The Transcontinental Railroad: the Burgeoning Industrial Strength and How It Affected the United States

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Although many changes occurred in the mid 1800’s in America, such as the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War, the Transcontinental Railroad profoundly changed the United States (Henretta and Brody, pg. 471). This tremendous project, partly funded by Congress, was one of the key factors that encouraged foreign immigration to America. The Transcontinental Railroad certainly instilled a sense of overwhelming pride in this nation, and it paved the way for the development of the West; however, the construction of the railroad relied upon slave-like labor and the usurpation of Native American lands. Indeed, the Transcontinental Railroad was a monumental accomplishment for the United States, but it came at the expense of many people. The burgeoning industrial strength of America in the 1800’s cannot be fully appreciated without first understanding the history behind the building of the first Transcontinental Railroad. Long distances and slow transportation hampered contact between eastern and western commercial centers, before the Transcontinental Railroad was built. The Oregon Trail initiated the westward expansion movement beginning in 1841, demonstrating the need for faster, safer transportation methods (Henretta and Brody, pg. 471). Both the United States government and entrepreneurs sought faster transportation to link the two sections due to the overwhelming demand for transportation. After the steam engine was introduced in Britain the steam engine began to change not only the face of industry, but humanity's relationship to work and society. The first steam locomotive that was manufactured in the United States was the Tom Thumb (Phillips n.d.). The Tom Thumb locomotive was designed and built by Peter Cooper in 1830. After the Tom Thumb locomotive was built and the demonstration of the potential of steam traction was witnessed America’s ingenuity materialized.
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