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New Frontiers

Course Code
Dr.Liamvan Beek

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HIS271YNew Frontiers January 19th 2011
Nature, Technology, and Empire
Today: how people responded to the changes discussed last lecture
In particular, were going to look at nature, technology, and empire
Late 1800s was a period of crisis: urban crisis, economic crisis, immigration crisis
How would identity be forged in this new world? By imagining new frontiers.
The Old Frontier: The Growth and Expansion of the West
Since Jefferson, there was a deep connection between identity and the land
For people like Jefferson, expansion was the plan
Since then, people had linked national growth with expansion
By the late 1860s, most of the western territories had been conquered
Waves of settlers continued to head there, so that the expansion of people into these
lands following the Civil War was enormous, making it one of the largest migrations
in human history
For example, Oregon in 1850: 12,093 in 1900: 413,536
Encouraging Settlement:
Practical Reasons
Many settled in the cities, but many pushed west as well
In particular, Mexican and Chinese immigrants tended to settle in the
south west
Internal migrations
Period of enormous movement in America
made the prospect of a more pastoral life more attractive

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HIS271YNew Frontiers January 19th 2011
Nature, Technology, and Empire
Suburbanization begins in this period, more people moving outside the cities
Thus, a nostalgia for a more pastoral life
Transcontinental railroad
easier for people to travel back and forth
The government granted the railroad companies enormous tracts of
land, thus they encouraged settlement
The federal government
Homestead Act: 160 acres to anyone willing to pay the $10
registration fee
Speculators took advantage of this situation, however
1863-1904, 720,000 homestead farms were established
The Mythic West
Romantic imagery
Idea of manifest destiny
Escaping urbanization
Popular culture
People like Buffalo Bill Cody, would become one of the quintessential
frontiersmen and Indian fighters of the West
Became the subject of dime novel fame
1880s, organized the Wild West show
These helped iconize the idea of the Wild West
Conquering the Virgin Land
Created an image of a west that could be conquered and tamed, not
always the case

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HIS271YNew Frontiers January 19th 2011
Nature, Technology, and Empire
Effects on Native Americans
The lives of Native Americans living on the Plains changed dramatically
Pattern of decline
In the Pacific Northwest the overland trails and later the railroad would
destroy the nomadic lifestyle of the Indians, as well as the buffalo they
In 10 years, the buffalo population plummeted from 15 million to 10,000
This was due mostly to the emerging cattle industry (buffalo and cattle
shared much of the same diseases so cattle farmers didnt want buffalo on
their land, way of curbing Indian influence as well)
There was also a civilizing mission, the goal: to make white men of them,
individualize them, break tribal ties
The Reservation System
To accommodate movement, more and more native communities were
pushed onto reservations
This generated some conflict
Many different forms of resistance
The Ghost Dance, for example, was about not rejecting traditional ways of life
Believed that by reconnecting with traditional way of life, spiritually, was a
way of resistance to white settlers
The Ghost Dance alarmed white Americans, who had been trying to
undermine their traditional ways
Wounded Knee
The Seventh Cavalry was sent to the Sioux reservation and found they had
fled to Wounded Knee, arrested their chief Sitting Bull who was shot
Following this, within days the 7th Cavalry caught up with the Ghost Dancers (who
were near starvation), and while they were disarming the Dancers a gun went off
and the cavalry started shooting, killing 150-300 men, women, and children had
been killed vs. just 25 Americans
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