The Wild West
The Wild West describes a time that began in 1803, stretching until 1890. During its nearly 100 years, the Wild West was composed of everything west of the Mississippi River until California. It was known as this because the territories that Americans were being pushed to explore were not managed fully by the American government. This led to the ride of some famous outlaws, or people who lived their lives without care for laws, such as James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok and William H. Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid.
While there were outlaws, they weren't as common as media in the mid-20th century had most people believe. Most of the violence was committed by the U.S Military who massacred the Native Americans. The territory being explored and claimed is known as the American Frontier, and was a harsh time for people making their way out west, as survival was the main struggle. What drove people was a term known as Manifest Destiny, that it was the country's destiny to expand westward.
The 1803 purchase of the Louisiana Territory from the French by then President Thomas Jefferson would signal the start of American Frontier. It would nearly double the current size of the United States. Meriwether and William Clark, who were both members of the army, volunteered to head west and explore to map out potential routes for people to travel safely through. A new division would be made, known as the Corps of Discovery, whose sole purpose was to discover the United States territory.
Between 1848-1855, the California Gold Rush took place. Over 300,000 people went to California in search of gold because of James Marshall's discovery of Gold near the city of Coloma at Sutter's Mill. This is when the term 'Forty-niners' would appear, who were people arriving in 1848 and 1849 to California in search of Gold.
Some who arrived first would be making ten times the amount of money a person could make working a normal job. Towns would appear almost instantly with the reports of gold in certain areas. Once the gold dried up, the towns were abandoned, leaving ghost towns.
In 1860, The Pony Express was how the American Frontier could be established. It was a 2,000-mile journey consisting of men riding horses along a trail who carried mail across the trail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The first trip was made in just 9 days and 23 hours heading West, though the journey East took longer, 11 days and 12 hours. The riders would cover 250 miles per day, and would help establish communication as well as set up the Western Telegraph. The Pony Express lasted a mere 19 months, but it was essential for starting communications out west.
The Transcontinental Railroad would also make The Pony Express unnecessary. It was a rail system that had one route which stretched from Omaha to Sacramento, and followed much of the route of The Pony Express, and another route that went from Texas all the way up to Los Angeles, California. Initial talks started in 1830 but it wasn't until 1862 when Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act, allowing the creation of two railroads. When the railroad was completed, it allowed for fast and reliable transport outwards of people and goods.
Congress passed the Desert Land Act in 1877, allowing settlers who moved out west to buy land in large quantities. Settlers could buy up to 640 acres for 25 cents an acre, and were usually in areas that required large scale farming. People who bought land were required to properly irrigate, which means to create water flow to the land for growing crops, and thousands would travel west to claim this.
In 1890, the US government announced that the west had been successfully explored. The United States was now composed of 44 states, with only Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah not yet states from the main land of 48 states. In 1800, population in the United States was 5.2 million and by the turn of the next century, population was an astounding 76.2 million. Manifest Destiny seemed to have done its job, and the country flourished from then on, eventually becoming a leading superpower in the mid-20th century.
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