The rush for land after the opening of the Oklahoma Territory

Sitting Bull

The End of the Frontier:

After the Oklahoma Territory was opened to white settlement in 1889, there was a rush westward, and by 1980, the frontier was declared closed. The historian Jackson Turner wrote that the closing of the frontier was detrimental to the country because life on it had previously helped to bring about political and social democracy. He claimed that life on the frontier did this through the need for independence and individualism that was found on the frontier, as well as for the need for open-mindedness and inventiveness. While white settlers moved west, the Indians were forced onto smaller and smaller plots of land. In 1887, the Dawes Severalty Act was passed in the hopes of breaking up the Native American tribes and making the people "civilized" citizens. western_lands.jpgThe Act divided the tribal lands into plots of 160 acres or less and US citizenship was granted to people who stayed on the land for 25 yrs while also adopting a more "civilized lifestyle". By breaking up tribal lands, the Act opened up 90 million acres of land for the settlement of whites, but was very unsuccessful at aiding the Native Americans in any way as many had already died off. The last effort of the remaining Natives to resist US domination and drives whites off of their land was the Ghost Dance Movement during which Sitting Bull was killed. This movement also ended unsuccessfully after the massacre at Wounded Knee, when over 200 Native American men, women, and children were shot down in December of 1890.
the massacre at Wounded Knee

The New South:

Slowly, as the South began to industrialize with steel, textile, and lumber factories, and a large source of cheap labor, the southern cities became more prosperous. However, despite more prosperity, the South remained the most poverty stricken part of the country partially because it remained mostly agricultural. Railroads were converted to the northern standard size, aiding in the transport of agricultural goods, but crops like cotton were accumulated in such high amounts that they were no longer as valuable, and the profits of farmers fell. (Sharecropping also was extremely prevalent in the South thus increasing the poverty rate.) Despite changes in its economy, the "new" South was reverting back to its old racist ways with the Reconstruction movement abandoned. Segregation was found on a large scale in all areas of the South and it was much harder for blacks to find work.
Booker T. Washington
Activists like Booker T. Washington began to attempt to get a better life for blacks without involving violence. Washington attempted to reach this goal through founding the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama which became the most well known industrial school in the country. He wanted to teach blacks skilled trades, the virtues of hard work, moderation, and economic self help, rather than teaching them to rely on whites to get them ahead in life. Washington also founded the National Negro Business League to support businesses owned and operated by blacks around the country.
blacks getting a higher education

Problems on the Farm:

Poverty was becoming increasingly common on farms throughout the country as falling prices just kept falling with increasing global competition. Large, commercialized farms became the only farms left as the smaller farms that could not afford to lower their prices as they did not mass produce went out of business. As they lost their own farms, more farmers became sharecroppers and tenants, and had were thrown into a cycle of debt from which it was hard to escape. The struggling farmers were also faced with rising costs as industries like railroads monopolized trusts and managed to keep their prices high. In order to combat their problems, farmers around the country formed the National Farmers Alliance that met in Ocala, Florida in 1890. At this meeting, the representatives came up with a platform that they believed demonstrated equality to farmers. This platform included the direct election of senators, lower tariff rates, a graduated income tax, a new banking system regulated by the federal government, and a shift to the silver standard. Although they had definite potential to put a candidate up to run for office, the Alliance decided not to enter the presidential race.

National Politics

After the era of Civil War and Reconstruction, the election of Rutherford B. Hayes and the compromise of 1877 the national government began an era of stalemate and inactivity. Instead, Americans focused more on economic change, the development of the West, urban growth, industrialization and the labor movement. The two more popular ideas of the time, laissez-faire economics and social Darwinism were what dominated the times of the "do-little" government. This is also the time of favorment for big business under the federal courts with congress limiting regulatory laws. One of the most debated issues of this era was regarding money, and the growing gap between the rich and poor that was created in this age of industry. There was the group of poor farmers, factory workers, and small business owners who wished to see more money in circulation in order to borrow money at low interest rates and pay off their loans. Many of these people-were the same ones who blamed the gold standard restricting the amount of money being held by the limited few and and causing the depression.
Then there was the small but powerful group of rich bankers, creditors, investors, and bug business who favored the gold standard. The controversy over the gold standard took the national stage when the political party the Greenback Party came to form.
During the Civil War, paper not backed by specie had been issued by the federal government. Northern farmers who held these greenbacks associated them with wealth, while the rich creditors and investors were against greenbacks because they thought the use of paper money not backed by specie as crazy and out of order. The government also stopped the coining of silver in addition to removing greenbacks, which led to farmers, debtors, and western miners to press for unlimited coinage of silver. There was also discontent among the same lower class group due to the growing problem of government corruption, tariffs, railroads, and trusts.

Election of 1888

Flag of the United States
Flag of the United States
United States presidential election, 1888

November 6, 1888

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Benjamin Harrison
Grover Cleveland
Home state
New York
Running mate
Levi P. Morton
Allen G. Thurman
Electoral vote
States carried
Popular vote

United States presidential election, 1888
United States presidential election, 1888

The tariff issue was a significant factor in the election, the Democrats campaigned for Grover Cleveland and a lower Tariff. While the republicans campaigned for Benjamin Harrison and a high protective tariff. The Republicans controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress for the next two years. The new Congress was the most active in years and even passed the first billion-dollar budget in U.S. history. It was responsible for: The Mckinley Tariff of 1890, which raised the tariff by 48%, Increases in the monthly pensions to Civil War veterans, widows, and children; The Sherman Antitrust Act, outlawing "combination in restraint of trade"; The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which increased the coinage of silver, but not nought to satisfy poor farmers and miners; and a bill to protect the voting rights of African Americans, which was passed by the house, but defeated in the Senate.

Rise of the Populists
The members of the Farmers' Alliance and their movement provided the foundation of the new political part- the People's, or Populist, party. Economically, the Populist party were focused on changing the concentration of economic power in the hands of trusts and bankers. The party wanted unlimited coinage of silver to increase the money supply, establish a graduated income tax, public ownership of railroads by the U.S. government, telephone and telegraph systems owned and operated by the government, loans and federal warehouses for farmers to help them stabilize the prices of their crops, and an eight-hour day for industrial workers. Politically, the party demanded the restoration of government to the people by having direct popular elections of Senators, and direct vote of state laws through initiatives and referendums placed on the ballot.
Election of 1896
The Democrats were divide between "gold" Democrats loyal to Cleveland and pro-silver Democrats looking for a leader. At their national convention in Chicago a 36 William Jennings Bryan captured the support of the delegates in his "Cross of Gold" speech. With Bryan becoming the Democratic nominee for president literally overnight the party adopted the Populist party platform of unlimited coinage of silver at the 16 t: 1 ration of silver to gold. The conservative fraction who were opposed to free silver and unhappy with Bryan either formed the separate National Democratic Party or voted Republican.

The Growth of Cities and American Culture (1887-1892)

Previously, we have seen the impact of industrialization in this era. Now, we are introduced to a whole new population. For example, in 1893 Chicago’s population consisted of 3/4ths foreign born or the children of the foreign-born. At this time, the American population increased x3.

A Nation of Immigrants:

Poor conditions such as overcrowding, joblessness, and religious persecution pushed foreigners to come to America. They were attracted to the reputation of political and religious freedom as well as the opportunities they had in the industrial field.

“Old Immigrants”

-Northern and Western Europe
-Most were Protestants, sizable minority were Irish and German Catholics
-Easily blended into American rural society because they were English-speaking and literate

“New Immigrants”

- Southern and Eastern Europe (Italians, Greeks, Croats, Slovaks, Poles, and Russians)
- Unaccustomed to democratic traditions.
- Largely Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Jewish.
- On arrival most crowded into poor ethnic neighborhoods in New York, Chicago, and other major cities.
- 25% were “birds of passage”
o young men contracted for unskilled factory, mining, and construction jobs who planned to return to their native countries once they made a fair sum of money.

Restricting Immigration


-Laws passed by Congress:

Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

Restrictions on immigration of “undesirable” persons (those convicted of criminal acts or diagnosed as mentally incompetent)

1885 Prohibited contract labor in order to protect American workers

Supported by:

1. Labor unions
2. A Nativist society called the American Protective Association
3. Social Darwinists


Quota Acts 1920s
-Aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans who were immigrating in large numbers starting in the 1890s, as well as prohibiting the immigration of East Asians and Asian Indians .


-Cities provided both a central supply of labor for factories and also a principal market for factorymade goods.
-Rural to urban shift
-Black people in the south à Northern and Western cities

Changes in the Nature of Cities
-Streetcar cities

Ethnic neighborhoods
-small, windowless rooms
-overcrowding à spread of disease

Residential suburbs
-abundant land at low cost
-inexpensive transportation by rail
-low-cost construction
-ethnic and racial prejudice
-American fondness for grass, privacy, and detached individual houses

Private vs. Public City
-American cities could not deal with the build-up of waste, pollution, disease, crime, and other hazards.
-slowly, advocates for healthier and more beautiful cities convince citizens and city governments of the need for water purification, sewerage systems, waste disposal, street lighting, police departments, and zoning laws to regulated urban development.

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Urban problems, such as the working class poverty that Big Business had created, sparked an awareness and yearning for reform in the middle class.
In the 1880's, authors began writing books of social criticism. In 1887, Edward Bellamy authored Looking Backward, 2000-1887 which told of a futuristic utopia that had eliminated poverty, greed, crime and other issues that were plaguing their society. This book and others like it induced such a response that many people joined reform movements to try and get their America to reflect the author's depiction. These books tried to sway Americans away from laissez-faire economics and toward government regulation.
Awareness and concern over the living conditions of the poor caused the emergence of settlement houses in the late 1880's. These were houses in immigrant neighborhoods where young middle class men and women settled to witness the problems troubling the poor first hand. They were created in hopes that they could provide social services such as teaching english to immigrants, educating the children, teaching industrial arts, or establishing theaters and music schools in the neighborhoods, to relive some of the effects of the massive poverty. The most famous of these houses was the Hull House, founded by Jane Addams and a college classmate in 1889. The workers of settlement houses were also political activists for housing reform, women's rights and child labor.
The 1880's and 90's saw the emergence of the Social Gospel. Many Protestant preachers called for the application of Christian Principles to social problems. They urged that Christians look into social justice for the poor. One of the most prominent supporters of the Social Gospel was Walter Rauschenbusch, who spread the gospel through the late 19th century. He preached that there was a connection between Christianity and Progressive reform and encouraged Protestants to join progressive causes.
The challenges proposed by modern urban living invoked a need for change in religion. Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal James Gibbons won the support of new and old immigrants by supporting the Knights of Labor and unions. The Salvation Army preached the word of the Gospel while providing common goods for the homeless and poor. There was a woman named Mary Baker Eddy who preached that good health could be achieved by thinking about "Father Mother God". She founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, which had 1000s of members by the time that she died in 1910.
The strain that urban life put on families took a toll in the late 19th century. Divorce rates increased drastically (1 in 12 by 1900). Also, families began having less children because, unlike on the farm, they were an economic burden in the city. The birth rate and average family size in America dropped during this time period. In 1890, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started the National Women's Suffrage Association to fight for the vote for women. By the 1890's, some states allowed women to vote in local elections and control and own property after marriage.
The emergence of Darwin's Theory of Evolution as well as the complexity of urban life raised questions as to what should be taught in schools. Elementary schools did not change their core curriculums, however, there was compulsory legislation put in place which dramatically increases enrollment in public schools. This increased literacy rates by 90 percent. During the late 19th century, sending you child to kindergarten became popularized. There was also significant growth in the number of tax supported public high schools. These schools emphasized vocational and citizenship education to cater to the changing urban society. There was also growth in the number of colleges as a result of land grants and robber barrons founding universities, along with the emergence of new colleges for women such as Smith, Byrn Mawr and Mount Holyoke. There were some important changes in the curriculum. Universities began teaching modern languages and sciences, even biology.
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