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The Great American Expansion Essay

1765 words - 7 pages

America was rapidly changing with the growth of ideas and inventions in the early nineteenth century. A major factor that allowed the United States to flourish in the late nineteenth century was the installment of the railroad system. The push to build railroads in the United States began in the 1830s and carried on far into the 1870s. The railways became an important system that guided settlement and delivered economic opportunity for much of the United States. Railroads allowed access to places that people had no means of getting to and provided an opportunity to develop cities and towns. The impact of the railways allowed the United States to become more mobile and efficient as it was going through a period of change. The railways changed the United States forever giving important links to the rest of the country.
In the early nineteenth century the nation’s highways were the waterways such as rivers and canals. These means of travel were effective to an extent, but were limited by their permanent routes. The situation with the United States was that there was a thin population spread out over an enormous country, with long distances between major cities. Business owners and the government were looking for ways to improve economic chances. Cheap efficient land transportation was an essential need of the industrial revolution because the existing road transportation by wagon was just simply too slow.
England was the first country to have railroads. In the 1930s the United States imported England’s technology for the railroads. The United States soon became self-reliable with their factories and numerous inventors and engineers improving the quality of the equipment being used on the railroads.
In the early railroading days of America (around the 1830s) the market was unregulated. This gave opportunity for people known as “Robber Barons” to make profits in the millions by simply raising the price by small amounts. There were so many people using the railroads that every penny they raised the prices was an exponential gain. Two highly noted “Robber Barons” were Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, both of which became extremely wealthy through railroad ownership. However their railroad monopolies would soon come to an end. “This eventually led to the formation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, or ICC in 1887. Its mission was to regulate railroads, fix price ceilings, and generally prevent them from making a profit that would be considered excessive” (Railroads and the Market Economy). Even with regulated railroads, they continued to expand. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 got major backing from both of the political parties and was pressured to become a law by groups of all regions. These groups included farmers, merchants and even the occasional railroad manager. The Interstate Commerce Commission had the right to investigate all railroad operations. With that said it became the first federal independent regulatory commission to...

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