Push/Pull factors and Early Explorers of Great Plains

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  • American West: Early Explorers and Push/Pull factors
    • Push and Pull Factors
      • Poverty/ Unemployment: 1837 depression (Banks failed and many savers lost money)
      • Religious and social persecution - Mormons; Europeans emigrated West
      • 'Tall Tales'
        • 'Word of mouth' and newspaper reports said West had fertile lands, good hunting grounds, and gold/silver
        • Publicity campaigns exaggerated 'Grow pumpkins as big as barns and maize as tall as telegraph poles
        • Railroad company's 'booster campaigns' also exaggerated
        • Artists depicted West as a 'Paradise' with abundant fertile land
      • Eastern overpopulation and land prices; Land becoming expensive due to growing population = high demand
        • Cheap Land in West - Government set land prices low to encourage migration
        • Homestead Act 1862 - registered claim 160 acres, After 5 years $30 ownership certificate
        • Timber Culture Act 1873 - not always enough land, claim to further 160 acres if half planted with trees
      • 'Manifest Destiny'- 'God-given Duty' to occupy and govern all of America
      • Chance to start a new life
    • Earliest White Explorers = Mountain Men, fur trappers (beavers for the European clothing industry) and Government explorers surveying land
      • Pioneered routes such as the Oregon and California Trails = would become crucial to settlement of West
      • Trappers sometimes worked with Native Indians and some adopted their way of life. Traded guns and alcohol, but brought diseases (e.g. smallpox) and STD's which they passed on.
    • The Donner Party (1846)
      • 60 wagons and 300 migrants led by brothers George and Jacob Donner left Independence (Missouri) on way to California
      • At Fort Bridger, brothers led similar group of about 80 migrants, intended to take short-cut
      • Lost 4 wagons and 300 cattle in Desert. Got to Sierra Nevada Mountains in Winter, trapped in snow and blizzards. Food ran out = starvation.
      • Some went to get help, but their food ran out as well. Both parties resorted to cannibalism to survive
      • When Donner Party rescued, almost half had died


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