Westward Expansion from 1860 to 1890


Westward Expansion was one of the greatest successes in the United States in the latter half of the 18th Century. This solely depended on the construction of a railroad, connecting the east and the west. This railroad enhanced transportation of goods and services to and from the west. The movement of people was also made easier than usual. The Americans moved to the west to claim some of the unclaimed lands in the west, which was lying fallow. The low population in the west and vastness of the land attracted Americans to the west with the aim of civilizing that part of the country. England already had a dense population, with its cities remaining much closer reflecting the stability of their economy during the westward expansion in 1860-1890.

The manifest destiny, which was a belief by the people of the United States that their country was destined to expand, till the Pacific Ocean, kept them moving towards the west. After the conflict with Mexico, they gained California, which was rich in natural minerals, such as gold. The construction of railroad enhanced the movement to and from California. This also led to a rise in population as people moved in from other places to settle. The availability of gold also attracted businesspersons from the east. Many people started moving to the west and even settling there due to the availability of vast land. These lands were fertile and favorable for agricultural production (Ray& Martin, 2012).

In 1860 the urge to move from one territory to another triggered the expansion of railroads to areas, such as California. The expansion of the railroad enhanced transportation of farm product from the west to the east for consumption. Farmers from the west could also buy and transport farm inputs from the west. The railroad linked major cities, providing adequate transport services from one city to another. People could easily transport goods from their farms to national and international market through this railroad. This, in turn, improved the agricultural sector of the west.

With the increased expansion of railroad into the deepest part of the west, there emerged towns along the way. The areas in which railroad contractors resided during the construction turned into smaller towns. These towns later attracted much more people to them by 1862 leading to a drastic increase in population. The population increase led to the rise in the potential market for agricultural goods produced by both local farmers and farmers from other towns. This boosted the economic standards of the towns (Ray & Martin, 2012).

The introduction of Homestead Act in 1862 the population in town largely increased. These small towns turned into cities with established businesses. More rural-urban migration was experienced with people loving the city life as compared to the rural areas. Services, such as the availability of electricity in the city attracted many into the city. Manufacturing industries emerged due to a demand for products by the large population. The machines could easily be driven by electric power. Products, such as meat and cheese were transported to Chicago as there was already a ready market (Mountjoy & Shane, 2016).

The south wanted to use the railroad to carry out slave trade. They targeted the north claiming they should provide labor in their arms. The north refused and demanded slave trade to be illegalized. This led to civil war. Before the war, many English had occupied the city with the famous cities, such as New York and Chicago recording a major increase in population. In 1870, United States recorded about 35.6%, summing up to 31,443,321 people. This population grew over the years, and in 1890, there were 69,247,714 people in the United States (Mountjoy &Shane, 2016).

In 1880 many people had moved to the west either to claim land or to do business. The population grew fast. Many insecurity cases were reported. Since there was just but an unstable form of governance in the area, people decided to have security dealt with by local Sherriff while others chose to look after themselves, protecting their family and property from bandits. Later in 1890, the US government announced that the entire west was fully explored and the country by then had 44 states (Ray & Martin, 2012).

In conclusion, the construction of transcontinental railroad led to the success of westward expansion. This enhanced movement from one city to another. Goods and services could easily be transported to and from different parts of the country. The availability of land and railroad led to increased population and settlement in towns in the west, such as Chicago. The mushrooming of towns was evident along the railroad, which later transformed into major cities. This led to the evident boost of the economic status of the west.

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  1. Mountjoy, S. (2016) Manifest Destiny: Westward Expansion. New York: Chelsea House Publishers.
  2. Ray, A., & Martin, R. (2012). Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
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