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Westward Expansion from 1860 To 1890

The Westward expansion is a collection of events that occurred in the Western Territories of the United States of America from a period of 1807 to 1910.The period of Western Expansion was characterized by a variety of events ranging from wars, passing of numerous laws(Acts) to infrastructural developments(transcontinental railroad), etc. (Del Bene 15). The focus of this paper is to explore the various factors that led to Western Expansion within a period of four decades that ran from 1860 to 1890.The advancements in technology and science are critical to the growth and development of critical infrastructures and efficient utilization of essential resources thus positively impacting on the social and economic structures within the society.

The period from 1860 to 1890 saw numerous expansions of the large Westward cities, development of railroad networks, better utilization of agricultural lands and the establishment of States and Territories. In 1860, there were eight major cities across the USA with a population of equal or greater than 100000 e.g. New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, etc. Only New York and Philadelphia had populations of equal or larger than 500000 people with the remaining cities having a population in the region of 500000 to 100000.Brooklyn was a city within a city (New York) with a pollution of greater than 100,000 but less than 500,000.In 1870, more cities came into fray whose population lay between 100,000 to 500000 such as Newark and Buffalo (Kennedy 19). In 1880, more cities developed(e.g. Detroit, Providence) while the population of Chicago and New York increased to more than one million while that of Brooklyn increased to over 500,000 but less than one million. By 1890, the population of Philadelphia had skyrocketed to over one million and more cities with populations of over 100,000 people emerged.

In 1860, the railroad networks cut across the country connecting the eight major cities mentioned above. By 1870, San Francisco emerged as the new city, and there was a direct railroad cutting across the face of the USA all the way from Chicago to this city. Development and expansion of railway networks resulted in the emergence of more cities across the USA as more railroad systems were developed to connect the earlier cities (Sherow 53).

In 1860, the number of green dots representing the acres of improved agricultural land was closer to each other in the cities with high population i.e. New York and Philadelphia. There is no additional information on the acres of improved agriculture land in 1870 but by 1880, the size of the improved lands expanded both in the previous cities and in the new cities. It is worth noting that some cities e.g. San Francisco already had improved land for agriculture even before it attained the status of city by 1870.By 1890, agricultural practices utilized more land in the major cities (Morin 10). In 1860, the first cities to emerge in the USA were already within recognized states while most regions across the country were under either recognized or unrecognized territories. By 1890, most cities that had emerged within a span of four decades were lawfully within known states, but there remained some places in the country that were under unrecognized and recognized territories.

Food production was one of the major factors that hugely encouraged the growth and expansion of the major USA cities during the Westward expansion. Food is one of the three basic human needs whose production has the potential to increase the population in a region. The increase in food production might have resulted in increased birth rates as there was a guarantee that the high population would quickly and cheaply acquire food products. Furthermore, the increased food production led to rural-urban migration as people sought to find ways of improving their living standards by working on the farms. Therefore, the rural-urban migration, increased food production, and the increased birth rates resulted in population growth in the major cities. Additionally, the development of the critical infrastructures (railroad networks) from city to city did impact on the social and economic structures of people (Kennedy 30). As mentioned above, San Francisco city emerged in 1870 although it already had extensive agricultural lands in use by 1860 thus food production was the primary factor that contributed to the growth of this city. However, by the time the city emerged railroad network from Chicago city also reached San Francisco. The transport network ferried both goods and people from one from one region to another (Morin 30).

Various factors affected the economic and social life of people during the Westward expansion era such as civil wars, recognition of regions as territories and states, development of transport systems, increase in food production, etc. Of these elements, improvement in the agricultural land and development of railroad networks had a significant impact on the growth in population in the major cities i.e. faster modes of transport encouraged the movement of people from one place to another. Therefore, most people chose to move to areas with high food production thus leading to high population growth in the cities. It can be noted that some places were already practicing agriculture on large chunks of land even before the towns in those regions attained the status of cities i.e. population of above 100,000 people. People would then move to such towns in search of job opportunities using the faster and improved transport systems (railroad networks) hence resulting in population increase e.g. the San Francisco city. Therefore, it can be noted that modernized agricultural practices coupled with better transportation systems greatly stimulated the movement of people from one place to another which consequently resulted in both increase and decrease in population.


There are various factors that contributed to the Westward expansion back in the 1800s, and the basis of most of these factors was the advancement of technology and science. These advancements resulted in more modernized ways of doing things which ultimately changed the social and economic aspects of the society. In this paper, the discussion on the impact of advancements in technology and science on the expansion of towns into cities was covered. During the Westward expansion period, development of the railroad networks and improvement of the agricultural land are perceived to have greatly impacted on the life of people by facilitating the movement of both goods and people. Railroad networks were constructed to link different towns hence resulting in a network of rails crisscrossing the country. The availability of a faster mode of transport facilitated people to move from one region to the other hence evoking migration. The modernized way of life demanded an increase in food production which consequently led to improvement in the agricultural land. Food is a basic need, and intuitively, humans would wish to live in areas where food is an almost guarantee. The improvement in agricultural land implied that some towns produced more food as compared to others hence initiating the migration of people. The pressure to cope with the requirements of the modern life resulted in the migration of people to areas that had more improved agricultural lands. As such, those towns that produced more food grew in population thus gaining the status of cities e.g. San Francisco. Furthermore, the railroad networks were used to transport the excess agricultural produce from one town to other. Therefore, the availability of ready market in other towns and cities encouraged increased and improved food production. The movement of people to the food-rich cities in search of jobs resulted in the increase in population.

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