Thursday, January 31, 2008

Coeur d'Alene

"By the mid-1850's, as easy pickings in the California gold country diminished, prospectors began to pull out and spread across the West in hopes of striking it rich elsewhere. Gold was discovered on the Nevada side of the Sierra Nevada, in the Colorado Rockies, and along the Frasier River in British Columbia. New strikes occurred in Montana and Wyoming during the 1860's, a decade later in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and in the Coeur d'Alene region of Idaho during the 1880's" (America, p.492).

During the 19th century, the "Far West" (anything west of the Rocky Mountains) was considered almost inhospitable. Aside from the difficulties associated with crossing the Rockies, most of the area south of Washington and Oregon was considered too dry and mountainous for farming and sustaining life. But in 1848, gold was discovered in Sutter's Mill in California, and sparked the famous Gold Rush. Out of the Gold Rush came settlement of the "Far West." Settlers created "islands" of civilization in an inhospitable land. Cities began to sprout up in the middle of barren areas in California, Colorado, Nevada, and other surrounding areas. As hundreds of thousands of Gold Rushers flooded into California, the Gold resources began to become depleted. In the mid-1850's, prospectors started moving North and East to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. In the 1880's, gold was discovered in the Coeur d'Alene area of Idaho, sparking the usual spike in population from prospectors in search of gold.

Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882

The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress in 1882 as a means of restricting Chinese immigration. Chinese immigrants were banned from entering the United States under penalty of deportation or imprisonment. It was the culmination of more than 30 years of growing anti-Chinese sentiment which began during the California Gold Rush when many Chinese left their homeland to seek their fortune. Unfortunately, their labor was exploited and they were treated unjustly.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was not repealed until the middle of the twentieth century. It is a significant document because it marked the first restriction on immigration in U.S. history.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Pony Express

"Talk about the need for a railroad to the Pacific soon surfaced in Washington...Meanwhile, the Indian country was crisscrossed by overland freight lines, and Pony Express riders delivered mail between Missouri and California" (America, P.479).

The Pony Express was a fast-paced, but short-lived mail delivery system founded in 1860 by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell and Alexander Majors. Aside from the westward expansion that had been ongoing for the past two decades, the need for swift lines of communication arose at the time amid concerns of an impending Civil War. The courier service used a relay of men and horses, riding a very dangerous 2,000 mile long trail between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. Riders would carry mail bags, and change horses at Pony Express stations along the route. While the Pony Express was effective, delivering mail in less than 10 days with only one delivery ever lost, its expenses far outweighed its revenues. Making matters worse, the Pacific Telegraph was introduced on October 24th, 1861, rendering the Pony Express obsolete--the service lasted only 19 months.

The Pony Express National Museum