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Supporting standards comprise 35% of the U. S. History Test 15 (A)
Supporting Standard (15) The student understands domestic & foreign issues related to U. S. economic growth from the 1870s to The Student is expected to: (A) Describe how the economic impact of the Transcontinental Railroad & the Homestead Act contributed to the close of the frontier in the late 19 th century
Supporting Standard (15) The student understands domestic & foreign issues related to U. S. economic growth from the 1870s to The Student is expected to: (A) 2 Describe how the economic impact of the Homestead Act contributed to the close of the frontier in the late 19 th century
Settlement of the West Adventure Escape from drab routine of factory life Better health Escape of religious persecution To improve one’s lot in life—to strike it rich Motives to Migrate
Government Incentives—Homestead Act of 1862 Small fee ($10) gets160 acres of government land to homestead (too small for the dry climate; amount was increased in 1909 to 320 acres and again in 1916 to 640) 20% to small farmers—rest of land to speculators 600,000 farmers claimed by 1890 The government gave away some 48 million acres under this Act Corporations and individuals purchased another 100 million acres 128 million acres went to railroad companies A Homestead Cabin on the Frontier
In Greater Detail Some argue that the act itself drew at least partial inspiration from Thomas Jefferson’s hope that American would remain an agricultural nation populated by a host of property-owning yeomen farmers. The Homestead Acts were several U. S. federal laws that gave an applicant ownership of land, typically called a “homestead,” at little or no cost. In the United States, this originally consisted of grants totaling 160 acres (65 hectares, or one-quarter section) of unappropriated federal land within the boundaries of the public land states.
The Homestead Act of 1862, was one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed nearly any man or woman a chance to live the American dream. It is important to note that many of the earliest free land advocates thought of the “western frontier” as western Massachusetts or, at most, Ohio. Norwegian settlers in 1898 North Dakota in front of their homestead, a sod hut While May 20, 1862 certainly marked the beginning of one era, it just as certainly marked the end of another. Almost since the inception of the Republic had many clamored for the passage of a law that would give them opportunities to live on and farm some of the lands of the vast western frontier.
When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law on May 20, 1862, he created a method of westward expansion that would exist for the next 123 years and eventually be responsible for the settlement of over 270 million acres of the American landscape. He also fulfilled the long-held hopes and dreams of many free land advocates who had for years been lobbying for the passage of some form of a homestead law. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves and women), was 21 years or older, or the head of a family, could file an application to claim a federal land grant. There was also a residency requirement.
When it went into effect at one minute past midnight on January 1, 1863, the Homestead Act represented the first- ever instance of the U.S. government being willing to transfer large tracts of the public domain to individual settlers. Each settler filing a claim was entitled to up to 160 acres (a quarter section) of unappropriated federal land. Prospective homesteaders had to be either heads of households or single persons over the age of twenty-one years.
Several additional laws were enacted in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 sought to address land ownership inequalities in the south during Reconstruction.
An amendment to the Homestead Act of 1862, the Enlarged Homestead Act, was passed in 1909 and doubled the allotted acreage to 320. Another amended act, the national Stock-Raising Homestead Act, was passed in 1916 and again increased the land involved, this time to 640 acres. The David Hilton family near Weissert, Nebraska, 1887
The Homestead Act was a chief factor in the shifting of settlement demographics in the United States. America has always rightfully been called the “land of opportunity,” and never in its history has that title been more appropriate than during the homesteading era. Agriculture in America was largely expanded and revolutionized by the Homestead Act. While the western lands on which many homesteaded were often bleak and dry, many of them were fit for the production of crops that otherwise would never have been grown in the United States.
Corn, wheat and milo certainly would not have flourished in the east as they did (and still do) in the Midwestern and Western states. While the east gradually became more and more urban, the lands of the homesteaders continued to produce young farmers that did nothing less than feed the country and, later, much of the world via agricultural exports. Without the Homestead Act, the U.S. would certainly never have become the agricultural superpower it is today. Welcome to the breadbasket of the world!
The Oklahoma Land Rush President Benjamin Harrison opened the Oklahoma District at noon on April 22, 1889 Some 100,000 people participated in the land rush for homesteads “Boomers” or “Sooners” were those who jumped the gun and got there before the official race began (cf. Far and Away) by sneaking through the border patrols and stake a claim on the best land early
Mining the American West California Gold Rush of 1849— Sutter’s Mill The Comstock Lode—silver and some gold worth about $300 million near Virginia City (right in 1877)
Who came—The Strong & Youthful Prospectors out to get rich Claim jumpers Gamblers Saloon keepers Sellers of supplies (the ones who made the most money) Stanford and Huntington became wealthy through their general stores Leland Stanford
Conditions in Early Mining Towns Poor, inadequate housing Lawlessness—vigilante justice (self-appointed law enforcement = a short-term solution) Ghosts towns after deposits played out
Cattle ranching becomes “Big Business” Fenced land & barbed wire Wells to protect against dry weather Hay in tough winter months By the spring of 1887, 80-90% of the cattle had died—the last roundup on the northern range took place in 1905
The West— America’s First Empire It would give place to an entirely new & different kind of empire
Supporting Standard (15) The student understands domestic & foreign issues related to U. S. economic growth from the 1870s to The Student is expected to: (A) 1 Describe how the economic impact of the Transcontinental Railroad contributed to the close of the frontier in the late 19 th century
Standardization of the Rail System Standard gauge (distance between rails) in 1866 Adoption of standard schedules, signals, and equipment Creation of Time Zones
The Transcontinental Railroad Completed May 10, 1869 The Railroads worked the largest changes of all from the mid-19 th century forward The First Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the “Pacific Railroad” and later as the “Overland Route”) was a 1,907- mile contiguous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 across the western U. S. to connect the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River.
The construction was a remarkable story of greed, innovation and gritty determination to build a railroad connecting California to the East. Peopled by the ingenious entrepreneurs whose unscrupulous financing got the line laid, the brilliant engineers who charted the railroad’s course and hurdled the geological obstacles in its way, the armies of workers who labored relentlessly on the enterprise, and the Native Americans whose lives were destroyed in its wake, The Transcontinental Railroad reveals both why the railroad was built and how it would shape the nation, while shedding light on the politics and culture of mid-19th century America.
Opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869, with the driving of the “Last Spike” with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit, the road established a mechanized transcontinental transportation network that revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West by bringing these western states and territories firmly and profitably into the “Union” and making goods and transportation much quicker, cheaper and much more flexible from coast to coast.
California’s Chinese immigrants were among the largest number of laborers moving the railing west to east. They were the objects of discriminatory laws and racial violence. There had always been a great deal of prejudice towards the Chinese-Americans but after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad it only became worse.
Despite the provisions for equal treatment of Chinese immigrants in the 1868 Burlingame Treaty, political and labor organizations rallied against the immigration of what they regarded as a degraded race and “cheap Chinese labor.” Newspapers condemned the policies of employers, and even church leaders denounced the entrance of these aliens into what was regarded as a land for whites only. Further, California enacted numerous discriminatory laws including special taxes and segregation. In reaction the immigrants established support networks, based on family ties and place of origin, and found work in agriculture, mines, domestic service, and increasingly in railroad construction.
Praise for the Chinese-Americans is long overdue. The government over the last couple of decades is beginning to recognize the significant achievements of this important segment of America. The Chinese-Americans helped to fulfill the dream of a nation and were integral in the improvement of America. Their techniques and perseverance deserve to be recognized as an accomplishment that changed a nation. The “Golden Spike” (also known as “The Last Spike”) is the ceremonial final spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.
The term “Last Spike” has been used to refer to one driven at the usually ceremonial completion of any new railroad construction projects, particularly those in which construction is undertaken from two disparate origins towards a meeting point. The “Last Spike” now resides in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.
The transcontinental line was popularly known as the “Overland Route” after the principal passenger rail service that operated over the length of the line until 1962.
David Hackett Fischer. On the American Frontier In 2000, David Hackett Fischer & James C. Kelly co-authored Bound Away: Virginia & the Westward Movement
David Hackett Fischer This volume “began as a catalog for an exhibition... to mark the centenary of Frederick Jackson Turner’s thesis on ‘the significance of the frontier in American history.’... Turner’s frontier thesis was about the transformation of ideas and institutions at the edge of settlement.... The genius of the Turner thesis was its success in spawning so many questions and so many different meanings of the word frontier.... The ‘new western historians’ [ ] rejected the centrality of Anglo-American culture in the United States and tried to reconstruct the idea of the frontier as a ‘zone of interaction’ between different cultural groups....
“We believe that Turner’s frontier was not primarily a myth but something that actually happened in the world. We also think that it was not... a ‘zone of interaction’ between cultures but a place where one culture rapidly established a hegemony which persists to this day” (xv- xvi). David Hackett Fischer. Turner summarized his thesis thus: “‘The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development.... By ‘frontier,’ Turner meant an area of ‘free land.... The frontier is productive of individualism’ and that ‘frontier individualism has from the beginning promoted democracy.... The free land of the American frontier created a nation of free people’” (1, 3).
Turner described the “American frontier” as something that “lies at the hither edge of free land. In the census reports it is treated as the margin that settlement which has density of two or more to the square mile.... Before 1776 the region that Frederick Jackson Turner called the frontier was know as the ‘back settlements,’ or the ‘backcountry,’ or merely the ‘back parts.’ Scarcely anyone thought of it as the ‘frontier” in Turner’s sense during the first two centuries of American history. The fact that colonists thought of it as the ‘back’ rather than ‘front’ of their world tells us which way they were facing. That usage changed suddenly and very broadly in the early years of the Republic. The earliest recorded use of frontier settlement was in 1789; frontier man, 1782; frontiersman, Before 1776 their [colonists] thoughts were directed east toward Europe; the back settlements lay behind them. By the early nineteenth century, they were beginning to look west toward the interior of their own continent. They had begun to identify themselves with their destinations rather than their origins. This changing perception gave new meaning to the westward movement. In an intellectual sense it marked the beginning of the American West” ( ).
Closing of the American Frontier The Superintendent of Census, in 1890, declared that there is hardly a “frontier line” any longer. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner— recommended that, with the “closing of the American frontier,” the U. S. turn to trade In Turner’s view, the settlement process had shaped U.S. “customs and character; gave rise to independence, self- confidence, and individualism; and fostered invention and adaptation.” Later historians challenged Turner’s thesis, arguing that family and community were also important in development of the frontier.
The “Turner” or “Frontier Thesis” What is now called Turner’s thesis, or the “Frontier Thesis,” is the claim that the Westward movement across the American continent, confronting a partly imaginary geographical boundary dividing the known and “unknown” world, has been the great promoter of democracy—“democracy born of free land, strong in selfishness and individualism, intolerant of administrative experience” (Turner 1921). A movement that Turner observes has “dangers as well as benefits.” Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the wellsprings of American character and vitality have always been the American frontier, the region between civilized society and the untamed wilderness. In the thesis, the frontier created freedom, “breaking the bonds of custom, offering new experiences, [and] calling out new institutions and activities.”
Frederick Jackson Turner delivered a famous essay at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in Reflecting on Columbus’ supposed “discovery” of America 400 years earlier, Jackson famously described the “moving frontier as the shifting, westward-pointing boundary between civilization and savagery,” as most influential factor driving the expansionary ethos of the United States. From the annexation of Hawaii and the Philippines to the more recent 9/11 Wars, Turner’s reflections on history accurately predicted the future.
Ben Franklin a forerunner? Benjamin Franklin can be compared favorably with Turner as a promoter of the idea of the significance of the West in the shaping of American character. Franklin used the words frontier and West interchangeably and generally equated both of them with free land. He believed that the West was decisive in producing the phenomenal population growth of the society of his day and its “middle-class agrarianism.”
Franklin’s frontier-inspired ideas had a demonstrable effect on public events and contributed to the coming of the American Revolution. Americans eagerly gave wide currency to Franklin’s ideas. His political and diplomatic exertions contributed considerably to ensure that the West would be a part of the new nation he was helping to create. Writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson had speculated on the importance of the west, and Theodore Roosevelt wrote a full-scale history of the Tennessee frontier that argued the experience formed a new “race”—the American people.
Turner drew on his knowledge of evolution, and his own research into the fur trade frontier. He first announced his thesis in a paper entitled “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” delivered to the American Historical Association in 1893 at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The thesis dominated much of scholarship until the 1960s. It was then challenged by the “New Western Historians,” who ignored its valid conclusions but instead charged that it ignored ethnic minorities and women and was too praiseworthy of the pioneers.
Turner’s argument was that the new environment had caused a rapid evolution of social and political characteristics, thereby creating the true “American.” The first settlers who arrived on the east coast in the 17th century acted and thought like Europeans. They encountered a new environmental challenge that was quite different from what they had known. The most important difference was vast amounts of unused high quality farmland (some of which was used by a few thousand Indians for hunting grounds.) They adapted to the new environment in certain way—the sum of all the adaptations over the years would make them Americans.
The next generation moved further inland. It discarded more European aspects that were no longer useful, for example established churches, established aristocracies, intrusive government, and control of the best land by a small gentry class. Every generation moved further west and became more American, and the settlers became more democratic and less tolerant of hierarchy. They became more violent, more individualistic, more distrustful of authority, less artistic, less scientific, and more dependent on ad-hoc organizations they formed themselves. In broad terms, the further west, the more American the community.
Turner’s thesis sounded an alarming note about the future, since the U.S. Census of 1890 had officially stated that the American frontier line (separating the more- settled and lightly settled zones) had broken up. The idea that the source of America’s power and uniqueness was gone was a distressing concept for some intellectuals. Some talked about overseas expansion as a new frontier; others called for a “new frontier” of achievement. Turner argued that Americans were forced to adapt and innovate as they moved westward. The thesis also explained how western- expansion helped to ingrain these characteristics into the fabric of American society.
Turner stated that their frontier had created a society of men and women who were committed to self- improvement, who supported democracy, and who were socially mobile. In short, the Turner Thesis maintained that much of the nature of America came from their experiences in the West.