Analyzing the Causes & Effects of Westward Expansion & Industrialization
Directions: Considering what we’ve learned so far (as well as pages 142–155), respond to the following questions in complete sentences.
Imagine that it is the late 1890s and the American West is the last frontier. Rangers, cowboys, & miners have changed forever the lives of Native Americans who hunted on the western Plains. Now westward fever intensifies as ‘boomers’ rush to grab ‘free’ farm land with the government’s blessing. What would you expect to find as you settle the west?
Discuss several ways you could make a living on the western frontier? Be sure to include the pros (positives) and cons (negatives) of various job opportunities.
If Native Americans already live in your intended home, how will you co-exist?
How might settlers and Native Americans differ regarding the use of land?
The year is 1863 and railroad construction is booming. In six years, the U.S. will be linked by rail from coast to coast. The Central Pacific Railroad employs mainly Chinese immigrants to blast tunnels, lay track, & drive spikes, all for low wages. You are a journalist assigned to describe this monumental construction project to your reader. Describe the pros and cons of railroad expansion. (*Reference the reading on the back for additional information)
What dangers do railroad workers encounter?
How will businesses and the general public benefit from this new transcontinental railroad?
How might railroad construction affect the environment?
Reading: Chinese Immigrants and the Railroads The American Civil War slowed the building of a transcontinental railroad but upon its conclusion, construction resumed. This massive work could never have been completed without Chinese and Irish laborers, who comprised the bulk of the workforce. Chinese laborers were brought in by the Central Pacific Railroad in large numbers. Indeed, by the height of the construction effort in 1868, over 12,000 Chinese immigrants were employed, comprising about 80 percent of the Central Pacific's workforce. The work ethic of the Chinese impressed James Strobridge, the foreman of construction, as did their willingness to do the dangerous work of blasting areas for track in the treacherous Sierra Nevada, an effort that cost some Chinese laborers their lives. Chinese workers even helped lay a record ten miles of track in just twelve hours, shortly before the railroad was completed. The Chinese dedication to the Central Pacific was even more impressive in light of the racial discrimination they experienced. California law prevented them from obtaining full citizenship, but still mandated that they pay taxes to the state of California. Although the railroads paid all their employees poorly, Asians usually earned less than whites. In addition, the Chinese were paid only $27 a month (later rising to $30 a month), significantly less than the $35 a month that Irish laborers on the Central Pacific earned for doing the same work. Moreover, white employees received free meals whereas their Asian counterparts had to supply their own food. The immigrants’ working conditions were miserable. In 1866, for example, the railroad hired them to dig a tunnel through a granite mountain. For five months of that year, the Chinese lived and worked in camps surrounded by banks of snow. The total snowfall reached over 40 feet. Hundreds of men were buried in avalanches or later found frozen, still clutching their shovels or picks.