Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hark! Industry Giants Pt. 1: John D. Rockefeller

Between 1870 and 1900, the United States transformed itself from an agricultural nation to an industrial one.

At this point, I would like to introduce you to some of the movers and shakers from this time period.....

First, meet John D. Rockefeller...

The Rockefeller name these day sis a household one. Its the headquarters of NBC News, if you want to go and wave in the background of an episode of the Today Show, you have to head on over to Rockefeller Plaza. The TV show 30 Rock is set in this very building. Jay Z also says the name a lot in his songs, but...who is this guy? Rockefeller, not Jay Z....

Well, he was America's first billionaire. He could most defiantly make it rain.

Well, how did this Rockefeller character become so rich?

Young Rockefeller started from meager beginnings, he was a low level worker at a shipping firm in Cleveland. He worked and saved and worked as saved, then he opened his own business.

His business was in produce sales.

Schlepping vegetable might not sound like glamorous stuff, but his business really boomed when the Civil War started.

People needed their produce and Rockefeller was there to sell it so he was getting the dolla' bills, ya'll (I'm so sorry...).

In the 1850s, Rockefeller traded his onions in for oil.

Oil was found in Pennsylvania and Rockefeller figured there would be a future in it, gee, was that the understatement for the ages...?

At the time, Kerosene was all the rage. It was like the Beatles....in fossil fuel form...

The way to make Kerosene was to refine crude oil. This took oil that old really dirty jokes and belched a lot and made it into a gentleman.

The thing about converting crude oil to kerosene was the fact there was a lot of waste involved. Rockefeller figured, hey...why not use this for something.

He was like your Mom when she wouldn't let you throw out that bottle of ketchup because if you left it turned upside down for a few months, you could get a few more squirts out of the bottle...

Well, he took all the waste and made it into different things, and he did it well. He was like Scrooge McDuck diving into the vault of money on the beginning of Duck Tales because of all the money he was making...

His oil company came known as Standard Oil, one of the largest industries in the land.

Because of his wealth and connections, others couldn't compete, he was the King of Oil.

Rockefeller also gave loads of money to philanthropy, he wanted to give back to the people...

BUT WAIT, what lies behind the story of a meager beginning to millions? There are some criticisms....for being so rich, why didn't he pay his employees better?

Was he really giving as much money as he could have and still live comfortably?

Was he only doing these good deeds to thinly mask his greed?

People have argued this and will argue this for a long time..but the only thing that I do know is this; Rockefeller was a baller.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Transcontinental Rail Road!!!

If you wanted to travel from east to west, you had to use covered wagons, stage coaches, or go by horse. It was expensive, it took around 6 months to reach your destination, and you could get stranded & have to eat unsavory things, just ask the Donner Party.

So to make travel easier as we have already alluded to in previous posts, it was decided that the future in cross country travel was in the railroad! A Transcontinental Railroad!!!!

The first spikes of the Transcontinental Railroad were driven in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War.

There were two main companies that built the Railroad. This was the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific. Central Pacific built from east to west and the Union built from west to east.

They would often sing Meet in the Middle by Diamond Rio...remember those guys? Anyway....

We mentioned earlier that the Chinese built the railroad. This was very hard/unsafe work. The Sierra Nevada Mountains was one place where it was especially hard.

The Chinese worked around the clock. They drilled holes (by hand) and put in black powder to blast through the rock.

This was a very slow process, they would only get about a foot a day.

It took six years for the railroad to be completed. Spikes were driven, rock was blasted away, people died, and a lot of very very hard work took place.

May 10, 1869, the last spike was driven at Promontory Point Utah. This is the spot where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific finally came together.

The spike was gold and was engraved with one simple word. 'Done'.

Now that the railroad was complete, people were excited and full of glee. A celebration rang out across the land!

Now with the railroad, it took cross country travel from 6 months to one week.

Family Vacations went a lot smoother from this point on....

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Westward Movement

Once most of the land was taken up, the U.S. Government decided to open up Oklahoma...

Yes, Oklahoma, the land where all the Indians were forced to move to.

So, April 22, 1889 would be the day that Oklahoma land could be claimed.

50,000 people showed up, but a few jumped the gun and rushed the land before the proper time.

They took the land too soon, they were called Sooners, yes...like the college mascot.

We know that people were moving West, but who were they?

One group was white Americans, shocker!

A second were African Americans.

After the Civil War, a lot of blacks went west to get land and make a life for themselves. They also left the South because of the Klan.

Eventually, many would settle in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. They were known as Exodusters.

The last were immigrants.

Europeans came and the Chinese. The Chinese were a source of cheap labor.They pretty much built the railroad....and were treated like crap, you know, the usual.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cows and Farms!

Some people didn't want the glamorous life of tunneling into the Earth to possibly be killed by cave ins and what not, so they went with a different business that was moooooo-ving on up!

After the Civil War lots of Eastern cities were asking an age old question...

Well my friends, the beef was out west.

Were they willing to sell?

Oh, yes they were.

A cow that would sell for $4 bucks in Texas would go for $40 in the north. Thats crazy.

Ranchers would hire cowboys to herd their cattle, then they would be sent to meat packing places like Chicago, via railroads and everything was sanitary....I promise.

Some people weren't taken in by the gold rush, others took Willie Nelson's advice and their mothers did not let them grow up to be cowboys. Instead, they went the farming route.

The Homestead Act was passed so people would go and settle the Great Plains.

This Act said that any head of household who was 21 and over claim 160 acres of land.

They also had to...

And also stay there for at least 5 years, maintain the land and then the land was theirs!

Along with the Homestead Act was the Pacific Railway Act, this allowed railroads and telegraph lines to be built.

Also, the Morrill Act set aside land for states to build colleges for agriculture and mechanic arts. These schools include the Big 10 schools, like the University of Illinois. Go Illini!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hurry Everyone! There's Gold!

Well, now that those pesky Indians are learning to love Toby Keith and Wrangler jeans, lets check in on the white folk.

Since the first white man set foot on America, they had been searching for one thing.

No, no no, not religious freedom, not freedom from persecution or anything like that, but, GOLD!

Sparkly, rich gold!

Well, the 1849 California Gold Rush sent people into a tizzy, they headed west to find fortune.

They hit up Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, and even the Black Hills in the Dakotas, where you can still find really awful gold jewelry, and probably women with teased hair.

Most people who set out looking for riches were disappointed, but some got pretty lucky. In Nevada, the Comstock Lode was found, over the next 20 years, $500 million of silver was mined.

The Gold Rush even spread North to our friends in Canada.

Along the Klondike River, named for delicious ice cream bars, in the Yukon Territory, gold was found.

Over 100,000 Americans set out North to get theirs. What most of them got was hypothermia.

Most prospectors were men and would set up camps, you know, safety in numbers...

Well there was no law and since these guys were competing for gold, sometimes things weren't all sunshine and rainbows...

Of course, mining was hard work, so as Americans we decided to try and make it easier.

One method was Hydraulic Mining.

This sent high pressured water to blast away dirt and would expose the minerals.

The problem with this is it caused floods.

Then there was Hard-rock mining. This cut deep shafts in solid rock to extract the things inside. You could also buy a $10 burger at their cafe.

As you might imagine, mining was pretty dangerous, especially if you were a canary.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Indian Wars

More and more fights were breaking out between the Indian tribes and US soldiers....

There was one Lieutenant Colonel named George Armstrong Custer, he was a stupidly cocky guy. He led his troops to attack, head on, a group of some 2,000 Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho.

This ended in a lot of death, even Custer died, this was the Battle of Little Bighorn. It was a huge victory for the Indians, but now , the government was even more dead set on stomping the Indians.

(Little Big Horn is in picturesque Montana, you should visit, its really nice, and educational!)

Next up is Wounded Knee in South Dakota.

U.S. Calvary told the Sioux to give up their guns, one guy wasn't down with this...

After playing tug of war with the gun, it of course went off and then everyone and their dog started shooting.

Half of the Sioux men were killed, and the women and children fled. The soldiers followed and shot them while they ran.

Some bodies of women and children were found up to 3 miles away, this was really really terrible.

Some Americans were horrified by what had happened.

Others were ok with it..

Wounded Knee was the last conflict with the Plains Indians, but there was still some resistance in the Northwest and Southwest.

Here we are in the Northwest, lets say hello to the Nez Perce Tribe.

They lived in Idaho and Oregon and raised cattle, but, of course, settlers started moving onto their land. The very SAME land the government had allotted to them.

Eventually, the government wanted all of their land, so the Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph headed off to Canada after a fight broke out between settlers and some Nez Perce.

They were within 40 miles of Canada and they were stopped by the U.S. Army.

They were then placed in Oklahoma, another problem solved for the ol' white people.

In the Southwest we have the Apache, led by Geronimo. They led raids on settlers for years, eventually they were captured and sent to an internment camp. Another "victory" for white settlers.

The Reservations that were set up to be the new home for the tribes served 2 purposes..

1. Give Indians the really crappy land no one really wanted.
2. Teach them the art of being "American".

Instead of participating in the customs that the Indians had for centuries, the government decided that was not a good idea and to embrace white culture.

Well, now that those pesky Indians are learning to love Toby Keith and Levis, lets check in on the white folk...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lets Check in out West...

Now where are we?

We had a Civil War, a president assassinated, and 3 Amendments added to the Constitution.

Now I suggest we head out West.

Remember all those Native Americans we moved off their land? Yah, well we decided that the land we put them on had some sort of use to us.

Out on the Plains we had Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche Indian Tribes.

They spent their lives peacefully following the buffalo (Actually...it was the American Bison, there really are no Buffalo in the United States...but that's ok, we can call them Buffalo.)

In 1800 there were around 60 million buffalo on the plains, by 1894 only 25 remained.

This was basically because white people sort of suck. We figured if we destroy the buffalo, the Plains Indians would have no food, no food = no Indians, no Indians = more land.

Railroads even offered special buffalo hunts. This is when a passenger could shoot buffalo from a moving train. No, seriously.

So, we had people shooting buffalo from trains. So did someone go out and pick up the dead buffalo? No...they just stayed there..rotting in the sun. This was pretty gross.

This was a big slap in the face to the Indians, because when they shot a buffalo, they used every single part of it, while the white people just let it fester and rot. Sad face.

Tensions between settlers and the Plains Indians sometimes grew violent, like the case of the Sand Creek Massacre.

Some Cheyenne's had raided some ranches in Colorado.

The U.S. Army said if the Cheyenne returned to their Reservation at Sand Creek, all would be forgiving. This however, would not be true.

When the Cheyenne returned, their Chief, Black Kettle, raised an American flag and a white flag as a sign of peace.

This is how the Army decided to react...

And so, 700 troops opened fire and killed 150 people, mostly women, children, and the elderly.

After they burnt down the Reservation, it was time to pack up and go home.

Of course there would be more things to come...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

End of Reconstruction

These laws that were made to keep African Americans in a form of slavery were called Black Codes.

Some of these included signing a work contract for one year. If they quit during this year they would receive no money.

They were no allowed to rent property, in some states they were not allowed to own guns, in the states that did allow guns they were often taxed.

They could aslo be arrested for joblessness, basically, things still really sucked.

The time of Reconstruction also launched the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. This was a "social" organization

They wore white sheets and harassed African Americans.

They terrorized them by burning their homes and even murdering them.

They are and are still idiots.

People in the North were not happy about what was going on in the "dirty south", as Ludacris would later call it.

In come the Radical Republicans, they went with 'radical' because the word gnarly didn't flow as well, anyway, what they wanted was equality.

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, it said if white people can do it, so can black people.

President Johnson vetoed this Bill.

Johnson was a vetoing machine, Congress did not like this, so they took it upon themselves to pass the 14th Amendment. This gave citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the United States.

Johnson and Congress continued to butt heads.

Because of all the vetoes and the firing of some people, President Johnson was impeached for abuse of power.

He was tried, but conviction never came, only 1 vote separated his fate.

Also during this time, the 15th Amendment was also passed. This gave black men the right to vote. Women? No, are you serious? Women voting? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...

Speaking of funny things, how about the words carpetbaggers and scalawags, those words came center stage during this time period, and trust me, you did not want to be called one.

Scalawags were usually Southernets who were not farmers nor slave owners. However, the war did leave them in financial ruin.

They became Republicans in hopes laws would be passed to forgive debts.

Carpetbaggers were Northerners who moved South for political gain. These people weren't seen favorably because they were looked at as selfish and just wanted to get ahead for themselves.

Later on Hillary Clinton was referred to as a carpetbagger after moving from Arkansas to New York to run for Senator.

But perhaps the most famous carpetbagger of all was Mary Poppins. She wasn't a Carpetbagger in a political sense, but in the sense that she carried a carpet bag...and inside that carpetbag she carried the world, and she did it in the most delightful way!

Reconstruction eventually came to an end, the South still held a lot of anger towards the African Americans, things improved a bit...like Hiram Rhodes Revels becoming the first African American to serve in the Senate AND he was from Mississippi, thats impressive.

While there were some improvements, conditions for African Americans remained pretty hard.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Andrew Johnson....

Andrew Johnson became the 17th president of the United States.

Johnson launched his plan for Reconstruction which would restore the rights to white southerners, but first, they had to take an oath of loyalty.

Johnson also required Southerners who had over $20,000 to apply for a pardon. Johnson himself decided on punishments for these guys. The problem was, Johnson sort of hated the rich.

Congress was uneasy about this, and they sent him a letter. They asked him to suspend his plan and work with Congress to come to a more reasonable solution.

As Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin would end up doing many years later, President Johnson filed this in his "important papers" file.

The Republicans were concerned because Johnson didn't seem too interested in African Americans taking part in government.

Well, the truth was, he wasn't. He felt that only white men should manage the South.

Because of this, many pre war politicians were back in power in the South. They wanted their lives to go back to as normal as possible.

Because of that pesky 13th Amendment, they couldn't keep slaves, so they had to come up with some other ways to keep things unequal.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peace At Last...Now What?

The South was in ruins, many farms were suffering from neglect. Railroads were useless and about 1/5th of the South's white males were dead.

Then there were 4 million newly freed slaves who had no money or education.

This is what I would refer to as bad news bears.

We are now entering the time in our history called Reconstruction.

Congress went to work trying to figure out how to make things better in the south. One idea was the Freedmen's Bureau. This was created to help blacks and whites who were uprooted by the war.

Reconstruction was argued about a lot. Everyone had different opinions on how it should be done. It was very frustrating.

General Sherman even had a part in Reconstruction. He split up a lot of land in the south into 40 acres. He offered this land to any formerly enslaved family for them to live on and farm.

So, for an apology of years of abuse and torture, they got some land and a mule.

As it would turn out, things were going to get worse.

Lincoln and his wife went to a play at Ford's Theater. They saw "My American Cousin". During the play, a very famous actor named John Wilkes Booth decided it would be a good idea to shoot Lincoln.

Lincoln was dead only 2 weeks after Lees Surrender. His body was taken back to Illinois where he was laid to rest (you can visit Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, while you are there, check out the super awesome Lincoln Library, seriously, its good stuff).

The country was in a state of sadness and uncertainty.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Civil War Comes to a Close

Grant's troops were able to break through Confederate lines and they were headed directly for Richmond, the Confederate capital. With Union forces approaching, the Confederates were getting out of Dodge.

Lee hoped to get away, but the Union caught up with them at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Lee decided to surrender.

Lee and Grant met and chatted it up a bit and then Grant told him the terms of surrender. The Confederates were to hand over their weapons and leave.

The Civil War was over. The North was pumped, they were doing cartwheels.

People gathered outside the White House, Lincoln decided that a speech would not be needed, but went outside and simply said,

And the band played...