1 Aug 2022


1860 to 1890 Westward Expansion

Format: Chicago

Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 776

Pages: 3

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When the Civil War ended, Americans embarked on moving towards the western sides of Mississippi River upon which they took over ranches, lands, and mines while forcing the prevailing users, Native Americans out of the lands. The European immigrants, as well as American settlers, confronted the hardships associated with western farms’ life to allow them to establish new lives. Most of the land, which the settlers claimed, used to serve as the Native Americans’ homeland, which they had used for numerous centuries. The settlers did not only force the Native Americans from their lands but also led them to lose most of their customs and traditions. 1 During the late 1800s, farmers in America were already feeding the country as well as the world, although they expressed concerns regarding feeding their country optimally. The deteriorating incomes created an environment for farmers to protest. Here, even though the Wild West’s traditional image reveals the imagination, the image reveals numerous experiences, which led to the shaping of the country toward progress, particularly with respect to the increasing railroads development, agricultural lands improvements, and increasing territories.

Westward expansion played a major role in the development of America especially on major improvements in agricultural land and railroad development, which eventually resulted in the emergence of new states as well as territories within the country. For instance, westward expansion during the 1860s started in major cities such as Brooklyn, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans and St. Louis. Most of these regions had populations amounting to less than 100,000 apart from New York City and Philadelphia whose populations were close to around 500,000. The regions were witnessing major connections in railroads while also agricultural lands were improving. 2 

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By the 1870s, additional cities and states emerged including Washington D.C, Newark, Buffalo, Louisville, and San Francisco. Rail networks mostly connected the cities. During the 1880s, extra states and cities including Providence, Jersey City, Detroit, and Milwaukee territories were also witnessing growth on railroads development as well as improvements in the land for agriculture. During 1890s, the other territories that emerged comprised of Rochester, Indianapolis, Kanas City, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Omaha, and Denver because of the major advancements witnessed in railroad networks, thus making it possible to make notable improvements in the land for agriculture, which made America to serve as a major provider of food around the world while also feeding itself.

Concerning the improvements witnessed in agricultural land, the Homestead Act, which was introduced in 1862 granted settlers about 160 acres, especially if they had operated in the land for about five years. Between 1865 and 1870, the sharecropping system, which dominated in the South, replaced the old system, which was relied on slaves, while an influx of immigrants became apparent. Furthermore, from 1866 to 1877, the boom of cattle contributed to the acceleration of settlement in the Great Plains, while wars emerged between ranchers and farmers. During the 1880s, a notable portion of the humid land was already occupied while heavy investment in agriculture contributed to notable settlement in the Great Plains, although the draught that emerged in the late 1880s and 1890s lead to a reduction in the Great Plains’ settlement. By the 1890s, a significant rise in cultivation land rose significantly while immigrants emerged, thus facilitating in the emergence of farmers who played a major role in boosting output from agriculture.

The development of railroads during the 19 th century, mostly between 1860 and 1890, had a significant influence on America’s economic growth as well as national unity. For instance, before railroads construction as well as the succeeding development of the countrywide network of railroads, the Mississippi River, as well as other waters that could be navigated controlled goods’ flow from the agricultural lands to the market. With the increase in the construction of railroads, the internal commerce of the country shifted in an increasing manner from east to west whereas the growing economic links that existed in between east and west played a major role in supporting nationalism in the country while also strengthening the political and cultural relationships between the two regions.

When the Civil War ended, America witnessed rapid growth in industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, creating a need for congestion release for the cities based in the east. Furthermore, the need for discovering precious metals, search for increased freedom, as well as emergence of surveyed land by the government resulted in a rise in demand for accessing the West. Technological innovations, major business leadership, and support by the government resulted in an overall countrywide rail network development in line with transcontinental railroads construction, which resulted to the creation as well as the support of countrywide market for producing, transporting, and consuming goods. As such, between 1860 and 1890, the railroad served as the major driver for national unity in line economic growth. Therefore, it is apparent that the developments witnessed in agricultural land, railroad transport, as well as the increase in states and territories between the 1860s and 1890s, resulted in significant growth of the American economy while at the same time supporting unity within the country.


McIlwraith, Thomas and Edward Muller. North America: The Historical Geography of a Changing Continent . New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011. 

Farmer, Alan. Access to History: America: Civil War and Westward Expansion 1803-1890 Fifth Edition . New York: Hodder Education, 2015. 

1 Alan Farmer, Access to History: America: Civil War and Westward Expansion 1803-1890 Fifth Edition , (New York: Hodder Education, 2015), 2. 

2 Thomas McIlwraith and Edward Muller, North America: The Historical Geography of a Changing Continent , (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011), 25. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). 1860 to 1890 Westward Expansion.


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