what happened when the US moved West?

from Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2009), pp. 68-69:

For hundreds of years, the American South and West in many ways resembled the other plantation and extraction societies of the colonized New World more than they did the northern Atlantic industrial zone--indeed, they spent much of their history under other flags. Forcibly incorporated into the industrial economy via the Civil War, they continued to function for another two generations very much like an internal banana republic, ruled by an enfranchised white settler class and a system of racial terrorism, sending raw materials and crops to the factories and cities. But they could claim a crucial privilege: alone among similar American-owned or American-dominated agricultural zones in the Western hemisphere, the white settlers of the former Confederacy and frontier had representation in Washington.

images: Virtual Museum of SF; photos of the Chinese in California; you can also go to ArtStor on the library website, under "research databases"; California history online, from the Historical Society; museum of Western Art; the Smithsonian

from Oxford History of the American West:

Simply put, the main business of territorial governments was business. Mine owners, railroad developers, merchants, cattlemen and bankers as well as lawyers, judges, and governors played an often profitable role in the politics of development. This fusion of business and government spurred economic development, as did the large federal subsidies to the territories. Along with the salaries of federal appointees and budgets to operate the territorial legislatures, federal funds maintained military posts, land offices, postal routes and Indian agencies. Federal money also fed Indians on the reservations and built improvements within the territories, such as roads, forts, capitols, and prisons.

Europeans occupied "free land" in North and South America, Asia, Africa and the South Pacific throughout the 19th century. A treasure trove of minerals spurred that process. The movement of peoples into the trans-Mississippi West introduced both material progress and concepts of liberty even as it destroyed those non-European indigenous cultures that resisted....Like the occupying populations of South Africa, Australia, and portions of Latin America, the settlers of the West were young, largely male, transient, and violent....Demographic characteristics soon changed, however, as the West became urbanized and the population came to reflect national norms--almost 40% urban by 1900. If there was a unique element in the American West, it was the speed of this transition.

Motivated by the objective of supporting the values of life and property under conditions of frontier disorder, vigilante bands took the law into their own hands for the paradoxical purpose of law enforcement. Vigilantes were almost invariably led by the elite, well-to-do members of Western communities, so the ideology of vigilantism reflected the need to take the law into one's own hands (in effect, committing a revolution against the State) on the part of those who were ordinarily the most zealous upholders of the legal system. Prominent western Senators (from California, Montana, and Idaho) and governors (California, Wyoming, New Mexico) were vigilantes, as were members of the economic aristocracy. Violations of the letter of the law were widely acclaimed by the people and even by notables of the bench and bar.

White massacres of Indians exacted much heavier casualties than the reverse: Bear River (Idaho, 1863, 90 women and children killed), Sand Creek (Colorado, 1864, c.200 men, women, and children), Washita River (Oklahoma, 1868, 103 dead), Marias River (Montana, 1870, 173 dead), Wounded Knee (1890, South Dakota, 150+ dead, shot with machine guns). There were anti-Chinese riots in LA (19 dead, 1871), Seattle, Tacoma, 51 massacred and the expulsion of 400-500 others (1885, Wyoming), ten miners killed in 1887 (Oregon).

For more on this, see Jean Pfaelzer, Driven Out, online: in particular, pp.74-81; 320-24.

The gold rush in California created wealth for the few and labor for the many. When the output of gold reached 80 million dollars in 1852, the economy of the region had been transformed. Demands for goods and services made San Francisco a city with merchants, bankers, shipowners, freighting firms, and manufacturers competing for a share of the wealth.

In 1883, the United States became the world's leading producer of copper, with Montana being a major source of the metal. Anaconda Copper employed 75% of wage-earners in Montana, 1900. A major factor in the rise of industrialization, copper from Montana (5000 tons, 1882; 176,000 tons, 1916) contributed to the expansion of electrification in the United States and Western Europe. A key characteristic of the labor force was its ethnic and racial diversity. Mining corporations hired gangs of Chinese laborers, not to work in the shafts but to dump cars, remove surface rubble, cook food, and wash laundry. White miners refused to work with the Chinese in the tunnels, and management feared that the Chinese, unlike other groups, would quit if not paid on time. Nevertheless, Chinese immigrants appeared in large numbers not only in California but also in Idaho, Nevada, and even Colorado. An ethnic pecking order developed in some of the mines; the Cornishmen, Welshmen, Irishmen and Americans labored in the shafts while the Southern and Eastern Europeans loaded and pushed the carts. Yet all who worked in the mines saw a glimpse of hell.

The construction of the transcontinental railway made millionaires of a few, and some, such as Collis Huntington, reinvested those profits in the region, further stimulating economic growth. By 1890 his empire stretched from Oregon to Louisiana; railroads, timber, land corporations, ferries, and coastal shipping entered his grasp. Other Western millionaires: in 1892, Charles H. Deere (plows), Wells and Armour (meatpacking), McCormick (reaper), Pillsburys (wheat), Weyerhaeuser (lumber), James J. Hill (railroads), Busch (beer),

On the Great Northern RR, the average cost to haul a ton of freight one mile fell from 2.88 cents in 1881 to 0.77 cents in 1907. By 1900, the trans-Mississippi West possessed not only an intricate rail network linking the region to all areas of the United States, Mexico, and Canada but also ocean steamship lines operating from Galveston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and other ports, giving the region access to the trade of Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

1900--West produces 9% of US oil; California ranks 5th in petroleum output; 1911, West is US's major source of petroleum. 1901-1940, California is #1 US oil producer 14 times, #2 21 times, #3 3 times. 1905-1938, Washington is US's leading timber producer every year but one.

The price of prime cuts of beef dropped 40%, 1883-1889. 6 Chicago packinghouses produced 82% of US beef, 1900. Americans came to think that they were living in the "Golden Age of American Beef." With cookbooks and magazines dismissing pork as difficult to digest, unwholesome, and unhealthy, fat beef became a health food.

It takes 233 hours to produce 100 bushels of wheat (6000 pounds) and 276 to produce 100 of corn(=5600 pounds, shelled), 1840; 1900 figures are 108 and 135.

1800--450,000 farmers in US; 1850--1.5M; 1910--6.4M; mid-1930s--6.8M. # of farms increases by 4.4M, 1860-1920. Former Mexican citizens in the SW lose 95% of their land after the area is taken by the US, 1848-1891.

Not all merchants were Anglos from the East Coast. In New Mexico and Arizona, Hispanics frequently dominated freighting and the mercantile trade, some families having been engaged in such activities for decades. Felipe Chavez opened the Chavez General Merchandise Store in Belen, NM in about 1860, and, using his own wagons to transport goods, he flourished. Eventually he purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for his son Jose, who moved to the East to manage the family investments. Many German and Polish Jews came to the West as merchants, traders, bankers, and incipient manufacturers. Michael Goldwater established a successful store in Phoenix, where the family became prominent members of the community. Barry Goldwater ran for President in 1964. From a small plant in San Francisco, Levi Strauss provided heavy cotton work clothes to miners. Freedmen left the South and moved to Kansas as "Exodusters" in 1877 and built their own communities.