, Research Paper
The Transcontinental Railroad and Westward Expansion
Thesis: The transcontinental railway greatly increased Westward enlargement in
the United States of America during the latter half of the 19th century.
The history of the United States has been influenced by England in many ways.
In the 2nd half of the 1800 & # 8217 ; s, the railway, which was invented in England,
had a major consequence on Western enlargement in the United States.
& # 8220 ; Railroads were born in England, a state with dense
populations, short distances between metropoliss, and big
fiscal resources. In America there were different
fortunes, a thin population in a immense state, big
stretches between metropoliss, and merely the smallest sums of
money. & # 8221 ; ( & # 8221 ; Railroad & # 8221 ; 85 )
The first American railwaies started in the 1830 & # 8217 ; s from the Atlantic ports of
Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah
( Douglas 23 ) . Within 20 old ages, four rail lines had crossed the Allegheny mountainss
to make their end on `Western Waters & # 8217 ; of the Great Lakes or the feeders of
the Mississippi. Meanwhile, other lines had started West of the Appalachian
mountains, and by the mid-1850 & # 8217 ; s Chicago, St. Louis, and Memphis were connected
to the East. Still other lines were stretching Westward, beyond the Mississippi.
An international path connected New England and Montreal and another 1
crossed Southern Ontario between Niagara, New York, and the Detroit River.
During the 1850 & # 8217 ; s, North and South paths were developed both East and West of
the Alleghenies. It was non until after the Civil War, nevertheless, that a lasting
railway span was constructed across the Ohio River. After the Civil War, the
gait of railway edifice increased. The Pacific railwaies, the Union Pacific
edifice from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific edifice from Sacramento,
California, had started to construct a transcontinental railway during the war to
aid advance national integrity. They were joined at Promontory, Utah, on May 10,
1869, finishing the first rail connexion across the continent.
Before the transcontinental railway, the Eastern railwaies had lines running
merely as far West as Omaha, Nebraska. The Western railwaies had a few lines
running North and South in California, far West of the wall of the Sierra Nevada
Mountains. In between these two webs was a immense spread of about 17
100 stat mis of fields and mountain scopes. Closing this spread was a dream shared
by many Americans. Businessmen thought of all the money they could do by
holding an full continent full of clients and utilizing the railwaies to function
their demands. Romantics dreamed of the finds of wild Indians, lookouts and
huntsmans, and, of class, gold. Gold had been a desired discovery throughout the
geographic expedition of America. The California Gold Rush of 1849 once more created much
exhilaration about the hunt for gold.
The Pacific Railroads were founded when the Civil War was in advancement. Until
the war was over, the transcontinental railway was a elephantine endeavor stalled
by much spat between a loath Congress and the Army, who had clamored
for it ( Cooke 254 ) . If it had been left to the authorities, it would hold taken
another 20 old ages to finish the transcontinental railway. However, it was
a commercial venture, and it was fortuitously fed by the epinephrine of
competition. There were two railway companies constructing the transcontinental
railway, the Union Pacific from the East, and the Central Pacific from the West.
The two companies struggled to crush each other in banging down a record milage
of path. At first, Congress avidly pursued the undertaking and they had stipulated
that the Central Pacific should halt when it reached the California Border
( Congress was full of Easterners ) . In 1865, after much statement about the assistance
the authorities was supplying to the two companies, the existent building of
the transcontinental railway was started. Then in 1866, Congress decided that
two companies should construct as fast as possible and run into wherever they came
together ( 255 ) .
First, the Union Pacific sent out location parties, following the line and
uncluttering the way by killing the Sioux and the American bison in the manner of the
railway. Then came the building packs who, working in displacements, graded
( flattened ) the land by every bit much as a 100 stat mis a stretch. Behind them came
the track-laying crews, each dwelling of 10 thousand work forces and as many animate beings.
For each stat mi of path, the authorities was lending the railway from $ 16,000,
for level land, to $ 48,000, for cragged land ( & # 8221 ; Railroad & # 8221 ; 86 ) . The supplies
needed to put a individual stat mi of path included 40 train autos to transport four
100 dozenss of rail and lumber, ties, bridgings, fuel, and nutrient, which all had
to be assembled in a terminal on the Missouri River. But the Union Pacific had the
twin advantages of relatively level land and a uninterrupted supply line back to
the mills of the East seashore. It was rather different for the Central Pacific,
which had to bring most of its stuffs, except lumber, by sea, twelve 1000
stat mis around the tip of South America. Another difference between the two
companies was their work-forces. The Eastern work packs were recruited from
immigrant Irish, hapless Southern Whites, and hapless Southern inkinesss, while the
Western crews came largely from China. The Union Pacific was said to be sustained
by whiskey while the Central Pacific was said to be sustained by tea ( Douglas
110 ) .
While the Easterners were rushing through the prairie, the Westerners were
depriving foothill woods, distressingly bridging, burrowing, and edging up the
mountains. Working summer and winter, it took the Central Pacific two old ages to
hurdle the barrier of the Sierras. A 1000 stat mis back East, the Irish workers
often fainted in the summer solstice heat, but their employers were kept traveling by
the money they would have from the authorities upon completion of the
With the Westerners over the Sierras, and the Easterners over the Rocky
Mountains, the two ground forcess slogged along the sage toward each other. When the two
crews came within sight of each other, the Irish turned to their fists to decelerate
down the Chinese. The Chinese resorted to pick axes, which in bend brought the
Irish to utilize their guns. The Chinese eventually gave in and the combat was
stopped ( Merk 456 ) .
On May 10, 1869 the two tracks met at a topographic point in Utah that was named Promontory
Point. The crews had laid 1,775 stat mis of path in merely over three old ages. Five
yearss subsequently, a particular Central Pacific train arrived transporting company executives,
applied scientists, and province very important persons. Three yearss subsequently, the Union Pacific train came
with it & # 8217 ; s ain burden of very important persons, three companies of foot, and a regimental
& # 8220 ; It promised to be a gallant and cosmetic ceremonial.
But in the class of their labour the crew had collected a
more colourful mixture of interested parties: barroom
keepers, gamblers, prostitutes, money loaners, odd-job wanderers.
And these, with the cooks and dish washers from the residence hall
trains, made up the welcoming party. & # 8221 ; ( Douglas 121 )
Five provinces had sent along gold and Ag spikes for the official ceremonial.
The chosen symbol for the ceremonial was a aureate spike which was to be driven in
by the Governor of California, Leland Stanford. The set stopped playing and a
supplication was said. The telegraph operator was connected with San Francisco and New
York and was ready to direct the first coast-to-coast commentary. It was a individual
sentence, & # 8220 ; Stand by, we have done praying, & # 8221 ; ( Merk 461 ) . Then the Governor of
California lifted the sleigh cock above his caput and brought it down to run into
the rail. He had missed the spike, but the telegraph operator had already sent
the message and New York fired a 100 gun salutation, Philadelphia rang the
Liberty Bell, and a San Francisco paper announced the & # 8220 ; appropriation of the United
States, & # 8221 ; ( Cooke 218 ) .
& # 8220 ; The state might take to the railway as a freshness and a tourer manner,
but the companies saw it as a concatenation of losing links between the Great Plains
and the people who woul
vitamin D want, or could be urged, to settle it, ” ( Cooke 229 ) .
The old ages 1870-1900 were a period of tremendous growing in the United States.
During these old ages, 430 million estates of land were settled, which was more than
had been occupied in all preceding American history. A considerable portion of this
enlargement was in the Great Plains ( & # 8221 ; United States of America & # 8221 ; 472 ) .
This tremendous enlargement was the merchandise of a combination of forces. One was
the Homestead Act of 1862. The Homestead Act of 1862 was passed by the
authorities to promote agriculture in the Mid-West. The authorities offered any
caput of household or individual over 21, either citizen or foreigner who wished to
go a citizen, a 160 acre subdivision of land. The receiver paid a little fee and
agreed to populate on the homestead or cultivate it for five old ages ( Merk 236 ) .
In add-on to the Homestead Act, there was the realisation on the portion of
informed people that the epoch of well-watered, free land was pulling to a stopping point.
A warning had been given in 1880 by the Director of the Census that the epoch of
free land was shuting ( Horn 130 ) . The fleet enlargement across the Great Plains
was, in portion, a haste of American husbandmans who wanted to take portion in free and
inexpensive land in countries that were good watered. A 3rd factor was the sale of land
by provinces at attractive monetary values. School lands, university lands, and other province
lands were put on the market in competition with homesteads.
The main factor, nevertheless, in this fleet Westward colonisation was the
railway companies. All of them were eager to transport colonists to the huge
prairie, to acquire it colonized as a affair of developing traffic. The land-grant
railwaies had their ain countries to sell. But, they besides sharply advertised
the free homestead lands of the federal authorities. The chief aim was to
construct up colony as a agency of making cargo to transport. The monetary values at which
railway lands were sold varied harmonizing to location and dirt from five to
twenty dollars or more an acre with easy recognition footings. Many colonists preferred
railway lands that were favourably located over free homesteads. Railway
companies, particularly those possessing land grants, were colonisers of the Great
Plains on a big graduated table. They carried forward on a huge graduated table the work that had
been done on a lesser graduated table by colonising companies on the seaside during the
The Great Plains were advertised with extraordinary enthusiasm. The Northern
Pacific Railroad kept eight hundred agents in assorted European states
administering literature and helping immigrants. Literature was spread in every
of import European linguistic communication, particularly to countries in which there were drouths or
bad dirt. Western railwaies had agents in New York City to have immigrants ;
they offered particular immigrant rates to the West, and they gave new reachings
advice on where to settle and about the best methods of farming. The railway
endeavor was one of the most of import facets of the history of the West
since the Civil War, and the ground the narrative is non emphasized more in drumhead
histories is that the narrative has so far been told merely for single railwaies.
& # 8220 ; In and full-scale run to enticement colonists, railway land offices churned out
reams of propaganda that painted the prairies and fields as a regular
paradise. & # 8221 ; ( Horn 194 ) Railroads were non ever scrupulous in their colonisation
methods. They permitted their New York agents to utilize doubtful agencies of luring
immigrants coming away steamboats to settle on their lands. Some were said to
hold stolen trainloads of immigrants from each other.
Hard-hitting salesmanship was used in disposing of lands to prospective
colonists. Ecstatic narratives were told about what the land would turn. The clime
of the fields was misrepresented. Jay Cooke, the moneyman of the Northern
Pacific had weather maps printed in the 1870 & # 8217 ; s which were altered to demo the
part a topographic point of warm winters in order to antagonize the feeling that the
part of the Northern Pacific was a harshly cold state. The Northern Pacific
was thenceforth wittily referred to by newspapers as Jay Cooke & # 8217 ; s Banana Belt.
Lack of rainfall was known to be a important job on the Western Plains. The
whole part is an country of semi-aridity and of climatic rhythms. A series of moisture
old ages occurs when the one-year rainfall is slightly more that 20 inches ; so
a dry series will follow, conveying old ages of drouths. It so happened that the
five old ages prior to 1887 were a wet series on the Great Plains, when Kansas,
Nebraska, and South Dakota had reasonably frequent rainfall. The propagandists of
the railwaies, as a consequence, either denied the averment that the Plains were a
part of semi-aridity, or contended that the clime was altering for the
better. They advanced assorted theories to explicate the alteration. Plowing the turf
was said to bring forth rain. The stringing of telegraph lines was said to besides
green goods rain. A theory was developed that the noise of civilisation, the
clanging of the engines, etc. , lead to the rain. These theories were even
repeated by province functionaries.
& # 8220 ; The scientists of the federal authorities were non
allowed to antagonize such propaganda. In the studies of
the Geological Survey, Major John Wesley Powell was obliged,
at the insisting of Western congresswomans who were moving on
the behest of railway anterooms, to strike out, in his
history of the Great Plains, every mention of `semi-
fruitlessness & # 8217 ; and replace the words `semi-humidity. & # 8217 ; & # 8221 ; ( Merk
All this propaganda led to even more colony. A premier illustration of the consequence
of the unbelievable haste of colony in the Prairie is the growing of the province
of Nebraska, specifically Omaha, before and after the coming of the
transcontinental railway. Nebraska was admitted to the Union in 1867, and
despite an economic depression and a grasshopper pestilence, the State & # 8217 ; s population
increased from approximately 120,000 to more than 1,000,000 by 1890. Much of this growing
was due to the State & # 8217 ; s location along the transcontinental railway. During the
1880 & # 8217 ; s, Omaha became an of import industrial and meat-packing centre. The
railway connexions made this growing possible.
The beef industry was one of the many that were dependent on the railway.
When the transcontinental railway went into service a 29 twelvemonth old
farm animal bargainer from Chicago named Joseph McCoy had an thought that would be the
start of cowpuncher. He planned to crowd cowss from Southern Texas to the railway
at Omaha, meanwhile holding the cattles graze on the grassland in between the two
points ( Cooke 229 ) . With the refrigerated train auto in 1870, beef became portion of
the diets of the 1000000s in the East ( 232 ) . Therefore, the railway created a
sustainable industry for the cattle ranchers in the Mid-West and the metropolis of
Many other little towns along the railway besides boomed during the last one-fourth
of the 1800 & # 8217 ; s. Without the railway, the homesteads could hold merely been reached
by waggon, which would hold discouraged many if non most of the colonists traveling to
become husbandmans. Unlike the gold mineworkers of the earlier old ages, the husbandmans did non
dream of acquiring rich rapidly. They wanted to be self-sufficing, and they felt
that the land on the Prairie could assist them make it. The railway was an
unbelievable accelerator in the population of the Mid-West and without it the country
might still be sparsely populated. The transcontinental railway proved it & # 8217 ; s
worth and had a enormous impact on westbound enlargement. & # 8220 ; In less than 30
old ages after the Civil War, all across the `enormous spread & # 8217 ; spanned by the railway,
the inside was being conquered and domesticated. & # 8221 ; ( Cooke 240 )
Cooke, Alistair. Alistair Cooke & # 8217 ; s America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.
Douglas, George H. All Aboard! The Railway In American Life. New York: Paragon
Horn, Huston. The Old West The Pioneers. New York: Time-Life Books, 1974.
Merk, Frederick. History of the Westward Movement. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
& # 8220 ; Railroad. & # 8221 ; Compton & # 8217 ; s Encyclopedia. 1990 edition.
& # 8220 ; United States of America. & # 8221 ; The New Encyclop? Defense Intelligence Agency Britannica. 1990 edition.