Railroad In Western Expansion Analysis

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The western area of the modern day United States remained largely unoccupied by American settlers for the first century of the country’s existence. The slow colonization was due to a variety of factors preventing successful, efficient, and safe occupation of the area. Likely one of the most influential factors was a simple logistical problem: traversing the continent prior to the advent of mechanized, overland transportation was extremely difficult, if not dangerous. This was not the only issue affecting would-be western settlers, but it was the first necessary challenge to overcome before any consideration of establishing a homestead. The development of a railroad network was the most important limiting factor in western settlement, and the…show more content…
Statistical analysis of these factors has revealed that the railroad was a factor leading to settlement, with at least one half of urban growth in the Midwest in the late 1800s coming directly from railroad systems (Atack et al., 2010). As previously mentioned, poor soils and precipitation rates of the middle American continent prevented rich agricultural production found further east. This meant that farms would have to be larger to produce an equal amount of food and dense populations would benefit from supplementation from eastern production. By default, this meant the western development needed to originate in eastern cities and matriculate through towns and railroads to eventually reach western settlers (Wand and Latham, 2001). This required that railroad networks be established before sustainable cities could be…show more content…
The necessity of supplies from the established communities in the eastern United States kept new cities closely tied to their supply lines. The lengthening of supply lines by railroads facilitated the western expansion. In addition to its direct impact on movement of supplies and people to developing communities, the railroads were a source of hope for expanding and quickening trade with foreign lands. Connecting the coasts was thought to be a means for improving trade with Asian countries, which coincided well with the imperial trends of the time. Despite limitations provided by lack of agriculture, hostile natives, and territorial status of western lands, it was the lack of railroads and the solution to this paucity that dictated the western edge of American presence on the
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