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Opening the West
Transcript of Opening the West
America has experiences a number of "Gold Rushes" when gold is discovered out west. The biggest was in California in 1849, however there were others as well.
If you found a lode of gold, you could become a millionaire overnight. While this was rare, many moved from out east to the west.
The better gig was selling stuff like blue jeans, pickaxes, etc to the miners- you could make a killing. This was the origin of the Levi jean company.
Boom and Bust
When gold was discovered in a particular area, entire towns could spring up in weeks.
Then when the gold ran out, everyone would leave leaving the town deserted.
These towns were called boom towns when used and ghost towns when abandoned.
The US government was desperate to connect the country by rail- they therefore offered railroad companies huge amounts of land to lay railroads. 130 million acres were given.
In 1869, the Transcontinental Railway was completed. This allowed people to get from Boston to California in a week. Big deal.
In the early days of the west, one of the most lucrative economic activities was cattle driving. Cattle would be driven by cowboys from southern Texas up to the railroad. Sometimes you could get $40 per Texan longhorn.
This declined when ranching/farming became more popular (ranching could produce bigger cows) however the legend of the cowboy still endures in American memory.
in 1862 the government passed the Homestead Act. This offered 160 acres to anyone who would pay 10 dollars and move west.
Thousands of easterners answered the call, massively increasing the population out west.
Foreigners did so as well- many Scandinavians settled in the Dakotas/Wisconsin.
In the early 1800s, millions of buffalo lived out west in massive herds.
Native American tribes depended on the buffalo for everything from food to clothing to fuel. As whites moved west, however, they began killing buffalo in droves.
This led to mass starvation of natives and caused many to move to reservations in Oklahoma.
Fighting became more common between natives and white settlers- natives were desperate as their land was taken and buffalo taken away.
In 1868, the Sioux tribe grew angry that some of their sacred mountains, the Black Hills of the Dakotas, would be mined for gold. The US sent 210 men under George Custer to pacify them- Custer in his arrogance attacked an army of thousands of natives. They were slaughtered in "Custer's Last Stand."
Little Bighorn caused the US government to send large armies to pacify the Lakota, Sioux, Cheyenne, and Apache tribes. They battled the Apache leader Geronimo until 1886.
By 1890, native resistance was pacified and remaining natives were put into reservations.