On the Site:


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

Jan 30, 2023, 12:24 PM | Updated: 12:25 pm

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

The Arizona Spike, right, is displayed next to the framed gold and Nevada spikes at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City on Jan. 31, 2019. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)

(Carter Williams, KSL.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — 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, much more than it was expected to reel in.

Christie’s listed the spike for auction along with a handful of other historical items. The final sale of $2.22 million far exceeded its pre-auction estimate of $300,000 to $500,000, though it’s unclear who purchased the spike.

Peter Klarnet, Christie’s vice president and senior Americana specialist, told Artnet News that the sale “soared past our expectations.”

“I think the spike captured the imagination of collectors, in part, because it is a potent symbol of national unity,” Klarnet told the outlet. “That sense of unity means as much today as it did when the transcontinental railroad was finished less than four years after the Civil War.”

So what is the Arizona spike, and how did it come to be?

Most people think of the golden spike when they think of the “Wedding of the Rails” ceremony at Promontory Summit to celebrate the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. But it was actually one of four ceremonial spikes presented at the event.

Arizona and Nevada each commissioned spikes ahead of the railroad’s completion, as did the San Francisco newspaper magnet Frederick Marriott, according to Union Pacific, which compiled a history of the spikes. While Marriott’s spike was also gold, Nevada made its spike out of silver and Arizona, then a territory, made its out of iron, gold and silver.

All of the spikes had messages inscribed on them. For example, the Arizona spike reads: “Ribbed with iron, clad in silver and crowned with gold, Arizona presents her offering to the enterprise that has banded a continent, dictated a pathway to commerce. Presented by Governor Safford.”

After the ceremony ended, all four spikes ended up going to the event’s different distinguished guests. David Hewes, the brother-in-law of Central Pacific Railroad President Leland Stanford, commissioned the famed golden spike and took it back with him to California. The National Park Service notes that Hewes eventually donated it to Stanford University’s art museum in 1892, where it remains today.

The Nevada spike was presented to Stanford and also ended up going to the university.

Marriott’s golden spike from San Francisco, which wasn’t the same quality as Hewes’ spike, eventually “faded into obscurity,” Union Pacific historians wrote. It was believed to have been given to one of Union Pacific’s executives but it’s unclear what happened to it. Historians acknowledge that Marriott’s spike could have been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire; either way, that spike’s fate remains a mystery.

The fate of the Arizona spike was also unknown for quite some time. It emerged in 1943 when a decedent of Sidney Dillon, a Union Pacific executive at the time the railroad was completed, donated it to the Museum of the City of New York, according to Christie’s. It was loaned to several museums beginning in 1978 up until last week’s auction.

The spike even briefly returned to Utah four years ago ahead of the state celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the railroad completion. It joined the golden spike and Nevada spike at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts — the first time all three were in Utah at the same time since the 1869 ceremony.

While one of the four spikes was lost in time, another has since emerged. Utah leaders also commissioned a copper spike in 2019 to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary. Then-Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the spike was meant to honor Utah’s “significant role” in the railroad’s history.

“I think we forget the magnitude and the significance of this event,” he said at the time. “What it represents is, we can do hard things during difficult times. We can dream big, work hard and if we work together, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.”

KSL 5 TV Live


Rent prices are seeing a decrease after several years of astronomical increase. Although, an expert...

Daniel Woodruff

Utah rental market softens, but for how long?

Utah's rental market is seeing a decrease in prices after years of astronomical increase. Experts say the trend will likely not last forever.

1 day ago

The Sugar House business district is pictured in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. Sugarhou...

Tammy Kikuchi, KSLNewsRadio

Sugar House Barbeque Company closing after struggles with road construction

Sugarhouse Barbeque is calling it quits and road construction is a big part of the reason, according to General Manager Jeff Berg.

4 days ago

FILE - A Paqui One Chip Challenge chip is displayed in Boston, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. A lawsuit was...

Michael Casey, Associated Press

Lawsuit filed in case of teen who died after eating spicy chip

A lawsuit was filed Thursday against Hershey, Walgreens and several others in the case of a Massachusetts teen who died after he participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge that was widely promoted on social media.

4 days ago

A small pilot study detected lead in both organic and nonorganic tampons, but further research is n...

Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Tampons contain lead, arsenic and potentially toxic chemicals, studies say. Here’s what to know

Studies have now found lead, arsenic and potentially toxic chemicals such as PFAS and phthalates in tampons and other menstrual products.

5 days ago

Dollar General will improve safety protocols in stores and pay $12 million in penalties in a sweepi...

Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

Dollar General has 48 hours to make its stores safer or it will face big fines

Dollar General will improve safety protocols in stores and pay $12 million in penalties in a sweeping settlement with the Department of Labor over the discount chain’s history of putting low-wage employees in dangerous working conditions.

5 days ago

South Korean researchers say they've developed a way to make lab-grown meat taste and smell like co...

Lex Harvey and Laura Paddison, CNN

It may look like pink Jello but scientists hope this new invention could revolutionize meat

Researchers in South Korea say they’ve developed a new way to make lab-grown meat taste like the real deal. It may look like a transparent, bubble gum pink-colored disc, but scientists hope it could revolutionize the meat on people’s plates.

7 days 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.

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