A.P. U.S. History Notes
Chapter 25: “Industry Comes of Age”
~ 1865 – 1900 ~
The Iron Colt Becomes an Iron Horse
After the Civil War, railroad production grew enormously, from 35,000 mi. of track laid in
1865 to a whopping 192,556 mi. of track laid in 1900.
Congress gave land to railroad companies totally 155,504,994 acres.
For railroad routes, companies were allowed alternate mile-square sections in
checkerboard fashion, but until companies determined which part of the land was the
best to use for railroad building, all
of the land was withheld from all other users.
Grover Cleveland stopped this in 1887.
Railroads gave land their value; towns where railroads ran became sprawling cities while
those skipped by RR’s sank into ghost towns, so obviously, towns wanted railroads in them.
Spanning the Continent with Rails
Deadlock over where to build a transcontinental railroad was broken after the South seceded,
and in 1862, Congress commissioned the
Union Pacific Railroad
to begin westward from
Omaha, Nebraska, to gold-rich California.
The company received huge sums of money and land to build its tracks, but
corruption also plagued it, as the insiders of the
reaped $23 million
Many Irishmen, who might lay as much as 10 miles a day, laid the railroads.
When Indians attacked, trying to save their land, the Irish dropped their picks and
seized their rifles, and scores of workers and Indians died during construction.
Over in California, the
Central Pacific Railroad
was in charge of extending the railroad
westward, an it was backed by the
, the ex-governor of
California who had useful political connections, and
Collis P. Huntington
, a adept lobbyist.
The Central Pacific used Chinese workers, and received the same incentives as the
Union Pacific, but it had to drill through the hard rock of the Sierra Nevada.
In 1869, the transcontinental rail line was completed near Ogden, Utah; in all, the Union
Pacific built 1086 mi. of track, compared to 689 mi. by the Central Pacific.
Binding the Country with Railroad Ties
Before 1900, four other transcontinental railroads were built:
Northern Pacific Railroad
stretched from Lake Superior to the Puget Sound and
was finished in 1883.
Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe
stretched through the Southwest deserts and
was completed the following year, in 1884.
(completed in 1884) went from New Orleans to San Francisco.
ran from Duluth to Seattle and was the creation of
, probably the greatest railroad builder of all.
However, many pioneers over-invested on land, and the banks that supported them often
failed and went bankrupt when the land wasn’t worth as much as initially thought.