Railroads were vital in linking the West to other parts of the country. Mining, ranching, and farming became commercial enterprises tied in with national and international markets. As elsewhere, some people profited, and others fought to survive.
Farming on the Plains
The federal government's land policy (Homestead Act) and land subsidies to railroads spurred movement into the plains, bringing ranchers and farmers into the national market. Many settlers struggled to adjust to a harsh environment; some endured, and some left.
Look for answers to these questions when watching the video:
- How and why did mining on the Comstock Lode and other areas in the West reflect the industrialization going on in other parts of the country in the late nineteenth century?
- How and why did the federal government and the railroads encourage economic development of the West? Why did people move West?
- How did cattle ranching evolve in the West between 1865 and 1900? Why did barbed wire revolutionize the cattle business? How was ranching similar to other businesses of the era?
- Why was farming on the Great Plains so difficult? How did farmers cope?
- How did mechanization affect farming? Why was farming becoming more commercial? How did the Miller & Lux company illustrate agribusiness? How had the ideal of the self-sufficient yeoman farmer been transformed?
Gilded Age: East and West
Industrialization was not limited to the East during the Gilded Age. Many factors that helped transform the East into an industrial giant were also at work in the West during the late nineteenth century. See how many similarities you can identify in this activity.