The Railroad Industry In The Late 19th Century

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The rapid expansion of the railroad in the Midwest, during the late 1800s, was plagued with corruption and greed leaving the American farmers at the mercy of the railroad industry. In the years following the Civil War, the nation saw a boom in the agricultural and the railroad industries. American farmers were trying to prosper in the Midwest and the railroad industry was in steady progress to conquer the nation by rail service. The nonexistence of regulation and oversight over the railroad companies opened the door for businessmen and politicians to make a great deal of money. The American farmers saw major rate fluctuations in shipping cost for their products when moving it by rail service to the markets. The individual merchants saw major…show more content…
Following the Homestead Act in 1862, thousands of miles of railroad were built, growing almost sevenfold leading up to the turn of the century. “In 1860 there were about 30,000 miles of railroads in operation, mostly east of the Mississippi. By 1900 there were almost 200,000 miles” (Wallace, 1922, p. 64). Because of this growth, the last couple decades of the nineteenth century, the railroad industry was plagued with corruption and poor management. One could say, most of the railroad lines following the Civil War were plagued by these practices. (Stover, 2008, p. 97). In the reconstruction of the south post-Civil War, new construction in the southern states progressed extremely slower than the in the north. What contributed to this was state bonds being issued to railroad companies to build new rail lines and very few, if none, were ever built. To such an extent, “Illinois alone laid as much new track in the decade as all the Confederate states east of the Mississippi” (Stover, 2008, p. 98). In the north, the old employees of the railroad companies were being fired and people were put in place with ties to very wealthy political figures. This opened the door for people like Vanderbilt, Drew Gould, and many others to make millions of dollars on the rail systems. (Stover, 2008, p. 101). The farmers and merchants…show more content…
The Industrial Revolution brought many opportunities to those that had none. Bid cities, Agriculture, Railroads were the top three contributors to the overall growth of the nation. Entrepreneurs saw this type of rapid growth and lack of regulation as an opportunity to make an enormous amount of money. Some of the biggest monopolies in the railroad industry were created and all those less fortunate suffered at the hands of these businessmen and politicians. Some would argue that during the period following the Civil War, it was very prosperous for the American farmer as the nation saw a huge increase in agricultural growth. However, the agricultural growth can be contributed to the railroad 's rapid expansion into the west. Which provided the farmers with an easier means to get their crops and livestock to the merchants to be sold much more efficiently. This efficiency came at a cost to the American farmers and the merchants. Railroad companies were left unregulated for so long they were considered the law when it came to moving people and goods around the country. They could change the rates for shipping whenever they felt it was beneficial to them. In the end, the economic growth in the nation was plagued with corruption and greed and the lower income families were at the mercy of the businessmen and
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