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The American West

The American West. 1862-1900. California Gold Rush. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 caused the first flood of newcomers to the West The California gold rush set off a feverish quest for gold and silver throughout the West that would extend well into the 1890s

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The American West

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  1. The American West 1862-1900

  2. California Gold Rush • The discovery of gold in California in 1848 caused the first flood of newcomers to the West • The California gold rush set off a feverish quest for gold and silver throughout the West that would extend well into the 1890s • A series of gold strikes and silver strikes in what became the states of Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and South Dakota kept a steady flow of hopeful young prospectors pushing into the western mountains

  3. The Mining Frontier • California’s great gold rush of 1849 set the pattern for what happened in other areas of the West • At first, individual prospectors hoping to strike it rich would look for traces of gold in mountain streams by a method called placer mining, using simple tools such as shovels and washing pans • Eventually, however, such methods gave way to deep-shaft mining that required expensive equipment and the resources of wealthy investors and corporations • In the Rocky Mountains, miners dug millions of dollars in gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc ore

  4. Homestead Act (1862) • In 1862, Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862 in order to encourage westward expansion and settlement of the Great Plains by offering 160 acres of public land free to any individual or family • The promise of free land combined with the promotions of railroads and land speculators induced hundreds of thousands of native-born Americans and immigrants to settle the Great Plains between 1870 and 1900

  5. The Farming Frontier • The first “sodbusters” on the dry, treeless plains often built their homes of sod bricks • Settlers overcame heat, blizzards, drought, insects, and the occasional conflict with cattle ranchers in order to farm the Great Plains. The lonesomeness of life on the prairie challenged even the most resourceful pioneer families • Water was scarce, as was wood for fences

  6. An Agricultural Revolution New technologies helped people who moved onto the Plains to raise crops • The invention of barbed wire by Joseph Glidden in 1874 helped farmers fence in their lands and aided the growth of both farming and ranching • mail-order windmills were used to drill deep wells to pull water to the surface of dry western lands • Those farmers who succeeded adopted so called “dry farming” and deep plowing techniques, using steel plows cut tough prairie soil • Farmers planted hearty strains of Russian wheat that were better able to withstand the extreme climate of the Plains • Mechanical reapers and farm machinery allowed a smaller number of workers to plant and harvest more crops

  7. The Farming Frontier • Many homesteaders discovered too late that 160 acres was not adequate for farming the Great Plains • Long spells of severe weather, falling commodity prices, and the cost of new machinery left many western farmers deeply in debt • Two-thirds of the farms on the Great Plains failed by 1900 • Western Kansas alone lost half of its population between 1888-1892 • In the end, dams and irrigation would save many western farms, as Americans reshaped the rivers and physical environment of the West to provide water for agriculture

  8. Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad • During the Civil War, Congress passed the Pacific Railway Act, authorizing land grants and loans for the building of the first transcontinental railroad • The monumental project was undertaken by two railroad companies • The Union Pacific was to build westward across the Great Plains, starting from Omaha, Nebraska, while the Central Pacific took on the formidable challenge of laying track across mountain passes in the Sierra Mountains, pushing eastward from Sacramento • General Grenville Dodge directed construction of the Union Pacific using thousands of war veterans and Irish immigrants • Charles Croker recruited thousands of Chinese immigrants to do the dangerous work of blasting tunnels through the Sierras for the Central Pacific

  9. Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad • Completing one of the great engineering feats of the 1800s, the two railroads came together on May 10th, 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah, where a golden spike was ceremoniously driven into the ground to mark the linking of the Atlantic and the Pacific states • By 1900, four other transcontinental railroads were constructed across different sections of the West

  10. Westward Expansion

  11. Spotlight on HistoryChinese Immigration • In the mid-19th century, Chinese immigrants came to "Gold Mountain," as they called America, to join the “Gold Rush” • As the lure of gold diminished, they came simply to work • Initially welcomed, they became a significant part of the labor force that laid the economic foundation of the American West • Chinese could be found throughout the region, laboring in agriculture, mining, industry, and wherever workers were needed • They are best known for their contribution to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the completion of which united the country economically and culturally

  12. Chinese Immigration “No variety of anti-European sentiment has ever approached the violent extremes to which anti-Chinese agitation went in the 1870s and 1880s. Lynching, boycotts, and mass expulsions…harassed the Chinese.”

  13. Spotlight on HistoryChinese Immigration • Although the Chinese played an important role in the development of the American West, the Chinese suffered severe exploitation. They were discriminated against in terms of pay and forced to work under abysmal conditions. • Native-born white workers viewed Chinese immigrants as economic competitors and racial inferiors • Nativist hostility led to the passage of discriminatory laws and the commission of widespread acts of violence against the Chinese • Under the racist slogan, "Chinese must go!" an anti-Chinese movement emerged that worked assiduously to deprive the Chinese of a means of making a living in the general economy. The movement’s goal was to drive them out of the country • This hostility hindered efforts by the Chinese to become American. It forced them to flee to the Chinatowns on the coasts, where they found safety and support. In these ghettos, they managed to eke out a meager existence, but were isolated from the rest of the population, making it difficult if not impossible to assimilate into mainstream society. To add insult to injury, Chinese were criticized for their alleged unassimilability

  14. Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882 Finally, Chinese workers were prevented from immigrating to America by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Its passage was a watershed event in American history. Besides identifying for the first time a specific group of people by name as undesirable for immigration to the United States, the act also marked a fateful departure from the traditional American policy of unrestricted immigration

  15. Native Americans and Westward Expansion • The westward expansion of the late 1800s continued to create problems for the Native Americans who stood in its path • By the 1840s, only a few groups of scattered groups of Native Americans lived east of the Mississippi • Most tribes had been removed to lands in the West • With the California Gold Rush, the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, and the building of the transcontinental railroad, white settlers began to move onto Native American lands in the West

  16. Slaughteredfor the Hide “The vast plains west of the Missouri River are covered with the decaying bones of thousands of slain buffaloes. Most of them have been slaughtered for the hide by professional hunters, while many have fallen victims to the sportsmen’s rage for killing merely for the sake of killing. These people take neither hide nor flesh, but leave the whole carcass to decay…Our artists spoke with the hunters on the plains who boasted of having killed two thousand head of buffalo apiece in one season…”

  17. Native Americans and Westward Expansion

  18. Native Americans and Westward Expansion Indian removal Reservation Policy In 1851, with the signing of the Fort LaramieTreaty, the federal government began to assign to the plains tribes large tracts of land, or reservations, with definite boundaries Most Plains tribes, however, refused to restrict their movements to the reservations and continued to follow the migrating buffalo herds • In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson’s policy of removing eastern Native Americans to the West was based on the belief that lands west of the Mississippi would permanently remain “Indian country” • This expectation soon proved false, as wagon trains rolled westward and the transcontinental railroad was built

  19. Native Americans and Westward Expansion

  20. Indian Wars • As thousands of miners, cattlemen, and homesteaders began to settle on Native American lands in the West, warfare became inevitable • From the 1850’s to 1890, periodic outbursts of fighting erupted between United States troops and the tribes of the Plains • Fighting was often characterized by atrocious acts of brutality including massacres

  21. A Wound to the Heart The constant pressure of the United States Army forced tribe after tribe to comply with the terms of the federal government. In addition, the slaughter of the buffalo by the early 1880s doomed the way of life of the Plains people.

  22. Ghost Dance movement • The last effort of Native Americans to resist the taking of their ancestral lands came through a religious movement known as the Ghost Dance. In the government’s campaign to suppress the movement, United States troops killed the Sioux medicine man Sitting Bull

  23. Massacre at Wounded Knee • In December 1890, over two hundred Native American men, women, and children were gunned down by the United States army at Wounded Knee Creek in the Dakotas • This final tragedy marked the end of the Indian Wars

  24. Assimiliation • The injustices done to Native Americans were chronicled in a best-selling book by Helen Hunt Jackson, A Century of Dishonor (1881) • The book created sympathy for Native Americans, especially in the eastern part of the United States, spurring government authorities and private philanthropists to propose assimilation of Native Americans into white mainstream society • Assimilationists emphasized formal education, training, and conversion to Christianity • One of the most ambitious and controversial ways to encourage assimilation was a series of boarding schools for Indian children, such as the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania. Separated from their people, Native American children were taught by white teachers the ways of white culture and American society

  25. Assimiliation Three Lakota boys on their arrival at the Carlisle Indian School The same three Lakota boys begin the process of deculturization at the Carlisle Indian School

  26. Dawes Severalty Act (1887) • Through disease, warfare, and relocation to reservations, the Native American population declined dramatically during the closing decades of the 19th century • In 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Severalty Act. Reversing its policy of nearly fifty years of creating reservations in which the tribes would be isolated from white society, the federal government introduced a new policy intended to help assimilate, civilize, and Americanize Native Americans by forcing Indians to become landowners and farmers • The Dawes Act provided for the gradual break up of tribal lands and the granting of land to Native American families and individuals • Native Americans who abandoned tribal ways would be granted deeds to their land and United States citizenship after twenty-five years

  27. Dawes Severalty Act (1887) • Few Indians were prepared for this wrenching change from their traditional collective society to individualism • Relatively few Native Americans accepted the terms of the Dawes Act • Much of the former reservation land was never distributed to individual owners and was sold to white settlers and speculators • The new policy proved a failure. By the turn of the century, disease and poverty had further reduced the Native American population, most of whom lived as wards of the federal government

  28. Land held by Native American tribes before passageof the Dawes Severalty Act and 100 years later

  29. Looking ForwardUnited States Indian Policy in the 20th Century • In 1924, in recognition of the failure of its policy of forced assimilation, the federal government granted United States citizenship to all Native Americans, regardless of whether they had met the requirements of the Dawes Act • In 1934, as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Congress adopted the Indian Reorganization Actin order to promote the reestablishment of tribal organization and culture • Today, an estimated 1.8 million Native Americans, living on reservations and throughout the United States represent more than 110 tribes

  30. The Turner Thesis • In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner published his paper, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, or Turner Thesis • Turner argued that the frontier, “and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development” • According to Turner, frontier life and the West had helped to shape a unique American character, promoting both a spirit of independence and individualism

  31. Farmers, Populists, and Politics What factors gave rise to agrarian discontent during the late nineteenth century?

  32. Analyzing Documents/Song The Farmer is the man (Who Feeds them all) Hayseed like me I once was a tool of oppression As green as a sucker could be And monopolies banded together To beat a poor hayseed like me The railroads and the old party bosses Together did sweetly agree They thought there would be little trouble In workin’ a hayseed like me Hayseed Like Me, Traditional The Farmer is the man, The farmer is the man. Lives on credit till the fall; With the interest rate so high, It’s a wonder he don’t die. For the mortgage man’s the one who gets it all. The Farmer is the Man, Traditional

  33. Rise of Agrarian Discontent

  34. Rise of Agrarian Discontent

  35. The Grange Movement • Many farmers facing the hardship and isolation of rural life joined the Grange • Founded in 1867, the organization was originally meant to develop social ties among rural dwellers • Among farmers, however, there was a growing awareness that middlemen and railroads, upon whom farmers depended to store and transport crops, exerted greater and greater power over their livelihoods • To win back some of this power, the Grange began to press for political changes to limit the power of the railroads • Pressure from the Grange and other groups led many state legislatures pass so called Granger laws to regulate railroads

  36. The Populist Party • The passage of state laws, however, failed to reign in the abuses of the railroad companies. Although such laws were upheld in the Supreme Court case Munn v. Illinois, the Supreme Court struck down an Illinois state law in the Wabash Case.This decision prompted the passage of federal regulation. • Farmers then realized that their best hope of winning more reforms was the formation of a new political party • In 1891, they formed a third-party called the Populist Party, or People’s Party

  37. Rise of Populism

  38. The Populist Party • The new party had strong grassroots-support directly from the people rather than established political figures • Populist candidates soon made strong showings in elections for state legislatures and for the United States Congress • Many of the ideas and goals of the Populists eventually became law

  39. The Election of 1896 • The Populist Party made their strongest showing in the presidential election of 1896, the first election to follow a severe economic downturn, or Panic, that had begun in 1893 • The major Populist issue in the campaign was free silver • Free, or unlimited coinage of silver would bring about cheap money, or currency inflated in value • Farmers believed that cheap money would lead to higher crop prices and make it easier for farmers to pay off debts • William Jennings Bryan, who ran on both the Populist and Democratic tickets, argued tirelessly for inflationary monetary policy

  40. The Election of 1896 • Republican William McKinley had the support of big business, which made significant contributions to his presidential campaign • McKinley claimed the country should remain on the gold standard and opposed free silver • McKinley won the election by a fair margin • The nation’s economy soon recovered and the Populists soon disappeared as a political party • As with other third-parties throughout American history, many of the Populists’ ideas were later adopted by other political parties

  41. The Election of 1896 The election of McKinley and the defeat of the Populists symbolized the great changes that had taken swept the nation since the Civil War • The economy had changed from agrarian to industrial. • The United States was a nation of cities rather than farms and villages • The West was closing • New immigrants were creating a new, complex pluralistic culture in America • By 1900, the United States was entering both a new century and a modern age

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