The West - Travel History

The West
1848 -1893
The American Frontier
• Prior to the Civil War, thousands had gone
west, seeking fame, fortune, and new
• After the end of the war, the pace of
settlement increased dramatically.
“Go West, Young Man”
• Why did people go West?
Why would people want to migrate West?
• Gold and silver discoveries send many west.
• First major Western Gold find was in California
in 1848.
– 80,000 Forty-niners came to California, few became
• Comstock Lode in Nevada
– Gold and silver discovered in 1859.
• Pike’s Peak
– Gold discovery brought 100,000 into Colorado.
• First pan-handlers sifted
for gold in streams.
• Big strikes led to the
formation of Boomtowns.
• Most boomtowns
disappear when the gold
ran out.
• A few towns survive to
become large cities:
– San Francisco, Denver,
Who Made Money?
• Many miners arrived too late
to find gold
• The people who made
money were those who
recognized how to supply
goods and services to the
• Levi Strauss – Opened
General Store in San
– Rec’d patent for Jeans with
• People of all classes,
races, and genders
come West to mine.
• Most were single
white men, but there
were AfricanAmerican miners.
• 1/3 of all Western
miners were Chinese.
“The Most Rapid and Effective
• On the frontier, immigrants were
refashioned into new people, no longer,
English or German or Irish or Swedish but
Cattle Ranching
• Beef was in high demand after the Civil
War as cities grew.
• Easy to enter Cattle Ranching as
range/feed was free.
• Growth of railroads made it possible to get
western beef to eastern markets.
Longhorns on the Range
• As with mining,
cattletowns develop
near railheads to
handle cattle drives.
• Time of the cowboy
and the open West.
– The setting for much
of the Hollywood
Cowboys from Texas herded the
cattle to the stocking yards of
Abilene, Dodge City, Cheyenne
Large meat companies like the
Swifts and Armours needed the
cattle in the meat-packing plants
of Chicago before shipping the
meat to the East Coast markets
Men like Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp were hired to keep law and order in the rising
towns of the West.
End of the Range
• Cattle drives end in the late 1880s.
• Overgrazing, a severe drought, and a
harsh winter decimated cattle herds.
• Joseph Glidden’s invention, barbed-wire,
enabled farmers to fence off their land and
ended the open ranges needed to feed
The Range Wars
• Lincoln County Wars
• Billy the Kid joins
“The Regulators” to
bring murderers to
• Billy would be hunted
down by bounty
hunters, the military
and law men
Colt .45 Revolver
God didn’t make men equal.
Colonel Colt did!
• Hundred of thousands move West to
become farmers.
• The 1862 Homestead Act gave 160 acres
of land to anyone who would work the land
for 5 years – for free!
• The 1862 Morrill Act gave states western
land to sell to fund new colleges—
increased educational opportunities and
provided cheap land for settlers.
“The Rain will Follow the Plow”
• Farming on the Great
Plains was not easy.
• Sod was thick and
hard to plow the first
• Few trees, little wood
for buildings, so many
built their houses from
What foreign policy action granted the
United States the land within the Great
Great Plains Farming
• Environmental factors made it difficult to farm
the Great Plains:
– Little rainfall
– Many crops not suited to the conditions
• Not until farmers adopted dry farming or
irrigation did Great Plains farmers really
Farming Becomes Mechanized
• McCormick invents
the mechanical
• John Deere invents
the steel plow
Russian Immigrants Save the
Great Plains!
• Russian Mennonite immigrants from the Steppe
region of Russia bring wheat seeds with them
• This particular wheat grows well in the plains
• Region becomes the “Bread Basket”
Frederick Jackson Turner
• A historian whose 1893 Frontier Thesis claimed
that the West had been completely settled.
• Used US Census data to back his the argument in
his essay.
• While many continued to move West, the frontier
was considered closed. Americans would have to
look for new frontiers to conquer.