History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

RAILWAYS AND INDUSTRY

=The Outward Signs of Enterprise.=—­It is difficult to comprehend all the multitudinous activities of American business energy or to appraise its effects upon the life and destiny of the American people; for beyond the horizon of the twentieth century lie consequences as yet undreamed of in our poor philosophy.  Statisticians attempt to record its achievements in terms of miles of railways built, factories opened, men and women employed, fortunes made, wages paid, cities founded, rivers spanned, boxes, bales, and tons produced.  Historians apply standards of comparison with the past.  Against the slow and leisurely stagecoach, they set the swift express, rushing from New York to San Francisco in less time than Washington consumed in his triumphal tour from Mt.  Vernon to New York for his first inaugural.  Against the lazy sailing vessel drifting before a genial breeze, they place the turbine steamer crossing the Atlantic in five days or the still swifter airplane, in fifteen hours.  For the old workshop where a master and a dozen workmen and apprentices wrought by hand, they offer the giant factory where ten thousand persons attend the whirling wheels driven by steam.  They write of the “romance of invention” and the “captains of industry.”

[Illustration:  Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.

A CORNER IN THE BETHLEHEM STEEL WORKS]

=The Service of the Railway.=—­All this is fitting in its way.  Figures and contrasts cannot, however, tell the whole story.  Take, for example, the extension of railways.  It is easy to relate that there were 30,000 miles in 1860; 166,000 in 1890; and 242,000 in 1910.  It is easy to show upon the map how a few straggling lines became a perfect mesh of closely knitted railways; or how, like the tentacles of a great monster, the few roads ending in the Mississippi Valley in 1860 were extended and multiplied until they tapped every wheat field, mine, and forest beyond the valley.  All this, eloquent of enterprise as it truly is, does not reveal the significance of railways for American life.  It does not indicate how railways made a continental market for American goods; nor how they standardized the whole country, giving to cities on the advancing frontier the leading features of cities in the old East; nor how they carried to the pioneer the comforts of civilization; nor yet how in the West they were the forerunners of civilization, the makers of homesteads, the builders of states.

=Government Aid for Railways.=—­Still the story is not ended.  The significant relation between railways and politics must not be overlooked.  The bounty of a lavish government, for example, made possible the work of railway promoters.  By the year 1872 the Federal government had granted in aid of railways 155,000,000 acres of land—­an area estimated as almost equal to Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine,

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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