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Closing the Western Frontier

In 1860, most Americans considered the Great Plains the “Great American Desert.” Settlement west of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Lousiana averaged just 1 person per square mile. The only parts of the Far West that were highly settled were California and Texas. Between 1865 and the 1890s, however, Americans settled 430 million acres in the Far West--more land than during the preceding 250 years of American history.By 1893, the Census Bureau was able to claim that the entire western frontier was now occupied.

The discovery of gold, silver, and other precious minerals in California in 1849, in Nevada and Colorado in the 1850s, in Idaho and Montana in 1860s, and South Dakota in the 1870s sparked an influx of prospectors and miners. The expansion of railroads and the invention of barbed wire and improvements in windmills and pumps attracted ranchers and farmers to the Great Plains in the 1860s and 1870s. This chapter examines the forces that drove Americans westward; the kinds of lives they established in the Far West; and the rise of the "West of the imagination," the popular myths that continue to exert a powerful hold on mass culture.

Building the Transcontinental Railroad
The Great American Desert
The Comstock Lode and the Mining Frontier
The Cattle Frontier
The Farming Frontier
Water and the West
Black Gold: The Oil Frontier
Closing the American Frontier
The West of the Imagination

Tragedy of the Plains Indians

The 250,000 Native Americans who lived on the Great Plains were confined onto reservations through renegotiation of treaties and 30 years of war. This chapter examines the consequences of America's westward movement for Native Americans.

A Thirty Years War
The Sand Creek Massacre
The Battle of the Little Big Horn
Nez Perce
Wounded Knee I
Wounded Knee II
Kill the Indian and Save the Man
Native Americans at the Turn of the Century

The Gilded Age

The 1880s and 1890s were years of unprecedented technological innovation, mass immigration, and intense political partisanship, including disputes over currency, tariffs, political corruption and patronage, and railroads and business trusts.

A Distant Mirror: The Late Nineteenth Century
The Gilded Age
Government Retrenchment and Government Corruption
Politics During the Gilded Age
Civil Service Reform
Tweedledum and Tweedledee
The Election of 1884
The Tariff Question
Grover Cleveland

The Making of Modern America

The late 19th century saw the advent of new communication technologies, including the phonograph, the telephone, and radio; the rise of mass-circulation newspapers and magazines; the growth of commercialized entertainment, as well as new sports, including basketball, bicycling, and football, and appearance of new transportation technologies, such as the automobile, electric trains and trolleys.

The Wizard of Menlo Park
An Age of Innovation
The Birth of Modern Culture
The Revolt Against Victorianism
The Rise of Mass Communication
Commercialized Leisure
The University

Industrialization and the Working Class

This chapter examines the impact of and responses to industrialization among American workers, including the attempt to form labor unions despite strong opposition from many industrialists and the courts.

Labor in the Age of Industrialization
American Labor in Comparative Perspective
Sources of Worker Unrest
The Drive for Unionization
The Great Railroad Strike
The Molly Maguires
The Origins of American Trade Unionism
Haymarket Square
Samuel Gompers and the American Federation of Labor
Labor Day
The Murder of Former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg
Socialist and Radical Alternatives

The Huddled Masses

Around the turn of the twentieth century, mass immigration from eastern and southern Europe dramatically altered the population's ethnic and religious composition. Unlike earlier immigrants, who had come from Britain, Canada, Germany, Ireland, and Scandinavia, the “new immigrants” came increasingly from Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Russia. The newcomers were often Catholic or Jewish and two-thirds of them settled in cities. In this chapter you will learn about the new immigrants and the anti-immigrant reaction.

The Statue of Liberty
Emma Lazarus
The New Immigrants
Birds of Passage
Chinese Exclusion Act
Angel Island
Japanese Immigration
Contract Labor
Immigration Restriction
Migration and Disease
The United States's Changing Face
Migration Today
Evaluating the Economic Costs and Benefits of Immigration
Migration as a Key Theme in U.S. and World History
Kinds of Migrants
The Stages of Migration
The Language of Cultural Mixture and Persistence
Music and Migration
Why Do People Migrate?
Who Migrates?
The Human Meaning of Migration
Language and Migration
Movies and Migration
Statue of Liberty Quiz

The Rise of Big Business

Between the Civil War and World War I, the modern American economy emerged. A national transportation and communication network was created, the corporation became the dominant form of business organization, and a managerial revolution transformed business operations. By the beginning of the twentieth century, per capita income and industrial production in the United States exceeded that of any other country except Britain.

Unlike the pre-Civil War economy, this new one was dependent on raw materials from around the world and it sold goods in global markets. Business organization expanded in size and scale. There was an unparalleled increase in factory production, mechanization, and business consolidation. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the major sectors of the nation's economy--banking, manufacturing, meat packing, oil refining, railroads, and steel--were dominated by a small number of giant corporations.

J.P. Morgan
The Rise of Big Business
The Corporate Revolution
Why Business Grew
Corporations and the Law
The Debate Over Big Business
The Gospel of Wealth
Social Darwinism
Controlling the Shop Floor
Jay Gould

The Rise of the City

This chapter traces the changing nature of the American city in the late 19th century, the expansion of cities horizontally and vertically, the problems caused by urban growth, the depiction of cities in art and literature, and the emergence of new forms of urban entertainment.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871
The Rise of the Modern City
The Skyscraper
Boss Tweed

The Political Crisis of the 1890s

The 1880s and 1890s were years of turbulence. Disputes erupted over labor relations, currency, tariffs, patronage, and railroads The most momentous political conflict of the late 19th century was the farmers' revolt. Drought, plagues of grasshoppers, boll weevils, rising costs, falling prices, and high interest rates made it increasingly difficult to make a living as a farmer. Many farmers blamed railroad owners, grain elevator operators, land monopolists, commodity futures dealers, mortgage companies, merchants, bankers, and manufacturers of farm equipment for their plight. Farmers responded by organizing Granges, Farmers' Alliances, and the Populist party. In the election of 1896, the Populists and the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan for president. Bryan 's decisive defeat inaugurated a period of Republican ascendancy, in which Republicans controlled the presidency for 24 of the next 32 years.

Panacea's for the Nation's Ills
Henry George
Looking Backward
William Hope Harvey
The Depression of the Mid-1890s
The Farmers' Plight
The Election of 1896
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Populist Crusade and Restrictions on African Americans