The American West is a place that has been strongly mythologized in American history. There was myth about Rio San Buenaventura which was featured on ancient maps. This was a large river which was believed to sweep the whole part of the West. The river exited at San Francisco all the way into the Pacific Ocean. Ideally, the mythical situation of the West revolved around the story of the American cowboy. His real life was a difficult one. It revolved around two roundups per year, the spring and the fall. This was subsequently followed by his drives to the market and the retreat in the cattle town centers spending the money that he earned on clothing, gambling, prostitution and food. In the winter season, most of the cowboys chose to hire themselves out to cattle ranches near towns. In these areas, they maintained and repaired buildings and equipment. On a given long drive, there were 250 cattle head that were normally under one cowboy.
American west thus refers to the geography, history, tradition, people and the cultural expression of every aspect of life as was evident in the Western part of the United States of America. All these elements referred to the period mostly after the first half of the 1800s. This was a time between the American Civil War and some times before the end of the 19th century. Geographically, American west referred to all the regions which were to the west of the Mississippi river in the earlier times including westward stretching from the frontier edge towards the end of the 19th century. Therefore, even though the American South and the Midwest are not part of the Western United States, historically, they formed part of what is referred to as the American West. More largely, this period accounts for the early 19th century all the way to the times of the Mexican revolution which took place in 1920. American west was thus characterized with a lot of myths and was part of the major developments that the United States attained.
The American frontier slowly moved towards the West several decades after the first immigrants settled on the Eastern seaboard during the 17th century. Thus, the West was normally the area which was beyond this boundary. However, scholars describe the old West as the area of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys in the 18th century. They normally refer to the time when the America frontier was contested by the American, France and Britain colonies.
The United States expanded along coastlines through treaties which were made with foreign nations and native citizens. This led to political compromise, military conquest, innovation, establishment of order and law, political compromise and the big migrations which were made by foreigners. These normally occurred along the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. It fulfilled the belief in Manifest Destiny of the advocates. In managing and securing the West, the federal government of the United States expanded greatly in its powers. It was during this time that the nation moved from an agrarian society towards industrialization. Initially, it enhanced settlement and the exploitation of land resources. During this period, the federal government assumed control of the open spaces that were remaining in the west. Therefore, as the American West went into history, the myths of the West took roots in the imaginations of both the foreigners and the Americans.
Therefore, the mythological American West mainly revolved around the American cowboy as earlier mentioned. The duties of the cowboy included riding out on the ranch and gathering together of the cattle that were scattered. Many activities happened with the cattle. The best of all cattle were picked, roped and later branded. In the occasion, most male cattle were castrated. Other activities included dehorning and treatment. The cowboys’ duties also included keeping the cattle moving in line. The cowboys did not have a .lot of time to relax as they were all attached to their work. It was a boring and monotonous job faced with a lot of difficulties. Their pay was between $30 and $40 on monthly basis. Fenced ranches came later in the 1880s and the days of glory of the cowboy were no more. It is during this time that the myths on the free living cowboy started to emerge.
The cowboy was a main feature in the American West. They were mainly Civil War veterans. They were the group of fellows who after the Civil War returned home only to find homes which were ruined. There was no future in what they found home after returning from war. These groups of people went westwards to look for job opportunities. A number of them were Native Americans, Hispanics, Britons and Blacks. They were mainly teens and young people in their twenties. The earliest cowboys found in Texas learnt how to trade and adapted their personal clothing. Thus, the cowboys innovated their clothing which distinguished them. They wore saddles, hats among other clothing that defined them. Ultimately, it is the hat of a cowboy that became symbolic of American West.
Generally, ranching which was a common practice in Texas was the work mostly done by the cowboys. In 1836, the ranchers in Texas drove a lot of Mexicans out as they claimed the .cattle that remained behind. During the last half of the 19th century, Civil War began. The Texans went to the battle fields. The historical events accounted for during this time support the myth about American West. During the Civil War that began in 1861, the cattle roamed free. Consequently, huge cattle herds emerged. When the Texans, returned from fighting, they rounded them up and drove to sell them to places like California and New Orleans. The long drives took place between 1865 and 1870. This was occasioned by the great demand in the northern America region. Therefore, the Texas took the cattle to the north which was a long drive of cattle to Sedalia in Missouri. At Missouri, the cattle were loaded on Chicago trains. Ranchers advanced in their trade and diversified it to great heights. Some of them sold their cattle to miners of gold. In 1868, one of the cattle king in the plains at the north got a contract to supply cattle to Sioux.
With these events taking place, the frontier moved towards the West. This was an important time in history that saw the establishment of the military forts of the United States. Thus, federal sovereignty in the new territories was well represented and maintained. The military garrisons did not have defensible walls although were not attacked so often. These were the bases for American troops in very strategic places. Specifically, the troops counteracted the presence of the Indians. As the myth went, it appears as though the West was being swept by a horde of activities. The American frontier started moving towards the west and thus the myth is well supported by these historical activities and trends. For instance, Fort Bowie offered protection to Apache Pass in the Arizona South and so was the case in other forts.
With business and developments booming around the American West, forts were constructed. They were mainly constructed to initiate attacks on the Sioux. Reservations for the Indians also emerged. Therefore, the military set up these forts to protect them. Moreover, the forts guarded the rail lines and the Union Pacific altogether. Other important forts included Fort Smith, Fort Snelling, Arkansas and Minnesota among others. Towards the end of the 19th century in the 1890s, the threat from the Indians was eliminated. White populations increased significantly. They eventually were able to provide their own enforcement of laws and therefore, a number of the forts were abandoned. This is an account of how important this region is. It was the region in which most of the renowned revolutions and development in America began. It formed a very important part in American history in this sense.
Following these establishments, settlement grew hastily along the West and across the region. This was mainly after the transcontinental railroad was fully completed. At the same time Native Americans in the plains and the southwest regions clashes came to the last phase. The mission of the military was to make the land free from roaming Indians and put all of them onto reservations. However, they received a very stiff resistance. The Civil War became tough as well armed warriors of India counteracted the American military troops. This resulted into the Indian War. The interior states experienced lesser conflicts than the Native Americans who lived at the states that bordered Mexico.
The America West is thus a very important region in matters of economy and governance. However, there was significant exploitation as well as economic abuse during this time between 1850 and 1900. It is a region of opportunity as promoted by the federal government of the United States. Many Native Americans were apparently diminished by the whites. It turned out to be an area of great conflict between the Native Americans and the whites. The Native Americans were pushed into little lands. The government of the United States seemed to belittle them. There was a spirited fight for the resources at the west. It is an area that has been characterized with great resources from the ancient past. The western population hosted almost all races. However, those who were abused organized a mass exit from the region in 1878. The fight for resources in the region led to the exit of many. Thus, the myth and the celebration of the American West form part of a very important history in the life of Americans. There is a lot that can be learnt in what could be seen as a mythologized region in American history. The myths were symbolic of the great achievements and developments in trade, economics, politics and governance. It is a very significant history that gives an account of the development of the American frontier in the 19th century.
The Late 19th Century
The late 19th century was a time of great economic growth, reform movements and cultural change. This is a time that the world experienced industrial growth and globalization. It was a time characterized with reconstruction, international integration and industrialization. In American history, it was one of the rapidly moving times. Reconstruction was a period of time that covered the late 19th century from 1863 to 1877. This began during the reign of Abraham Lincoln in the United States before he was assassinated in 1865. The then president in 1863 had previously declared gradual plans that were made to reintegrate previous Confederates. It was an age that marked the end of slavery. This great revolution saw major developments in the country where slaves were provided with healthcare, education and employment as well. These were the plans that were laid but the plan took a radical move of reconstruction in 1867 where the army supervised the process of liberating slaves.
During the period between 1860 and 1877, there was a great revolution that swept across the world and mostly impacting positively on the American society. It was a moment of great transformation. What occasioned and sparked the developments was the change that came with the Civil war in 1861. This led to very drastic changes in the central government and the constitution as well. The revolution was the dawn of a new era in the history of the American society. In between 1865 and 1875, the Congress passed major amendments to the United States’ constitution. Among them was the 13th amendment that dealt with all manner of slavery that was present in the American society.
This indeed was a great turning point of America as it was not giving any compromise to slavery. Slavery was utterly abolished in the country. The 14th amendment was also another major development. It gave a new meaning to citizenship. This was an imperative concept which included all the people who were born and naturalized in the US. The law set up a penalty for any state that denied and prevented people from voting. These changes opened new doors and changed the traditional perceptions as held in the conventional American society. Along with this came a great industrial revolution that sparked economic growth in the whole of the United States. There were a lot of “frontiers” and new beginnings that opened up many more things in the society.
These frontiers which emerged led to a great development in the history of the United States, impacting on the economy at large. The culture in the American society also took another new turn. The United States also advanced, socially, politically, geographically and economically. On social grounds, a new frontier that came to existence was the reconstruction which occurred in the south. This came after the end of the civil war. The south rebuilt their whole society and most importantly the economy. The Negroes of the South exhibited growth through the hardworking population. The society in the south was characterized with both landowning and employing social classes. The African Americans took charge in the south since the South revolved around the producing and laboring class.
Geographically, the new frontier as created by the United States turned out to be a pathway for the country to find other resources. These resources opened new frontiers and especially in the West by taking a good advantage of the natural resources on the land. The found lands across West were plains. The land initially belonged to the Native Americans and was forcefully taken from them by the whites. The period of vast economic growth and increasing prosperity was however noticeable in the West and in the North. This made the United States the most dominant industrial, agricultural and economic power. There was an increased income growth for the non-farm workers of over 70% after inflation.
With a very significant victory over the Southern secessionists, the United States ultimately became a powerful and united country with a very strong federal government. However, the slavery that ended through reconstruction period seemed to emerge. The African Americans lost their political power in the segregation system under Jim Crow. The African Americans now became second class citizens. By the late 19th century, the United States generally became a leading power in maters of industry. The nation built new technologies in the communication and steel industry. The railroad network was later expanded to boost the transport industry and trade in general. The United States was also rich in many natural resources like timber, oil, and coal and farm land. These natural resources ushered in a new season of industrial revolution in the United States.
Despite the magnificence of the developments in the late 19th century the wars and revolutions were a major setback. However, new changes emerged with the revolutions. While reacting to the reconstruction process, the Ku Klux Klan came up in the 1860s. This was an organization of the white supremacy that opposed the black civil rights. In fact, this was a moment of trial for the nation of the United States. The country was in a situation of either succeeding or falling apart in her ambitions. The Ku Klux Klan Act was passed by the Congress in 1870. Vigorous enforcement closed down the group and thus regarded as a terrorist gang. There was a bitter rivalry during these times. The Supreme Court in 1883 nullified the 1875 Civil Rights Act. The efforts by the federal government were stopped. It was perceived that private violence acts were designed to restrain legal rights.
The Gilded Age was also a part of the late 19th century that brought a lot of significance to the United States. This was actually the time when America experienced a very dramatic growth in prosperity and wealth. The Civil Service Act was one of the major reforms. It authorized a competitive examination of all those who applied for jobs in the government. Other developments included the establishment of the Interstate Commerce Act. This act brought to an end the discrimination of railroads against those who conducted shipping business on small scale. Again, the Sherman Antitrust Act outlawed any kind of business monopoly. All the same, this age was corrupted through scandalous politics, land speculators and unethical practices in business.
Globally, industrial revolution which began in England among other developments in the late 19th century came along with good tidings though with challenging processes and procedures. However, there was progress that was realized among the countries internationally. The United States also competed favorably in the world developments and emerged the leader in a number of aspects. By 1890, the industrial production in America and the per capita income generally surpassed all the other nations in the world. Due to the decreasing farm prices and heavy debts, the cotton and wheat farmers joined the Populist Party. This was an unprecedented immigration wave from Europe to offer labor for the industry in America and create different communities in areas which were previously undeveloped. Immigration started from the late 19th century in 1880 to sometimes in the early 20th century. The demand for workers was high and thus a very big population migrated to the United States.
The migration of people to the United States made availability of labor possible. The demand by the workers for control over the workplace however sparked frequent and violent emergence of labor movements in the mining camps and in the cities. The oil and steel industries were among the major economic sources in the United States. The economic development and industrial revolution branded the United States. The United States became a centre of interest for many people from different parts of the world.
Due to the benefits and developments that came up in the late 19th century, there was a kind of globalization that took place. There was a mixing of cultures and people interacted socially. The United States became a center of globalization and incorporated a lot of diversity. The country developed in healthcare and in medicine, education, as well as in foundations and libraries. Amidst all these developments, there were challenges to the process. The growing middle class population with the United States was dissatisfied with the inefficiency and corruption in politics. There was laxity in dealing with the increasing industrial and urban problems. These issues led to a dynamic Progressive Movement which began in the 1890s. In each major town and State including the national level, the movement called for the reconstruction and reformation of feeble institutions. The movement also protested against corruption which was propagated in politics. This took place in all areas of industry including medicine, education and manufacturing. The movement advocated for the introduction of effective measures in the various sectors as a standard for change.
Generally, the late 19th century was indeed a time of enormous economic growth, restructuring movements and cultural change. This was undeniably a defining moment for America. The changes that were realized during that time have put America somewhere in the map and are still felt today. The freedom of the African America Americans from slavery and the amendment of the United States constitution were momentous times in shaping the United States. The reconstruction process, industrial revolution and globalization which led to cultural change brought a lot of benefits to the country. There were significant changes and this tells us about how America rose to be a super power. The excellence of the United States in wealth, power and politics was a major boost to the country’s image and development. It is no doubt that this was the time that America experienced great revolutionary change.