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Chapter 17: Rural America: The West

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1 Chapter 17: Rural America: The West
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE CREATING A NATION AND A SOCIETY NASH  JEFFREY HOWE  FREDERICK  DAVIS  WINKLER  MIRES  PESTANA 7th Edition Chapter 17: Rural America: The West And the New South Pearson Education, Inc, publishing as Longman © 2006

Between 1865 and 1900, the nation’s farm more than doubled in number Farmers raised specialized crops with modern machinery and got them to market on the expanding railroad system Small family farms still dominated but vast mechanized operations devoted to single crops appeared west of the Mississippi However, farmers were slipping from their dominant position in the workforce, declining to 37 percent of the workforce in 1900


The expansion of American agriculture was inextricably tide to world demand as the European population drastically increased Many European nations had to import the bulk of their food, especially England In their attempts to improve crop yields and livestock, American farmers both benefited from and contributed to trends in agriculture elsewhere in the world Integration into the wider world depended on improved transportation at home and abroad As farmers specialized for national and international markets, success depended increasingly on outside forces and demands

Technological innovation played a major role in facilitating American agricultural expansion Machinery was expensive and many American farmers went into debt to buy it Growing harvests were too large for the domestic market and foreign competition and deflation further caused prices to decline Because all prices were declining, farmers were not necessarily hurt but it did encourage overproduction which only led to lower prices Deflation also increased the real value of debt

6 THE WEST In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner informed listeners at the Chicago World’s Fair that the frontier had closed

According to Turner, the struggle to tame the wilderness had changed settlers from Europeans into Americans and created rugged individualism that “promoted democracy” Actually, settlement of the west was not exceptional but part of a global pattern that redistributed European populations into new areas of the world These settlers all felt justified in dispossessing native peoples

8 THE CATTLEMAN’S WEST, The Great Plains initially discouraged settlement but the grasses provided the foundation for the cattle kingdom Mining discoveries further west provided a market for the meat. Realization of the commercial possibilities of cattle ranching was partly a by-product of Union military strategy Postwar burst of railroad construction provided a way of turning cattle into dollars Cattle drives of the late 1860s and 1870s saw cowboys herd thousands of longhorns north with hefty profits for investors and owners Ranchers bred cattle to develop a strain to withstand severe winters In 1870s and early 1880s huge ranches, owned by outside investors, appeared in eastern Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana and in western Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, and paid off handsomely Cattle grazed on public domain Cowboys, one third Mexican and black, herded the steers but shared few of the profits

9 THE CATTLEMAN’S WEST, First phase of cattle frontier ended in 1880s as farmers moved onto the plains and fenced the public land Ranchers were also hurt by overstocking of herds in mid-1880s Millions died during the harsh winter of 1886 Ranchers who remained in the business adopted new techniques They experimented with new breeds, began to fence in their herds and to feed them grain during the winter Ranching was becoming a modern business Ranchers hunted and killed native species whom they saw as competing for the grass Cattle overgrazed the plains, killing the perennial grasses which were then replaced by tougher, less nutritious annual grasses Large areas became unable to support cattle, or other grazing species


Railroads helped encourage agricultural settlement on the Plains Propaganda was helped by above average rainfall in the 1880s First boom period 1879 to 1890s: tens of thousands, mainly from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, moved onto the Great Plains Substantial number also came from Germany, the British Isles and Canada as well as Scandinavians, Czechs and Poles Came with families and intention to stay Some settlers established farms as a result of the Homestead Act, though most bought the more desirable land held by railroads and speculators Getting started was expensive and by 1880, some 20 percent of plains farmers were tenants Violent changes in the weather and temperature along with the scarcity of wood and water made success on the plains difficult Settlers lived in sod houses rather than log cabins


Industrial innovations helped settlers overcome some of the natural obstacles Barbed wire replaced timber fencing Twine binders speeded up grain harvesting and reduced the threat of losing crops to the weather Mail-order steel windmills for pumping water relieved some of the water shortages Costs of machinery, vagaries of crops and markets, the threat of pests and natural disasters, and the shortage of cash all made life on the Plains difficult Survival often depended on how well families managed during the first couple of years and how much work all family members could perform First boom ended abruptly in the late 1880s and early 1890s as falling agricultural prices cut profits and a devastating drought followed Thousands lost their farms to creditors while others stayed on as tenants. By 1900, two-thirds of homestead farms had failed Agricultural efforts had long-term ecological impact on plains eventually contributing to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s


With the completion of a national railroad system, farming became California’s greatest asset Success rested on railroads, machinery and irrigation California farms were substantially larger than farms in the rest of the country and made extensive use of migrant labor Agricultural productivity in the southern half of the central valley depended on massive irrigation projects whose costs were passed on to settlers By 1890, more than one quarter of farms benefited from irrigation As railroads lowered rates and introduced refrigeration, fruit came to dominate California agriculture Expertise of Chinese entrepreneurs vital to success

16 THE MINING WEST Silver, iron, copper, lead, zinc, and tin were as important as gold Mining discoveries were transformative events that attracted people and businesses west, though these left quickly when the strike was over Real mining required a large labor force and expensive machinery Work was dangerous and conditions terrible

17 Mining in the West

The clear cutting of the nation’s forests were a byproduct of aggressive mining techniques and construction of towns and railroads Removal of the forests changed the nature of soil composition, water flow, and the habitats of native animals In 1878, Congress passed the Timber and Stone Act (applied to California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) which allowed the sale of 160-acre parcels of public domain that were unfit for cultivation Timber companies hired men to buy the parcels and turn them over to timber interests thereby gaining some 3.5 million acres Many Americans became uneasy and called for government intervention and conservation John Muir helped Yosemite become a national park in 1890, contributed to the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 and established the Sierra Club in 1892 Gifford Pinchot, on the other hand, called for careful management of resources not just their preservation

19 The Natural Environment of the West

As farmers settled the west, they clashed with Native Americans In California, disease and violence killed 90 percent of the Native American population in the 30 years following the gold rush Most tribes resisted attempts to curb their way of life and transform their culture

Lives of the Plains Indians revolved around the buffalo Increased emigration disrupted tribal pursuits and animal migration patterns Early efforts of the federal government to persuade Plains tribes to stay away from settlers had little luck During the Civil War, eastern tribes that had relocated to Oklahoma divided in their support but after the war all were branded traitors

22 THE WHITE PERSPECTIVE 1864: Colorado militia massacred a band of friendly Cheyenne at Sand Creek causing Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux to retaliate The congressional commission authorized to make peace viewed the west as belonging to whites while Indians should give way before progress Treaties made in 1867 and 1868 supposedly committed Indians to settling in the Dakotas or Oklahoma but those chiefs who had signed had little authority and the Senate failed to live up to the terms When Indians could not be convinced to return to the reservations, the military attacked, launching winter campaigns. Completion of the transcontinental railroad added another pressure for “solving” the Indian question Two major questions: 1) how to prevent Indians from blocking white migration and 2) what to do with them in the long run

23 THE TRIBAL VIEW Broken promises fueled Indian resistance to attacks on their ancient way of life Native American bravery and skill might result in single victories, like that against Custer at Little Big Horn, but they could not permanently withstand the power of the well-supplied, well-armed and determined U.S. Army Wholesale destruction of the buffalo (13 million by 1883) contributed to white victory

24 THE 1887 DAWES ACT In 1871, Congress abandoned the practice of treating the tribes as sovereign nations The government urged tribes to replace tribal justice with a court system and extended federal jurisdiction to the reservations Tribes were warned not to gather for religious ceremonies Believing that tribal bonds kept Indians in savagery, reformers sought to undermine the tribe by allotting Indian land to individual families through the Dawes Act “Surplus” land would be sold to white settlers Within 20 years of the Dawes Act, Native Americans had lost 60 percent of their lands Profits from the land sales were held in trust by the government for use in “civilizing” the Indians

25 THE GHOST DANCE: A Native American Renewal Ritual
By the 1890s, grim conditions made Native Americans responsive to a new religious revitalization movement Religious prophet Wovoka promised followers if the did the Ghost Dance, whites would disappear and the buffalo and their ancestors would return Indian agents panicked and an attempt to arrest Sitting Bull, targeted as a leader of the movement, led to his death Bands of Sioux fled the reservation, pursued by the military who surrounded and massacred one group at Wounded Knee Creek in December 1890


27 THE NEW SOUTH By 1900, nearly 40 percent of westerners lived in cities
In the South, on the other hand, the economy sputtered In 1880, southerners’ yearly earnings were only half the national average Agricultural labor force was neither efficient nor mobile, nor prosperous enough to invest in needed improvements. Region remained dependent on the North Southern industrial workers were poorly paid, caught in dead-end jobs with little hope of advancement

Supporters of a “New South” pushed for factories, machines and cities over cotton Wanted southerners to abandon prewar ideals that glorified leisure and gentility and adopt new entrepreneurial values New South advocates held out the possibility of enormous profits in order to attract northern investment Several states offered tax exemptions and cheap convict labor In 1886, southern railroad companies relaid railroad tracks and adjusted rolling stock to fit the northern gauge Northern money flowed south and by percent of southerners lived in cities (national average was 40 percent) Birmingham, Alabama, became the center of the southern iron and steel industry Memphis, Tennessee, prospered from lumber and cottonseed products Richmond, Virginia, became the country’s tobacco capital Augusta, Georgia, was the “Lowell of the South”

New South leaders—merchants, industrialists and planters—bragged about the growth of iron and textile industries and paraded statistics to prove success of modernization efforts Middle class southerners increasingly accepted new entrepreneurial values South actually made slow progress and older values persisted in part through a romanticization of the past Southerners did not invest in a modern workforce and the southern school system lagged far behind that of the North Two of the new industries depended on the traditional crops of cotton and tobacco Commerce and government work drove urban growth South did not better its position relative to the North

South failed to reap many benefits from industrialization The only great southern corporation that arose was the American Tobacco Company Southerners worked fro northern companies and corporations Dollars fled north along with decision making power Southern manufacturers either did not finish the products or found themselves adversely affected by railroad rates Individual workers in new industries got meager rewards and were caught in low-skill jobs with little chance of advancement, long hours and low pay Black workers, about 6 percent of the manufacturing force in 1890 though excluded from textile mills, usually had the worst jobs and the lowest pay Thousands of women and children joined the work force

31 COTTON STILL KING A new agricultural South with new class and economic arrangements emerged Large landowners kept their holdings and former slaves sank into peonage White farmers on small and medium-size holdings fared only slightly better than black tenants and sharecroppers High cotton prices immediately after the war persuaded southern farmers to grow as much cotton as possible Prices quickly spiraled downward, throwing the entire region into more debt and poverty By 1900, more than half the South’s white farmers and three-quarters of the black farmers were tenants Farmers failed to diversify and, in fact, relied increasingly on cotton

32 THE NADIR OF BLACK LIFE In 1890, many Congressional bills from Reconstruction that had aimed to support and assist the newly freed slaves were cast aside by a new generation of politicians Supreme Court made a number of rulings detrimental to African Americans Northern leaders made no efforts to protect blacks and northerners increasingly promulgated negative stereotype. Encouraged by these actions, southerners sought to make blacks permanently into second class citizens Amended southern constitutions to disenfranchise blacks, which they accomplished by 1910 In the 1890s, state and local laws legalized informal segregation through “Jim Crow” laws that were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson

33 THE NADIR OF BLACK LIFE Political and social discrimination made it more possible to keep blacks permanently confined to agricultural and unskilled labor Gone were the skilled black tradesmen of slavery days Factory work was also reduced, becoming almost non-existent in some cities and trades, and preventing blacks from acquiring skills and habits to enable them to rise into the middle class Blacks did not accept their declining position passively Joined Knights of Labor in the 1880s leading to white flight and violence that smashed the union. Incidents of lynchings and other forms of violence against blacks increased

Ida B. Wells launched an anti-lynching campaign in 1892 T. Thomas Fortune organized the Afro-American League (a precursor to the NAACP) in 1890 to encourage independent voting, oppose segregation and lynching, and urge the establishment of black institutions to support black businesses In 1887, J.C. Price formed the Citizens Equal Rights Association which supported various petitions and direct action campaigns to protest segregation Other blacks continued to support the idea of migration, either to other parts of the Americas or back to Africa Bishop Henry McNeal Turner founded the International Migration Society in 1894 Most blacks accepted the more moderate stance of Tuskegee presidents Booker T. Washington, who proposed in his 1895 Atlanta Compromise that blacks abandon efforts to obtain civil, social or voting rights and settle for economic opportunity In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois, the first black to be awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard, attacked Washington’s position stating that political rights should precede, not follow, economic well-being

35 FARM PROTEST During the post-Civil War period, many farmers, black and white, began to realize that only through collective action could they improve rural life Midwestern and those near city market adjusted to changing economic conditions Southern and western farmers, however, faced more problems

36 THE GRANGE IN THE 1860S AND 1870S The earliest effort to organize white farmers was in 1867 when Oliver Kelley founded the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry Originally a social club, it was soon protesting farming conditions By 1875, it had more than 800,000 members and was now called the National Grange Sought to reform the ways in which agricultural business was done; striving to bypass the middlemen such as railroad shippers and grain elevator owners Between 1869 and 1874, businessmen and farmers successfully pressed Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota to pass “Granger Laws” establishing maximum rates that railroads and grain elevators could charge Other states set up railroad commissions to regulate railroad rates, or outlawed railroad practices that seemed unjust In 1877, the Supreme Court upheld these laws in Munn v. Illinois though it reversed itself in the 1886 ruling on Wabash v. Illinois thereby increasing pressure on Congress to act

Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 in response to farmers, railroad managers who wished to control the fierce competition that threatened to bankrupt their companies, and shippers who objected to transportation rates Required railroad rates be reasonable and just, that rate schedules be made public and that unfair practices like rebates be discontinued Established the Interstate Commerce Commission which had the power to investigate and prosecute lawbreakers. Authority was limited to interstate commerce Overwhelmed, the ICC initially had little success prosecuting the railroads for infractions

The Grange declined in the late 1870s but farm protest did not especially after depression hit in the late 1880s and worsened in the early 1890s The Southern Farmers Alliance became one of the most important reform organizations of the 1880s Sent lecturers across the South and into the Plains Supported cooperatives, legislative efforts, changes in the money supply and measures to improve the quality of rural life By 1890, more than a million farmers had joined, black as well as white

39 THE OCALA PLATFORM, 1890 In December 1890, the National Alliance gathered in Ocala, Florida, to develop a platform Direct elections of Senators Supported lowering the tariff Envisioned new banking system controlled by the federal government. Called for the government to take an active economic role by increasing the amount of money in circulation Called for subtreasuries in agricultural regions where farmers could store their produce at low interest rates until market prices favored selling while the government loaned farmers up to 80 percent of the value of their crops to tide them over Graduated income tax Regulation of transportation and communication networks Alliance supported sympathetic candidates in the fall elections of 1890 Success of these candidates led many to push for an independent political party


McCormick Farm Heroes and Villains Fort Larned National Historic Site Yosemite History

Native American Documents Lynching in America The Grange Society Farmers’ Alliance and Colored Farmers’ Alliance

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