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A Biography of America

The West

Professor Scharff continues the story of Jefferson's Empire of Liberty. Railroads and ranchers, rabble-rousers and racists populate America's distant frontiers, and Native Americans are displaced from their homelands. Feminists gain a foothold in their fight for the right to vote, while farmers organize and the Populist Party appears on the American political landscape.

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Program 16: The West

Donald L. Miller with Virginia Scharff and Louis P. Masur


Miller: The American frontier in the late 19th century. Was it part of Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty, or something else?

Scharff: In the period that you’re talking about, what counts as the United States has to be domesticated, okay? So there’s this big old hunk of the country that still is not yet a part of this industrial democracy that you’re talking about. The whole process of claiming and bounding and peopling and incorporating this large terrain, that’s already obviously inhabited, is something that creates modern America. What happens out there on the ground shapes the American character in some fundamental ways. It reflects larger American processes.

Miller: More than cowboys and cattle, more than homesteading, the Gold Rush, and the tragedy of Native Americans. Today on A Biography of America, “The West”.

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An Expanding Empire

Scharff: The United States Constitution tells us that our government is supposed to establish justice and to promote the general welfare. But how? At the end of the Civil War, as industrialism reshaped the American landscape, and as the gap between rich and poor grew wider and wider, there wasn’t any such thing as a “welfare state,” spending money to establish justice. What we had in those days instead was a “frontier state.”

To foster social justice, and prosperity, and democracy, the United States government didn’t spend money. Instead, it handed out what it had the most of; it spent land. Land had been the cornerstone of power in what Thomas Jefferson called “the Empire for Liberty.”

And all across the expanding American empire, land made and broke people’s fortunes, and had haunted their dreams. Between 1860 and 1900, the combination of money and machines and government power transformed more land more quickly than ever before. Somehow, much of the land the government sold and gave away ended up in the hands of a wealthy few.

In 1845, as he sat on the shores of Walden Pond, contemplating his country’s future and his own labors and desires, Henry David Thoreau had written that eastward, he went only by force. But westward, he went free. Thousands of Americans and immigrants shared Thoreau’s dream of finding freedom someplace west of where they were. But others had more grandiose plans.

Joining the East and West

A young politician named William Gilpin told a mass meeting in Independence, Missouri, in 1849 that the East should no longer hold the West in bondage. “Give us cheap land from the public domain,” he shouted. “And build us a railroad to unite the two coasts, like ears on a human head.”

It wasn’t a very poetic image, especially coming from a man who had been educated in England. Gilpin knew that his audience loved bluster, and they didn’t expect poetry. And he certainly didn’t have to spout poetry to stir up excitement about the transcontinental railroad.

The federal government even bankrolled a huge survey that identified seven potential routes. The North and the South of course squabbled about where to put the railroad, until the South seceded. And at that point, Congress, which was composed entirely of Northerners, not surprisingly chose a route that linked the West to the East from San Francisco to Omaha, and onward to Chicago and to the East.

The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 was the biggest federal subsidy to industry in the country’s history. Congress chartered two corporations, the Central Pacific, which was to build eastward from California, and the Union Pacific, starting out in Omaha, Nebraska and heading west. Each corporation got a 400-foot right-of-way along the route (Congress said it would try to get rid of any Indian land titles that might get inconveniently in the way). The government also set up long-term, low-interest loans to the companies for construction costs; $16,000 for every mile of track laid on level ground, all the way up to $48,000 for every mile in the mountains.

But most importantly, the United States offered the railroads free land. The Central Pacific and Union Pacific ultimately got twenty square miles of alternating sections of land for every mile of track they laid. And in time, country that had once rolled and risen according to natural processes and boundaries began to take on the look of a checkerboard. And that’s a view familiar to anybody today who’s ever flown in an airplane.

The profit potential was huge, but then again, so were the risks. These were the biggest engineering projects the country had ever undertaken. Big bucks meant big chances for corruption, and the corruption extended pretty far up. Businessmen like the Central Pacific’s Collis Huntington said he wasn’t necessarily happy having to bribe politicians; but then Huntington said, “If you have to pay money to have the right thing done, it is only just and fair to do it.”

Cronies of President Grant (including the Vice President), along with railroad insiders, held stock in a company called the Credit Mobilier. It was a privately held construction company with a fancy name and a sneaky agenda. By charging enormous rates for the work it did for the Union Pacific railroad, the Credit Mobilier bled the capital out of the publicly traded Union Pacific, and it made a fortune for its own investors. But with all this wheeling and dealing, still somebody had to grade the road beds, and lay the tracks.

And this was horribly hard work, especially in the Sierra Nevada, where chipping through granite meant that a bad day’s work might yield no more than three inches of progress. And it was dangerous, too. Across the Great Plains and on up onto the Continental Divide, Indians sometimes attacked construction parties. They tore up the rails and burned the telegraph poles that went alongside the tracks that they called “the iron snake.”

Well, who better for such back-breaking, terrifying railroad work than African Americans and immigrants? The Union Pacific hired mostly Irish and black workers, who were eager for the jobs, despite the horribly low wages. Labor was scarce in California, and the men who ran the Central Pacific didn’t really know what they’d do, until somebody remembered that Chinese laborers had built the Great Wall.

[picture of Chinese railroad laborers]

Test projects using crews of 50 Chinese workers were such dazzling successes that the Central Pacific recruited some 10,000 Chinese men. They came to the United States hoping to work and save enough to return to China with a pile of money. But all too often, poverty or death got in the way of going home.

The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad

The railroads brought Reconstruction America, with all of its race and class and gender tensions, to new places, in new ways. “Hell on wheels” railroad towns like Ogallala, Nebraska and Laramie, Wyoming were notorious for vice and violence. They use to say that whiskey ran in the streets and crimes like “garroting” were punished by lynch mobs that didn’t wait for the accused to be brought to trial.

And yet, even though the boomtowns bubbled and burst and often crumbled into dust, the railroad did bring about permanent white settlement. A wagon trip over the Oregon Trail had once taken six weeks at best. That same trip could now be made in a matter of days.

More transcontinental routes and trunk lines connected places that had once seemed, in the words of New Mexico territorial governor Lew Wallace, “remote beyond compare.” Sleepy provincial towns like Los Angeles, California became railroad boomtowns. The conquest of the continent, which had been such a laborious enterprise from the time of Columbus on, sped up to a degree that no one could have imagined.

The raw riches of the West, thousands of tons of ore from the mines, and cattle by the millions, could now flow east to be processed and consumed. And at the same time, the railroad brought all kinds of people and ideas into the West, people who had often violently disagreed with each other in other places. Laborers, soldiers, and wildcat miners came and went.

But the West was also to attract people with middle-class aspirations, people who hoped to settle the country, and to make it grow. And it was these hopes that reflected the plans of the nation. How could Western boosters bring in more solid, stable American families to farm and to ranch and to do business? The first task was to unsettle the people who continued, stubbornly, to insist that this land was their land.

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The Indian Problem

[picture of Indian dwellings]

Newly arrived Americans on the frontier clamored for a solution, any solution, to what they liked to call “the Indian problem.” Sometimes the federal government led the way, making treaties or sending troops. But Westerners also took matters into their own hands, and the results could be horrifying.

In 1864, two ambitious Colorado politicians, territorial governor John Evans and Colonel John Chivington, a former Methodist minister who commanded the Colorado militia, decided they could make political hay out of an Indian war. One of Chivington’s officers ordered his men to “burn villages and kill Cheyenne wherever and whenever found.” When militiamen killed a Cheyenne chief who was riding in to talk peace, the Indians finally began to organize for war.

But one Cheyenne chief, Black Kettle, still hoped for peace. He agreed to take his band, escorted by federal troops, to camp at a place called Sand Creek. Now there, on the morning of November 29, 1864, Chivington and 700 men, many of them drunk, rode into the Indians’ camp and began killing.

Most of the Cheyenne men were off hunting, so Chivington’s men slaughtered mainly women and children, mutilating and looting the corpses. The Rocky Mountain News declared that the campaign was “one of the most brilliant feats of arms in Indian warfare.” But one federal officer was less enthusiastic. He said, Chivington had “whipped the only peaceable Indians in the country.”

As the years passed, Native Americans fought to keep a shred of what they’d had, against increasingly heavy odds. The West rang with the names of bloody places: Washita Creek and The Little Bighorn. The surrender of Geronimo in 1886 marked the last organized Indian resistance. The arrest and murder of Sitting Bull, followed by the Seventh Cavalry’s massacre of Lakota Ghost Dancers at Wounded Knee in 1890, added a final heartbreaking epilogue to the Indian wars.

By the time of the Wounded Knee tragedy, the government had turned to another approach to the so-called “Indian Problem.” And this was an approach based on the project of settling the West. Reformers like the writer Helen Hunt Jackson, self-styled “Friends of the Indian,” insisted that the best course of action was to ‘civilize’ and ‘Christianize’ the Indians, to get them to give up their communal property arrangements and their tribal ways, and get them speaking English and farming and living in nuclear families.

And so in 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Act. Each Indian reservation was to be broken up into private parcels, and each tribe member would receive a personal allotment of land, the maximum allotment of 160 acres going to male heads-of-households. The government was supposed to hold the land in trust for twenty-five years, but through fraud and federal neglect, a lot of the allotted land ended up in white hands.

Reformers loved the Dawes Act, and so did speculators. As each reservation was broken up, whites moved in to snap up cheap so-called “surplus” land. 160 acres, a quarter of a square mile, was not enough to feed a family in the best circumstances most places in the West.

And there was no guarantee that the land would have water or good soil. So even Indians who wanted to become yeoman farmers were pretty much doomed to failure. By 1934, Indians had lost about two-thirds of the land that they’d held in 1887.

But the most effective means of displacing Indians was white settlement. And it was not always easy to attract the right kind of settlers, the kind of people who would farm and ranch, and go to church and build schools. Instead, the West seemed to overflow with rootless, lawless American men, in the line camps and the mine camps and the cowtowns, and out in the canyons, and up in the mountains. They were shooting at the Indians, shooting at each other, jumping each other’s claims, robbing stagecoaches and banks and trains, and they were creating as many problems as they’d solved.

Wyoming Territory and Women Suffrage

In 1869, Wyoming Territory was in the middle of the railroad boom, and gold had been discovered on the continental divide. The territory was full of homesick soldiers and hard-living laborers and footloose fortune-seekers. Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Shoshone Indians were constantly skirmishing with transient bands of immigrant men.

As if these local tensions weren’t enough, this was also, of course, the middle of Reconstruction. Democrats at the national level were battling Republicans’ attempts to assure that black citizens could exercise their rights, including the right to vote. In South Pass City, a mining camp high up on the Continental Divide, William Bright, a Democrat, was elected to this territorial legislature. And Bright had an idea he hoped would bring in more orderly, respectable white settlers like himself and his young wife, Julia.

Bright decided he’d introduce a bill to give women the vote! He argued that giving white women like Julia the right to vote would not only promote settlement, it would also bring an “uplifting” element to Wyoming politics. And coincidentally, it might also offset black men’s votes. Evidently he convinced his colleagues, because they passed Bright’s woman suffrage bill.

And it was the first to pass anywhere in the United States and its territories. Unfortunately for the Democrats, however, white women voters proved unreliable allies. They tended to vote to close saloons on Sundays. They liked to vote Republican, and some were even seen driving black voters to the polls!

But there were other ironies as well. By 1871, William and Julia Bright had left Wyoming, along with nearly all the other families who had seen the gold boom bust at South Pass. Evidently, the very people who supposedly embodied settlement had a tendency to be rootless and restless. And after only two years’ experiment, the Democratic-controlled legislature voted to repeal woman suffrage.

Fortunately for the women of Wyoming, and perhaps the women of America, the Republican governor vetoed the bill. But the irony remained. When Wyoming came into the Union in 1890 as the first state to enfranchise women, as “the Equality State,” it did so not because the frontier promoted liberty, but because of the complicated politics of the American empire.

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Prosperity in Peril

But still, that dream of freedom persisted. And it depended on getting land. In 1862, Congress had passed the law that embodied, more than any other piece of legislation in American history, the Jeffersonian vision of America: the Homestead Act. For a small registration fee, any head-of-household could get 160 acres of the public domain.

[picture of a midwestern family with a wagon]

If he (or for that matter, she) managed to live on that land for five years and make basic improvements, the land would be free. Like the Indian families who tried farming under the Dawes Act, many homesteaders failed, and there were good reasons for the failure. Most of the West was too dry for small farms to make it. And just buying a plow, and digging a well, and putting up a fence, and purchasing seed, that could cost just as much as $1000.

Moreover, machines like the McCormick reaper were revolutionizing farming, making it not only possible, but virtually mandatory for farmers to plow and plant and harvest more acres. In the 1870s, hope, and debt, expanded. The farmers planted more; ranchers brought in more stock. But the farming and ranching bonanzas couldn’t last.

Drought years became more and more common. Grasshopper plagues and blizzards raged. Crops withered in the fields. Cattle died of thirst.

The furious winters of 1886 and 1887 produced stories of disasters across cow country, of ranchers going out to check their herds and finding their cattle by the hundreds, piled up against barbed wire fences, their ribs standing out, frozen to death. The western writer, J. Frank Dobie, put it this way. He said, “a whole generation of cow men were dead broke.”

The farmers had it just as bad. The summers after those winters, drought and locusts took what the ice storms had left behind. Foreign competition drove wheat prices down and down.

Bankrupt farmers loaded up their household goods and they gave up. “In God We Trusted,” read the sign on a wagon headed east, but “In Kansas We Busted.”

As the century neared an end, the Empire for Liberty was in trouble.

The world was headed for a system of independent, specialized producers. And just as meat-packing had become the domain of large corporations, so would the growing and processing of those amber waves of grain. And what about those farm families chasing Jefferson’s dream? Well they found themselves dependent not only on whether they could turn their hopes to dust in a matter of weeks, but also on the banks that extended loans for the machines and the seeds.

And they were dependent on the railroads that shipped the goods. Thoreau had not been happy as he stood watching the construction of a rail line that would, he was afraid, destroy the refuge he sought at Walden. “We do not ride on the railroad,” Thoreau wrote. “It rides upon us.”

Farmers were squeezed by the government’s tight money policies, which kept farmers cash-poor. They grew more, and watched the prices for their produce fall as they tried to pay their debts with dollars that were worth more than the ones they’d borrowed only months before. And the railroads, with the complicity of state legislators who were very easily bought, charged high rates to carry their crops to the market, as high as the traffic would bear.

Farmers Fight Back

These problems finally pushed farmers to organize. As early as 1867, the Patrons of Husbandry, or Grange, had protested against the banks and the railroads, and had urged farmers to cooperate to “buy less and produce more.” By the late 1880s, Farmers Alliances, first organized in the southern cotton belt, but soon appearing across the prairies and plains, began to attract thousands of members.

They demanded state ownership of the railroads. They wanted a graduated income tax, and more money in circulation in the form of “the free and unlimited coinage of silver,” or “free silver.” Alliance men also ran for political office, and surprisingly often, they won.

Alliance women like Kansas’ Mary Lease, a tall woman with a deep, almost hypnotic voice, knew firsthand the dreariness and insecurity of farm life. Lease became famous for urging farmers to “raise less corn, and more hell.” By 1892, the Alliances were ready to take their message nationwide. They met in St. Louis with representatives of the Knights of Labor and others to found the People’s Party, soon to be known as the Populist Party.

Their platform called for public ownership of railroads, banks, and telegraph lines, for a prohibition on large landholding companies, an eight-hour workday, a graduated income tax, and that supposed financial panacea, free silver. Like other Americans, the Populists looked for scapegoats. Their speeches frothed with tirades against rich Jews (of whom there were precious few, in that day, in America or anywhere else). And the party platform also called for immigration restriction.

A Battle Between City and Country

The Populist presidential ticket received over a million votes in 1892. Populist candidates won, throughout the West and South, in 1894, and the party looked forward to the elections of 1896. That year, the Democratic party candidate, William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, electrified the Democratic party convention with his fiery oratory, and he won the endorsement and the hearts of the People’s Party. “Burn down your cities and leave our farms,” he declared, “and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

What Bryan and the Populists would not admit was that the countryside was in trouble. As early as 1880, the West, which had so long embodied the American idea that open land guaranteed liberty, was already the most urbanized part of the country. By 1896, for every town-dweller who moved to the countryside, twenty farm people migrated to cities. The future lay not with the homestead, but with landscapes taking shape in Denver and New York, in Seattle and Chicago, in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.

The Grangers, and the Alliances, and the People’s Party had, in some senses, outlined an innovative program, a program that set the agenda for 20th century political reform. But in 1896, with Bryan as the Democratic candidate, the contest between the Republicans and the Democrats was to be a battle between city and country. The Populists knew which side they were on. It was the losing side.

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An Historical Painting

Masur: The West existed as much in people’s imaginations as in their experiences. And depictions of the frontier served a critical role in helping to shape a vision of American national destiny. One of the most important images was “Westward the course of empire takes its way,” by Emmanuel Leutze.

Leutze in this scene depicts a train of immigrants who have finally reached the promised land, that point of the Sierra Nevada where they are looking across, and they can see the Pacific slope ahead of them. In the image, an eagle unfurls the title banner. At the bottom, he included medallion portraits of William Clark and Daniel Boone, two heroic figures in the early discovery and settlement of the West.

There’s almost no allusion to the Indians here. But it was the Indians and “Indian Troubles,” so to speak, that this train of immigrants had survived in coming across. Indeed, the only Indians anywhere in this picture are buried here at the very top, along the sides of the banner that is being unfurled, as if it is knocking them out of the picture itself.

This was an oil study that Leutze did before executing the mural for the United States Capitol. And in executing the mural, he made a significant compositional change. Here, in the train of immigrants, he included the figure of a black man, a black man leading an Irish immigrant woman and child. The three-some appears almost as a holy family, and revisits the theme of Madonna and child.

For Leutze, the story of the expansion through the West was to be an inclusive story, a story that incorporated all elements of American society, into the possibilities of reaching this promised land on the Western shore.

Mapping Conquest

What can we learn about the processes of conquest from looking at maps?

The United States used a variety of devices to conquer the West. Aside from military might, the nation employed transportation systems and technologies, the power of government to bound territory and bestow land, and the promise of expanded freedom to bring more and more settlers into the land it claimed.

Indian and Soldier Battles, 1864 – 1912

When the United States military moved into the West, Native Americans fought to defend their homelands. Sometimes, as at Sand Creek, they fought settler militias. Other times, as at the Little Bighorn and Canyon de Chelly, they battled the regular forces of the United States Army.




Indian Lands

By the twentieth century, what had once been Indian country was indisputably part of the United States. Indians had been reduced to occupying fragments of their former territory, concentrated on reservations throughout the West. But within those enclaves, Indian nations did have limited political sovereignty, which continues to this day.



Great Trails to the West by 1860

First there were trails. The Santa Fe Trail to the Southwest was opened up in 1821 by Missourian and Mexican traders, looking for new markets. The Oregon and California Trails saw hundreds of thousands of settlers migrate west between 1836 and the Civil War.





Railroads Built by 1900

Then came the transcontinental railroads. In 1869, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines met in Promontory Point, Utah, connecting the first transcontinental railroad. Within thirty years, the Northern Pacific; the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe; the Southern Pacific; the Great Northern, and the Denver and Rio Grande lines had followed suit. Where the rails reached, settlement could follow.



Statehood by 1912

The United States government extended its rule over the West by establishing territories and creating states. Territorial governments were outposts of the nation, rather than undisputed political authorities. But by the time the settler population reached 60,000, and the territories petitioned for statehood, those governments had achieved a measure of control over their domains. In some cases, however, the transition from territory to state took decades.



Railway Grants by 1890

Even as the United States was establishing territories and states, the federal government was using its own power over land to foster national expansion. Between 1850 and 1890, the government surveyed the West and gave much of it away, for example, to the corporations that built the transcontinental railroads.




Population in 1890

The West remained sparsely settled, even as late as 1890. But by this time, the presence of as few as six inhabitants per square mile was enough to reinforce the connection of far-flung Western places to a nation that had spread itself from the faraway East.





Women’s Suffrage in 1919

Remarkably, the least populous part of the country proved most “civilized” in the matter of extending political rights to women. Before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, only two states east of the Mississippi River offered women full suffrage. By contrast, thirteen western states fully enfranchised women, beginning with Wyoming, which had led the way as a territory, giving women the vote in 1869.

Suffrage in the West

Historians have long puzzled over the fact that women won the vote first in the West. Why? Some said plainly that the West was simply more democratic than the East. Others have said that Western men valued women’s hard work in settling the territories, and gave them the vote as a reward. Still others have argued that small populations and informal political structures gave women and their allies more access to political power. And some have said that the whole question is simply too complex to answer until more research is done.

Questions to Ponder

The United States used a variety of devices to conquer the West. Aside from military might, the nation employed transportation systems and technologies, the power of government to bound territory and bestow land, and the promise of expanded freedom to bring more and more settlers into the land it claimed.

1. What technologies are the most useful to conquest?

2. How did the technologies of empire affect conquered people? How did they affect new settlers?

3. Was the American West really an “empire for liberty?”


Beck, Warren A., and Ynez D. Haase. Historical Atlas of the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.

Hine, Robert V., and John Mack Faragher. The American West: A New Interpretive History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Ridge, Martin. Atlas of American Frontiers. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1993.

Wexler, Alan. Atlas of Westward Expansion. New York: Facts on File, 1995.


Thoreau on East vs. West

“Walking” by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau’s essay “Walking,” with a brief introduction. Includes his quote, “Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free.”

The Transcendental Philosophy of Nature
Provides links to primary texts of Emerson and Thoreau, including “Walking,” and a web study text of “Walking.”



William Gilpin

People in the West – William Gilpin
A biography of Gilpin.

The Untransacted Destiny: William Gilpin
A history of Gilpin and his achievements.

Denver History
The history of Denver with respect to the introduction of the railroad. Includes references to Gilpin.



William Gilpin on what the West needs

The West – Episode Five – A Grand Anvil Chorus
A history of the Great Pacific Railroad with related links and the Gilpin quote “…like ears to the human head”.



Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant – Chronology
Offers a Grant chronology with links and images.

Credit Mobilier – testimony of C. P. Huntington, 1873
An introduction to the Credit Mobilier scandal, the text of the ensuing inquiry by the House of Representatives and the testimony of C. P. Huntington.

Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877: In Over His Head
A history of problems during Grant’s presidency. Provides a link to photos and a glossary of key events including the Credit Mobilier scandal.

Presidents and States of the United States of America
Outlines of the presidencies, including Grant’s with a reference to the Credit Mobilier scandal.



Collis Huntington

Collis Huntington, Southern Pacific Railroad
A brief profile of Huntington with related links.

History of the Western Pacific Railroad
A history of the Western Pacific railroad with references to Huntington.

Credit Mobilier – Testimony of C. P. Huntington, 1873
An introduction to the Credit Mobilier scandal, the text of the ensuing inquiry by the House of Representatives and the testimony of C. P. Huntington.



Lew Wallace on Railroads

Lewis Wallace Biography
A brief biography of Lewis Wallace.

The General Lew Wallace Study – The Ben-Hur Museum 


Provides links to information on Lewis Wallace including to his life as an author, soldier, statesman, artist, violinist and inventor.

Lew Wallace Collection, 1799-1972
An historical sketch of Wallace’s life and a background on his writings.



Col. John Chivington

People in the West – John Chivington
A photo of Chivington and a biography with related links.



Rocky Mountain News on Sand Creek

Eyewitness Account of the Sand Creek Massacre
Two Rocky Mountain Creek editorials on the Sand Creek Massacre, with congressional testimony by an eyewitness and a deposition by John M. Chivington.

Battle Summary – Sand Creek
A brief summary of the Sand Creek Massacre.

People in the West – Black Kettle
A history of Black Kettle and the Sand Creek Massacre, with links to a map, Chivington information, etc.



Black Kettle

People in the West – Black Kettle
A photo of Black Kettle and a biography with related links.

A history of American Indian tribes, with a paragraph on Black Kettle and Geronimo.




Geronimo – His Own Story
Photos of Geronimo and a link to the text of Geronimo’s story with photos.

A history of American Indian tribes, with a paragraph on Black Kettle and Geronimo.



Sitting Bull

Chief Sitting Bull
An illustrated biography of Sitting Bull with quotes and a few related links.

Today in History – June 25: Custer’s Last Stand
An illustrated history of the Battle of Little Big Horn with related links.

History of Sitting Bull
A biography of Sitting Bull with a photo.

People in the West – Sitting Bull
A biography of Sitting Bull with a photo and links.

Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Yotanka)
A brief biography of Sitting Bull with a photo.



Helen Hunt Jackson

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)
A photo of Helen Hunt Jackson, with links to prose and poetry works.



William Bright

South Pass City State Historic Site
A history of South Pass City, including a paragraph on William Bright and his contributions to women’s suffrage.

Today in History: December 10
A history of Wyoming Day with a paragraph on Bright and his suffrage bill. Includes links to related sites.

Excerpts from: A History of the American Suffragist Movement
An excerpt from The Battle Cry Of Freedom — Getting the Vote in Wyoming, which gives a history of the American suffragist movement. Includes a portrait of Bright.



J. Frank Dobie

Handbook of Texas Online: Dobie, James Frank
A biography of Dobie.

A Literary History of the American West
A paper on the writings of J. Frank Dobie.

Project Gutenberg Official Site – Dobie, J. Frank
The text of A Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest, by J. Frank Dobie, with a few observations.



Mary Lease

1896: Mary Lease
A photo of Mary Lease and a biography with related links.

WIC – Women’s History in America
An account of women’s history in America, with references to Mary Lease and her quote, “What the farmers need to do is raise less corn and more hell.”



William Jennings Bryan

1896: William Jennings Bryan
An illustrated biography of William Jennings Bryan with related links.

The Cross of Gold
The text of Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech, with the quote “Burn down your cities…”

The American Experience | America 1900 | The Film & More
The text of Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech, with the quote “Burn down your cities…”

The American Experience | America 1900 | People & Events
A biography and a photo of Bryan


Series Directory

A Biography of America


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