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The Transcontinental Railroad Overview History Essay

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Didn't travelling from coast to coast use to take months? Aren't you glad you don't have to take slow and hazardous wagon trains? Before the completion of the transcontinental railroad, travelling from coast to coast was costly and took months. It was about a thousand dollars and took five to six months through troublesome terrain.

The transcontinental railroad is accepted as the greatest accomplishment of the 19th century. It connects over 2,000 miles of land crossing mountains and deserts. It is such an amazing achievement since it lowered the travelling time to five days for around $100.

The success of a transcontinental railroad wasn't started by just a single individual. It was a combined effort of supporters and workers. The available tracks were cramped up in the Northeast and the South. The center of the nation had little rail and was not easy to traverse.

Beginnings

Soon after the invention of steam powered railroads around 1830 in Great Britain, ideas to create a transcontinental railroad arose. One influential supporter was Asa Whitney. Whitney after going to China in the 1840s, realized the importance of a transcontinental railroad. He wrote books on this topic and also spent a lot of money persuading Congress to allow it. Although Whitney's dreams were not fulfilled from his work, Theodore Dehone Judah helped him realize his aspiration. Theodore Judah was an engineer whose life revolved around railroads. He worked with many railroad companies and was therefore experienced. Judah was then hired as the Chief Engineer for the Central Pacific Railroad. His job was to survey Sierra Nevada, land that rail was going to be built over. With the aid of the Central Pacific Railroad, Judah was able to obtain for federal approval and financing of a transcontinental railroad. However, there were many disputes over the route because of slavery. When Senator Stephen Douglas introduced Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, there was a controversy over a railroad line from Chicago. Eventually, the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 was passed and authorized the railroad companies to build a transcontinental railroad. The two companies, Union Pacific and Central Pacific received land grants of 10 mile on both sides of the line and a 30-year government loan for each mile of track constructed.

The Golden Spike

After a long six years, the first United States transcontinental railroad was completed. The date on the spike was May 8, 1869 which was the intended date of the ceremony. However, bad weather caused it to be postponed two days. On the 10th Central Pacific Railroad from the west and the Union Pacific Railroad from the east met at Promontory Summit, Utah. The last spike was made of California gold, and the sledge was made of silver. Stanford, a director of the railroad, drove the last spike. The exact number of people attending is indefinite but, anywhere from 500 to 3000 people were present. Alexander Topence had said, "I do not remember what any of the speakers said now, but I do remember that there was a great abundance of champagne" regarding the event after a firsthand account.

Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad

In 1863 the Union Pacific RR began construction from Omaha, Nebr., while the Central Pacific broke ground at Sacramento, California. The construction followed Judah's planning. The Central Pacific started work in 1863 and The Central Pacific Railroad began construction in 1863. After some progress along the Sacramento Valley, The Central Pacific made great progress along the Sacramento Valley but then was slowed when they reached mountains and encountered snowstorms.

The Central Pacific's workers consisted mostly of workers from China. The workers were paid between one to three dollars daily however Chinese immigrants received much less. The Chinese workers eventually protested and received better wages. To blast through mountains, the Central Pacific began to use the new invention, unstable nitro-glycerin explosives. It quickened the work but was a lot more dangerous.

The workers on the Union Pacific were mostly veterans and Irish immigrants. The Civil War veterans had learned how to keep the trains running during the American Civil War and used their knowledge to help with the construction.

Effects

The transcontinental railroad was revolutionizing. The transcontinental railroad united East and West and also led to the growth of cities. Cities where customers can transfer became populated. The railroad boosted the economy growth such as economic growth as mining, farming, and cattle. The number of regional rails also increased greatly. However, not all is good. As people relocated west, they also forced the Native Americans onto reservations.

The Last Spike

One side reads. "May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world."

Another side reads: "The Pacific Railroad ground broken Jany 8th 1863 and completed May 8th 1869"

The directors' names appear on the third face and the officers on the fourth.

The Telephone

"Come here Mr. Watson, I want to see you!"

The first telephone

Who invented the Telephone?

It comes down to two inventers: Alexander Grahman Bell and Elisha Gray. They both tried to design an invention that could transmit speech electrically. Alexander Graham Bell's patent for the telephone was first. It was titled "Improvement in Telegraphy. Elisha Gray patented his only a few hours later; it was titled Transmitting Vocal Sounds Telegraphically". Gray and Bell and Alexander Graham Bell entered into a legal dispute in which Bell won.

Who Was Alexander Bell?

Alexander Graham Bell is a renowned scientist, inventor, engineer and 

innovator. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3 1847. His mother was a painter and musician. His father was a teacher and author of textbooks on correct speech. Both Alexander's mother and wife were deaf. Alexander's father, grandfather, and brother had all be associated with work in speech.

How Did Bell invent the telephone?

Bell experimented with the harmonic telegraph which could send more than one telegraphed messages at once. Bell developed a friendship with Thomas Watson and they worked on developing the first telephone. Bell and Watson found out that sound could be carried short distances across telegraph wires. On June 2nd 1875, Watson had accidentally tugged on a reed and Bell heard it on the other side of the wire. From there, Bell raced to the patent office.

Effects of the telephone

In the early days of the telephone, voices over the phone were almost inaudible. However, the telephone will enable people to communicate more easily and freely. With the telephone, one can conduct business or get in touch with relatives. However, making a long distance phone call can be extremely costly. It is foreseen that the expansion of the telephone is going to be rapid.

Bell's workshop

Challenges of the Plains  

View of the Plains

The Plains include prairie, steppe, and grassland. It lies between the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. The farmers faced many problems including environmental factors and insufficient technology. These problems were severe and could leave the farmer penniless.

The land

Up to the 1860s, the arrival of the homesteaders, most of the plains had never been ploughed. The land had to be ploughed before plantation of crops. The Plain's grass had thick, deep, and entangled roots up to10 centimeters which made it difficult to cut through. The first homesteaders brought their iron ploughs. It could plough the softer land in the East but were inadequate in the Plains.

The farmers received insufficient amounts of land. Although the Homesteader Act gave homesteaders 160 acres of land each, it still wasn't enough to survive. The land was also extremely arid and there were frequent droughts and few lakes and rivers. Without water, the farmers could not irrigate the crops. One approach made was called dry farming which allowed farmers to farm without water. Its purpose is to conserve and utilize the moisture efficiently by decreasing the runoff and evaporation.

Animals

Homesteaders farmed near cattle ranches and often times cows would stray away. The cow and buffalo that roamed wild would trample the homesteader's crops. Furthermore, the many farmers could not make fences due to the lack of trees.

In 1871, 1874, and 1875, homesteaders encountered vast grasshopper swarms. These swarms contained millions of insects and affected hundreds of miles of land. The swarm destroyed everything including the crops, tools, clothes, and even their house. The grasshoppers could eat a homesteader family's entire crop in a few hours.

Fires

Fires were not rare in the grasslands. It could be started by sunlight reflecting off a piece of metal. The farmers could "beat" the fire by hitting it but if it spreads too quickly, they were force to wait until in their sod houses.

Family

The homesteaders lived in sod houses which were like log cabins. The houses were made out of sod which is grass and the part of the soil beneath it. The sod houses were fireproof but rain could leak through.

Women living on the plains had a hard life. Women did most of the feeding and clothing of the family. They also did the housework and took care of the animals. Often times they would even help the men in the fields.


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