Westward Expansion, Industry, and Immigration (Unit 5)

Growth and Transformation

The United States changed after the Civil War. The frontier became less wild. Cities grew in size and number. More factories, steel mills, and railroads were built. Immigrants arrived in the United States with dreams of better lives.

This was the age of inventions. Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. George Eastman made the moving picture, later called a movie. Before 1860, the government issued 36,000 patents. From 1860 to 1890, the government issued 440,000.

Separate companies merged to become larger companies, sometimes called trusts. This happened especially in the steel, rail, oil, and communications industries. With fewer companies, buyers had fewer choices and businesses had more power. An antitrust law was passed in 1890 to stop monopolies, but it was not very effective.

Farming was still America’s main occupation. Scientists improved seeds. New machines did some of the work that men had done. American farmers produced enough grain, meat, cotton, and wool to ship the surplus overseas.

The Western regions still had room for explora- tion and for new settlements. Miners found ore and gold in mountains. Sheep farmers settled in river valleys. Food farmers settled on the Great Plains. Ranchers let their cattle graze on the vast grasslands. Cowboys drove great herds of cattle to the railroad to ship to the East. The “Wild West” pictured in many cowboy books and movies lasted only about 30 years.

When Europeans first arrived on the East Coast, they pushed the native people west. Each time, the government promised new land for the native people so they would have a home. Each time, the promises were broken while white settlers took the land. In the late 1800s, Sioux tribes in the Northern plains and Apaches in the Southwest fought back. Although they were strong, the U.S. government forces defeated them. Many tribes would live on reservations, which are federal lands administered by Indian tribes. Today there are more than 300 reservations.

Toward the end of the 1800s, European powers colonized Africa and fought for rights to trade in Asia. Many Americans believed that the United States should do the same. Many other Americans did not like any action that seemed imperialistic.

After a brief war with Spain in 1898, the U.S. con- trolled several Spanish colonies—Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Officially, the United States encouraged them to become self- governing. In reality, the United States kept control.

Idealism in foreign policy co-existed with the desire to prevent European powers from acquiring territories that might enable them to project military power toward the United States. Americans also sought new markets in which they could sell their goods. By the end of the 19th century, the U.S. was beginning to emerge as a growing world power.


1. Who invented the telephone?

A. George Eastman
B. Alexander Graham Bell
C. Thomas Edison

2. What Native American tribes fought to save their way of life?

A. Leni Lenape and the Sioux
B. Apache and the Cherokee
C. The Sioux and Apache

3. The true Wild West era lasted how many years?

A. 40 years
B. It’s still going on today
C. 30 years

U.S.A. History in Brief, U.S. Department of State, 2010