 150th anniversary, Annetta Mower and her family are certainly excited about all the renewed attention that her great grandfather is getting.

“I always knew that he took pictures there,” she said, “but now that it’s got a lot of excitement to it, it’s been fun for the family.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Spike 150

The Arizona Spike, right, is displayed next to the framed gold and Nevada spikes at the Utah Museum...

Carter Williams

1 of the 4 spikes driven at Promontory Summit fetches $2.2M at auction

The Arizona spike, which was ceremoniously driven in Utah to mark the transcontinental railroad completion in 1869, sold for a little more than $2 million during an auction that closed Thursday.

1 year ago


John Hollenhorst, KSL TV

Colorado Town Disputes Utah’s Transcontinental Claim To Fame

When Utah celebrated the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike, the cheering section was pretty much statewide. But in a tiny Colorado town, some people think the whole thing in Utah is a historical fraud.

5 years ago

Big Boy and Crowd...

Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Spike 150 Brings Boost To Weber, Box Elder Economy

A large influx of visitors into Northern Utah is expected to translate into millions of dollars being spent, especially in Box Elder, and Weber Counties.

5 years ago

Native American At Transcontinental Railroad...

Keri Wilcox, KSL TV

Spike 150 Celebrations Honor Native American Culture and Legacy

As Utah and the nation celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, Native Americans hope we also remember and honor an often forgotten legacy of progress.

5 years ago


BRADY McCOMBS Associated Press

Cannons, Bells, Music Mark 150th Anniversary Of Railroad

Visitors traveled from as far as China and dressed in old-fashioned dresses, top hats and bonnets for the celebration featuring music, a flyover, the firing of cannons and ringing of bells at the Golden Spike National Historic Park.

5 years ago

AJ Russell's famous "champagne" photo...


Presidential Message Released On The 150th Anniversary Of The Completion Of The Transcontinental Railroad

The White House released a presidential message about the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. 

5 years ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Iconic ‘Champagne Photo,’ Photographers Remembered On Golden Spike Anniversary