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Dear America Wiki

The Journal of Sean Sullivan: A Transcontinental Railroad Worker, republished as Until the Last Spike, is the fifth book in the My Name Is America series. The book was written by William Durbin; his first for the series. It was first published in September 1999 by Scholastic and was reissued in August 2013 with a new title and cover art.


"To Barbara Markowitz—agent, advocate, and friend."

Book description[]

"August 17
Last night I found out why the Indians are still so dangerous.... Pa and his buddy Bill Flanagan were playing cribbage like they usually do before they go to bed, when a bullet whizzed through the side of our tent. I didn't even realize what had happened until a shaving mug exploded on a shelf just above my head. Then a fraction of a second later we heard the report of a rifle, followed by a far off war whoop....
Pa and Bill crawled into bed without even bothering to pick up the broken pieces of that mug. They started snoring right away, but I lay awake for a long time after.... I couldn't help but wonder how awful it would be to take a stray bullet in the brain and never know why.

""We're not even halfway done, and Pa says the toughest and meanest country is yet to come."
After his ma passes away, Sean Sullivan joins his pa working out West for the Union Pacific Railroad to help earn money for the family. But when Sean arrives in Nebraska, it's not at all what he expected. Sean is assigned to be a lowly water carrier—toting barrels of water to the thirsty men who are doing the backbreaking work on the line. Slowly, he begins to work his way up the ranks, with his eye on becoming a spiker. However, life is rough along the railroad's path, and in the mountains and plains far from the law, anything can happen. Especially when two major companies, Union Pacific and Central Pacific, are each determined to lay the most track, and to do it the fastest. A deadly race breaks out, and as the competition fires up, so do prejudices between the Irish and Chinese workers. With tensions running high and the stakes raised, danger threatens the men's work. Within the pages of his journal, Sean captures the spirit of the era, the magnitude of building a railroad, and the deadly racial divide as a country strives to unify itself through a transportation revolution.



Historical Note[]


Main article: List of The Journal of Sean Sullivan characters


Main article: William Durbin



  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People (2000)[4]


"I would like to extend special thanks to my editor, Amy Griffin, and to the production staff at Scholastic for the care they have taken in the preparation of this manuscript.
For assistance with my research I would like to recognize Bob Hanover of the Golden Spike Monument; Lori Olson of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming; Thomas Taber of the Railroad Historical Research Center; Don Snoddy of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Omaha; and the staffs of the Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Duluth Library, and the Virginia Public Library.
Finally, my gratitude, as always, must go to my wife, Barbara; my daughter, Jessica; and my son, Reid, for their unflagging support.


  • The portrait on the cover of the first edition is a detail from Augustus John's portrait of his son David. The background is a detail from Alfred Rudolph Waud's 1869 lithograph Building the Union Pacific Railroad.[5][6][7]
  • The cover of the second edition was illustrated by Mike Heath.


See also[]

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