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America's Movement Westward Essay

1221 words - 5 pages

During the latter half of the ninetieth-century, America shifted its movement westward and began to populate the frontier. Some settlers sought adventure. Others moved onto the frontier to escape the drab routine of city life. Whatever the specific reason, most people moved westward to "better their lot." Many inventions and innovations helped improve the lives of settlers in the West. America's westward movement also sparked conflict.The American people settled on the land west of the Mississippi for many diverse reasons. Initially, many Americans were reluctant to move westward. Early explorers thought that the country beyond the Mississippi River was unfit for civilization. Consequently, ...view middle of the document...

On the mining frontier, the germ of a city, the camp, appeared almost simultaneously with the first strike. Periodicals, theaters, schools, literary clubs, and libraries came quickly to the camps, making the mining frontier more civilized than other frontiers.The United States government also spurred movement westward. With the passing of legislation such as the Homestead Act and the Timber Culture Act, the United States gave away millions of acres of land during the latter half of the ninetieth century. The Homestead Act in 1862 gave 160 acres of land to anyone who would pay the registration fee and pledge to live on it and cultivate it for five years. Nearly 600,000 families claimed free homesteads under it. The Timber Culture Act of 1873 gave an additional 160 acres of land to homesteaders if they promised to plant trees on a quarter of it within four years. A successful act, it distributed 10 million acres of land, encouraged needed forestation, and enabled homesteaders to expand their farms to a workable size.New inventions made life easier on the western frontier. For example, John Deere's steel plow enabled midwestern farmers to cultivate tough prairie soils that had resisted cast-iron implements. The steel surface of the plow kept soil from sticking, thus making farming the prairies of the Midwest easier. Cyrus McCormick's mechanical reaper offered an enormous saving in the labor required for harvesting grain. The first successful harvester, the cord binder, cut and tied bundles of grain, enabling two men and a team of horses to harvest 20 acres of wheat a day. The invention of barbed wire allowed for the protection of land against cattle as well as keeping cattle from straying. Barbed wiring was cheaper and quicker than wooden fencing of rangeland and its mass production made it possible to fence in the back-lands.The development of America's railroads fostered the movement of people westward. The railroad was becoming increasingly important as a means of moving people and goods over great distances. Railroads provided for direct routes, greater speed, greater safety, and more comfort than other modes of land travel. Railroads went where canals and rivers couldn't go. The building of a rail system in the West also furthered the economic development of the frontier. It employed thousands of people, serviced countless customers, and provided for the growth of industries involving iron, steel, and coal. The building of a mass rail system united people physically, fostered greater interdependence, and encouraged economic specialization.As settlers pushed westward, clashes occurred...

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