Ap Us History Research Paper Essay
Q: Analyze the ways in which technology, government policy, and economic conditions changed American agriculture in the period 1865-1900. In your answer be sure to evaluate the farmers’ responses to these changes.
The latter half of the nineteenth century was a dramatic time of change for the United States. Coming out of the Civil War, the country needed to learn to move forward and develop a new identity. With this new identity came a new agricultural system. The United States spent a significant part of the nineteenth century in economic turbulence. The panics of 1857, 1873, and 1893 were indicative of the instability of the American economy. The United States was also in the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution.
The latter half of the nineteenth century was a time of technological growth as railroads and mechanization sweeped the country. Using technology to increase farm production was a strategic move that helped the American agricultural system. Unfortunately, an unstable economy and battles over governmental policy threatened this traditional American way of life. Discontented farmers formed groups such as the Populist Party to try and combat unfavorable government policies. The growth of technology, government policy, and an inconsistent economy drastically changed American agriculture in the period between 1865-1900.
Between the years of 1865 and 1900, the economy of the United States constantly ebbed and flowed. The United States went through panics (1873, 1893) as well as periods of prosperity. This instability greatly affected the agricultural life. As seen in Document A, the prices of crops such as wheat, cotton, and corn varied greatly over the time period. At times, American agriculture suffered from overproduction and falling prices that put many farmers in a lot of trouble.
On the other hand, many farmers became quite successful during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Document G also supports the theory of inconsistency. Politicians state that farmers suffer from overproduction, farm prices are falling, and thousands of children were starving in the United States each year. As seen in Document H, a family known as the Orcutts were suffering from economic times as well. Hail had ruined their crops and jobs were hard to come by (likely due to the panic of 1893.) The instability in the American economy led to hardship and poverty for many farmers.
Perhaps the most significant technological innovation in the United States during this time period was the one of railroads. Transcontinental railroads spanned the nation and brought the nation together as one. Railroads stimulated agriculture in the West by bringing people as well as supplies. For example, Document B demonstrates how railroads impacted agriculture. Due to the railroad expansions made from 1870-1890, westward settlement was encouraged and distributing agricultural products throughout the nation became much easier.
As seen in Document F, items such as beef could be shipped around the country with relative ease. With a national means of transportation, farmers became less isolated and more successful. Techniques such as grain farming and increasing technology including steel plows and grain elevators made farming more efficient than in the past. The use of technology increased production as seen in Document D. We see people using a combine to harvest crops. Technology played a large role in the development of agriculture during this time period.
Unfortunately, despite the growth of technology, agricultural America still faced a lot of problems. As seen in Document C, farmers became dissatisfied with the way railroads were run. Illinois legislature passed laws which limited freight rates which are the price that cargo is delivered at. The Supreme Court upheld this decision which angered many farmers. Not only that, but politicians continued to lie to farmers. Political parties encouraged farmers to grow big crops but farmers suffered from overproduction. On the other hand, thousands of children were starving in the United States. This indicates that not only were farmers suffering from tough economic times but there was also a serious problem with government policy.
The years following the Civil War were a tumultuous few decades for the American population. Despite the near-secession of the South, the United States managed to move on from the Civil War and begin building their country again. Despite economic uncertainty and at times questionable leadership, the United States managed to regain their footing including in agriculture. The agrarian culture of America was heavily influenced by technological advancements which allowed it to flourish or at least stay afloat. The number of Americans who lived on farms drastically increased during this period as farm values soared. The post Civil War era of the United States was an important one for agriculture and it allowed the system to keep developing until it’s golden age in the early twentieth century.
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