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Industrial Development and Western Expansion’s Effect on US Farmers sample essay

True, the United States of America’s surge in industrial development and western expansion were indeed crucial factors that led to protests by farmers. This is evidenced by many different events that occurred during the time when industrialization was most in focus in the United States. This onset of industrial boom occurred some time between the 18th century and the 20th century. The fist thing that should be tackled here in order for one to understand the truth behind the initial statement of this essay is the Western United States.

This refers to the westward expansion of the United States. Because of the demand for more land, the rich prairie lands of the west proved to be a lucrative source for larger areas of development. Many chose to pursue a life in the west and resided there. America’s expansion towards its west allowed more than 400 million acres of free land to be utilized for whatever purposes could be thought of by its new owners. This had numerous implications for the American citizen, most especially to the American farmer. Land became available in bulk over night.

However, despite this availability, farmers and farm labor decreased by at least 30% during this stage. This decrease in production may have been due to the increase in individuals who could provide satisfaction to the market’s demand for agricultural products. Thus greater production also led to lower costs for the said products on the agricultural market. Farmers found themselves unable to compete with this change. The industrial development which had already begun at that time also contributed to this. Farmers found themselves unable to deal with industrialization.

The industrialization of the agricultural industry meant new innovations, new machines. Some of these innovations included railroads which allowed the harvested agricultural products to reach the market more quickly. Other innovations such as the refrigerator allowed for preservation of the produce. Farm yields now reached more distant places but could also now be processed in factories to last longer. This meant that the farmers were up against a major competitor in the food industry, markets and globalization.

Local family farms found themselves unable to keep up with the tide of new instruments. Although machines were available for them to work more efficiently such as the reaper, the steal plow, and the harvester, these were not enough for the greater capabilities of factories and national manufacturers. The marginalization of the individual farmer in the face of westward expansion and industrial development brought much distress and discontent. Protests were held and many voiced their frustration at the economical change that seemed to have happened over night.

Farmer organizations such as The Grange and Farmers Alliance were established. These worked to demand regulations, protective tariffs, trade policies, conservative monetary policies and the like. It is clear from the evidence given that westward expansion and industrial development truly were factors in the protests of farmers. Whether these two issues proved to have good results in the long run is a different matter. It is sufficient to say that these caused much discontent in farmers at the time enough so that they rose in protest.


Cowan, Ruth Schwartz (1997) A Social History of American Technology, New York: Oxford University Press Hindle, B. & Lubar, S. (1986) Engines of change: the American industrial revolution, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press Meyer, D. (1989). Midwestern industrialization and the american manufacturing belt in the ineteenth century. The Journal of Economic History, 49(4), 921-937 Shannon, F. (1950). The status of the midwestern farmer in 1900. The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 37(3), 491-510

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