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Big Railroad Blues & Westward Expansion 1860 -1900
Politics and Business The US Government worked hand-in-hand with large business throughout the late 19 th century. The large scale growth of industry in the three decades following the Civil War-railroads in particularwould have been impossible without joint facilitation between the two.
James Watt, 1774 Watt's Steam Engine
By 1890. . .
“Who cares, it's just a railroad” The growth of railways in the last half of the 19 th century amounted to a revolution in business, travel, US growth, domestic policy, & culture. Business: Someone had to build them and someone had to refine the materials for making them. Someone had to pay for them. Someone had to buy the land on which the tracks were set. Travel: “You're telling me I can get to California from New York in less than a week? ” Growth: Economically there was a market revolution. Products could be shipped further and cheaper than ever. Population increased and spread as the settling of the American West became a reality. Domestic Policy: These things cost money. A lot of money. Oh, and there is that problem of those people who already own the land. Culture: As travel and migration increased, awareness of cultural differences increased as well.
How to build a transcontinental railroad
The American West in the 1860 s Who lived east of California and west of the Mississippi River during and immediately after the Civil War?
Some Native Americans, but they aren't buying railroad tickets. Gold-seekers in California and the western Rockies, but there aren't enough. Small populations of Chinese immigrants and Hispanics, but too few and they aren't well liked by white Americans overall. So, in essence, nobody lived there. Why build a transcontinental railroad then?
Someone forgot there was a war going on. Pacific Railway Act of 1862: Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads would oversee the construction of the transcontinental RR. CP would start in Cali and UP would start in Nebraska. They would meet somewhere. To help spur the RR companies the US government gave large chunks of land on either side of the tracks. Low interest loans. Between $20 -$35 k per mile.
You want me to do what? Most workers were busy killing each other in the Civil War at this time. Chinese, Mormons, Irish, some freedmen. At this time these ethnic/religious groups were considered second-class citizens.
We did it! Now what? Promontory Point, UT 1869. The West was open. Well, a lot of it anyway. This is why we have time zones. Still, nobody lived there.
Free land is good land even if it's not good land. Homestead Act of 1862 160 acres of unclaimed land Had to be “occupied” and “improved” over five years. Sod-busters. Over 400, 000 families snatched up land following the passage of the Homestead Act. Here's a little figure: Average inches of rainfall per year in the Great Plains- 12 in. From drought to blizzards in four months. If you actually wanted to make some $, you sold irrigation rights.
In case you were wondering. . . The Homestead Act was rescinded in 1976 (1986 in Alaska) Close to 300, 000 acres of land were Homesteaded. Ken Deardorff in Stony Creek, Alaska was the last Homesteader. 1979. Far and Away which centers around Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman trying to get their 160 acres is still a terrible movie.
This land is my land. . . As we know, Native Americans had consistently been pushed west since colonial times. The “opening” of the American West brought on by railroads and Homesteading caused more friction. Rock and a hard place
A couple of cases Boomer Sooner OK was Indian land. Trail of Tears, etc. Sooners (Came into OK sooner than was legal) staked out Indian land for their own prior to Pres. Cleveland/Harrison opening OK to settlement in 1889. By the turn of the 20 th century more than half of the NA land (mostly Cherokee and Choctaw) was in Sooner hands. Great Sioux War, 1876 Most famous for Custer's Last Stand/Battle of Little Big Horn Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse (Sioux & Lakota) alliance. Northern Pacific wanted a RR through the Black Hills. Reservation land, however. Despite early NA victories, the US Army eventually relocated the tribes.
If you can't lick 'em. . . Dawes Act of 1887 US Government became determined to assimilate Native Americans into white American society. Early Social Darwinism. More on this later. . . End the Reservation system. Open up all the land. Native Americans could Homestead (160 acres). However, land was held in trust by the US govt. for 25 years. US citizenship granted to NA's after four years. This was mandatory homesteading.
Impact of the Dawes Act Over 2/3 of all Native land was lost. The 160 acres was a net loss in land, meaning more land was open to US settlement. Dawes Act remained in effect until the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. Many, but not all, Native Americans rejected assimilation and “returned” to an earlier spirituality, e. g. Ghost Dance (mainly Sioux)
Key Points as we move forward US government and private business worked hand-in-hand to settle the West The “opening of the West” and the rail revolution impacted people, industries, and policies in every aspect. When reading Frederick Jackson Turner keep in mind that he was writing during this “closing of the frontier. ” 1893.
Deadwood Wild Bill Hickok & Calamity Jane
Billy, Garrett, & the Earps
Texas Rangers & Buffalo Soldiers