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The Impact of Transcontinental Railroad on California's Development

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California’s history goes back many years and has evolved in so many ways. California is a well-populated state that, by being multicultural but also rich in various resources, appeals to the masses. There was plenty of space for capital, job opportunities, and expansion of land and Californians made sure they took full advantage of it. The unlimited freedom California gave off allowed for many opportunities that either flourished or flopped but tons of people continued to pour into the state regardless of the outcome even to this day. I will be discussing in-depth the five most important events that took place in California’s history: The Bear Flag Revolt, The Gold Rush, Railroads, Agriculture, and Transportation.

The Bear Flag Revolt (June 1846), which led to California’s independence from Mexico, resulted from a number of factors. These include Texas breaking away from Mexico in 1836 amid the arrival of American immigrants. In 1845, when it was annexed by the United States, Texas became part of the United States after nearly nine years of being an independent nation. Mexican officials in California, including General Vallejo, governor of Northern California, predicted the same thing to happen to California when Americans started coming west.Congress failed to establish clear policies for the administration or financial support of the territories, leaving them in a state of confusion and destitution. ‘As a result, one of these territories, California, during the quarter century following Mexican independence in 1821, would experience many changes as different peoples struggled to gain control of the region, politically and economically. Different groups of Californians at the time Spanish speaking Catholics, immigrants, the Mexican government in California, and finally Americans, would result in conflicts. By the mid-1830s, Mexicans were outnumbered in Americans in Texas by about ten to one. Mexico sent reinforcements in 1835 to take control of Texas, leading to several conflicts including the Alamo. American forces which refers to Americans who had gone to Texas to settle in April 1836, which was not the U.S. Army, nor were they approved by the U.S. government defeated Mexican General Santa Ana and compelled him to sign over to Texas. This created an independent nation, the Lone Star Republic, until it became a state in 1845. Then there was a border dispute over Texas ‘ southern border between the US and Mexico. It was always the Nueces River, but the United States insisted it was the Rio Grande River. This would be one of the sparks that led to the war between Mexico and the United States. Polk and the expansionists also desired California (this is pre-gold) for its ports. In addition to California and New Mexico Territory, the US offered $32 million to settle the Texas border dispute. Although Mexico declined, in the Mexican-American War, the two countries went to war in 1846 (Rice, pg.).

The discovery of gold in California on Jan. 24, 1848, led the next year to the famous gold rush of the Forty-niners, and in 1850 California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state. So many important events took place throughout history in California, I will be discussing some of them. The extraordinary luck and adventure drama that fixed the reputation of the state as a land of dreams for ever. California, however, softens and pluralizes the symbolism, moving away from images of hard men in a rough land, presenting itself as gentle and therapeutic. A gold rush has accelerated the development of California and has compressed its history. Hundreds of thousands of Argonauts flooded the region, providing an instant, predominantly American population imbued with both a desire for wealth and a sense of entitlement known as ‘Manifest Destiny.’ Injust over a year, the newcomers leapfrogged over the traditional territorial period of the nation to make California the 31st state. Mining has transformed the economy thoroughly: manufacturing to provide tools and other essential elements; financial institutions to manage expected wealth; commercial and transportation facilities to distribute money and goods; and agriculture to feed a hungry population. The mines ‘ appeal created a unique and diverse population that made the earlier settlers-Indians and Californians minorities quickly. In the meantime, the Gold Rush revealed one of America’s uglier aspects can psyche, a sense of racial and cultural dominance that often converted into racist words and acts of violence just as often. The speed of events placed a heavy burden on the traditions of immigrants, including their law and justice institutions. Energetic gold seekers exploited ruthlessly. The secret to all of this was the immediate growth of the region, the real prosperity California received in the years of gold fever. Around 1848-1853, a quarter of a million immigrants flooded into California, eliminating all but the existing residents. In 1848, on the hide and tallow trade, California had been a sleepy port of call. Two years later, with a hundred thousand new residents and one of the world’s busiest ports, California became the newest state in the U.S.— the only west of Missouri. That was just the start. This instant state also asserted a sophisticated economy based not only on mining but on a dynamic urban sector that eventually provided financial and commercial services to begin the growth of the rest of the West. And it also started with political muscle: Congress would discuss building a transcontinental railroad within ten years (Gregory).

Railroads have become America’s largest industry. Railroads was ‘the first big business of the nation (Rice). The new forms of banking, management, labor relations, trade, and government regulation’. Railroads could be constructed almost anywhere, used throughout the year (as opposed to canals that would freeze in winter), and transported more goods than any form of transport. They were crucial to industrial America’s growth, having an impact on many other industries. A more efficient way to transport people and goods to California and gold to the east was needed with the finding of gold in California. This gave rise to the concept of creating a transcontinental railroad resulting in an amazing engineering marvel. The U.S. Congress was divided between a southern or northern route to construct the railway to California. The North would control the Congress with the start of the Civil War in 1861 and the session of the southern states and the departure of most of their Congressional representatives. The Congress passed in 1862 and President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act revised under the Pacific Railroad Act of 1864 authorizing a northern transcontinental railway. Two railroads constructed the railroad; California’s Central Pacific Railroad using Chinese laborers moving east and the Union Pacific Railroad using Irish laborers heading west from Nebraska. In 1869, they’d meet in Utah. The two railroads had to finish the railroad in a race. They would be compensated on the basis of every mile of track they laid so it was one less mile that the other railroad would be day for every track they laid. The visionary was the young engineer Theodore Judah. As expected, raising money was his most difficult problem. He tried different ways and failed to succeed. He’d eventually gain interest in what’s going to be the Big Four. Stanford, a businessman who had railway training, Hopkins / real estate, Crocker / banker, and Huntington. Stanford had much (and would become a U.S. Senator) influence over California politics. In passing laws that would benefit the Central Pacific, this was important. Part of the railway payout would be on land; for the benefit of the railroad, Hopkins was a real estate agent so he could take advantage of his expertise and contacts to take advantage of the property. Crocker was able to handle the money by a businessman and Huntington had experience with the railway. Before the railway was completed, Judah would die. The Big Four, all coming from wealthy families and making money on their own, borrowed all to build the railway. Using cut throat tactics, they became fabulously rich and took advantage of their subsequent influence of western railroads. Unlike their predecessors, Carnegie and Rockefeller, their enormous wealth and business practices will make them very notorious. The Central Pacific Railroad would have to blow through the Sierra Mountain range, largely using Chinese labor. Winter snows were an annual obstacle. In May 1869, in Promontory, Utah, the Central and Union Pacific Railroads met, connecting the country by rail. With the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Big Four would consolidate their control over rail traffic in California. Towns would compete for lines that would connect to markets that would lead to the development of many of the state’s current cities. The rivalry between San Diego and Los Angeles was of particular importance. Los Angeles won the start of the city’s explosive growth but also slowed down San Diego’s growth for decades. While shipping would continue to be a major source of goods transport, the state’s growth would be dominated by gold and railroads.

California became the nation’s leading example of industrialized farming, the new business structure of the 1920s was particularly evident. By 1930, the traditional family farm had been replaced by ‘field factories.’ The farming of the state was dominated by large and corporate farmers, manufacturers, shippers, and bankers. Closely linked to the scientific community through the University of California College of Agriculture, through the powerful California Farm Bureau Federation, formed in 1919, they exercised their political strength (Rice,2017). Land ownership became increasingly concentrated; in the 1930s, only 4% of the state farms controlled 62% of all farmland. Farming had become agribusiness in California. The incorporation of the Kern County Land Company in 1903, which took over 350,000 acres of Kern County land from James Ben Ali Haggin and his associates, the agricultural giant grew. Built into one of the world’s largest and most successful corporate farms. In the 1920s, Miller and Lux, the Newhall Land and Farming Company, the Irvine Company, and the California Standard Oil Company also ran corporate farms, among many others. (Rice, 2017). California agriculture was dominated by the citrus industry for decades, but an expanding fruit and vegetable market after World War I made agriculture in California more diverse. The state was producing such a variety of crops by the end of the 1920s that it was producing itself in a class.

The spectacular growth of specialty crops tended to overshadow other important changes in the state’s agriculture, including the rapid development of two major staple crops, rice and cotton.

In our present day society we have too many cars on the streets of California and it’s causing problems. Economic problems in California have leached into all facets of public life. Lack of funds has slowed investment in infrastructure as strain has grown exponentially on the transportation systems of the government. As Governor Jerry Brown took office in 1975, 14 million cars, trucks, and motorcycles are home in California. The vehicle population was over 28 million by the inaugural Schwarzenegger in 2003 (Rice). In 2000, the legislature voted to restrict the use of revenue from petrol sales tax to the maintenance of roads and public transit systems. But improvements to roads were postponed, as in 2001, 2002, and 2004 millions of dollars for transportation projects went to cure budget deficits. A congressional report in 2003 rated California roads among the nation’s 10 worst, with Los Angeles placed first (worst). Five years later, state transport authorities discovered more than a third of the 49,477-mile highway in California was in irreparable damage (Rice). Californians have meanwhile taken matters into their own hands. Nearly three-quarters of voters approved Proposition LA in November 2006, which prohibited the use of gasoline sales tax for any purpose other than improvements in transportation. Another strong majority voted in favor of Proposition 1B, which ear-marked nearly $20 billion in bonds to boost transportation. Angelenos approved its own transport bond, setting aside an estimated $3 billion for local roads. “That is the job of the federal government and transportation industry” (Rice). These challenges are still happening today and hopefully there will be a resolution in the future.

California, in its history and current state, is shaped by its multicultural population and abundant in a plethora of resources. In addition to California and New Mexico Territory, the US offered a settlement. After, this led to the next year to the famous gold rush of the Forty-niners, and in 1850 California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state. So many important events took place throughout history in California. The gold rush gave rise to the concept of creating a transcontinental railroads resulting in an amazing engineering genius that changed the world. California became the nation’s leading example of industrialized farming, the new business structure of the 1920s was particularly evident. Land ownership became increasingly concentrated. The spectacular growth of specialty crops tended to overshadow other important changes in the state’s agriculture, including the rapid development of two major staple crops, rice and cotton. In our present day society we have too many cars on the streets of California and it’s causing difficulties. In addition, California is a rich state with so much history and culture and I don’t think it will ever stop evolving.

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