American West The Cattle Industry. Beginnings
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American WestThe Cattle Industry Beginnings The Europeans who first settled in America at the end of the 15th century had brought longhorn cattle with them. By the early 19th century cattle ranches were common in Mexico. At that time Mexico included what was to become Texas. The longhorn cattle were kept on an open range, looked after by cowboys called vaqueros. http://www.historyonthenet.com/American_West/cattle_industry.htm In 1836, Texas became independent. Texan farmers claimed the cattle and set up their own ranches. Beef was not popular so the animals were used for their skins and tallow. In the 1850s, beef began to be more popular and its price rose making some ranchers quite wealthy
Timeline • In 1861, Civil War broke out between the Northern and Southern states. Texan ranchers left their farms to fight for the Confederate army. The Confederates lost the war. The defeat destroyed the economy in the South. However, the cattle, left to their own devices, had multiplied. There were approximately 5 million longhorn cattle in Texas in 1865 but there was no market for them in the South. There was, however, a market in the north. If the ranchers could get their cattle to the North they would fetch ten times what they were worth in the South
Why was Joseph McCoy important? • He was a livestock trader in Chicago. • Responsible for starting the longhorn cattle drives thus making a lot of money for himself. • Homesteaders objected to the cattle crossing their land because they carried a tick that killed other animals. Cattlemen driving cattle through Kansas met fierce opposition and were reluctant to make the journey.
Texas to Abilene and East by train • McCoy knew that the railroad companies were keen to carry more freight. The Kansas/Pacific railway ran past a frontier village. • McCoy built a hotel, stockyard, office and bank in the village which became known as Abilene - one of the first cow towns. • Cattle were to be driven from Texas to Abilene and were then taken East by train.
Beef Bonanza ‘The Real McCoy’ • 1867, McCoy spent $5,000 on advertising and riders. • He promised a good price for cattle sold in Abilene and was a man of his word. • One cattleman bought 600 cows for $5,400 and sold them in Abilene for $16,800. • It was the beginning of the 'beef bonanza'. • Between 1867 and 1881 McCoy sent more than 2 million cattle from Abilene to Chicago. • His reputation for reliability gave rise to the expression 'the real McCoy'
Rise and Fall The cattle trade was at its peak from 1867 until the early 1880s. The following factors contributed to this: Increased number of railway lines - able to transport cattle to new markets Development of refrigerated rail carriages - cattle could be slaughtered before transportation Removal of Indians from the Plains to reservations - more land available for ranching
In the last twenty years of the nineteenth century the beef trade virtually collapsed. The following factors contributed to this: Farmers began to experiment with different breeds of cattle that could not live on the open range. There was less grass available for grazing due to the number of people settling on the Plains. In 1883 there was a drought that ruined what grass there was? The demand for beef fell which meant that ranching was less profitable The winter of 1886/7 was very severe - cattle and cowboys died in the freezing temperatures
A New Approach The days of the open range were over. From the late nineteenth century cattle were kept on enclosed ranches and farmed in much smaller quantities. Two inventions were particularly important in making this an option: Barbed Wire Barbed wire was invented by J F Glidden in 1874. Large areas could be fenced cheaply Cattle were now enclosed on ranches and no longer roamed the Plains. As a result fewer cowboys were needed and the long drive was a thing of the past.
Wind Pump The strong winds that blew across the Plains were an ideal source of energy. Windmills were used to drive pumps that could pump water from underground. This meant that cattle ranches did not need to be sited near a river or stream Age of the wild and free cowboy was gone. much of their time mending fences and tending the cattle. However, the image of the wild and free cowboy was dramatized in Wild West shows performed for eastern audiences This is the image that became, and has remained, a feature of the legend of the wild, wild west
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