The Multicultural Character of the Gold Rush

Most of the development initially associated with gold mining occurred in various towns in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains during the second half of the nineteenth century. Molten gold, formed in the Sierras, Rockies, and Cascades during the ancient uplifting of the mountains, poured into fissures, designated as veins. This organic term, coming from the idea of veins within the ancient earth mother, was rooted in an older concept that both gold and the earth were alive. Veins that were...

Reclamation and Water

Water reclamation and development were likewise of paramount importance in settling the arid American West. In the East, states water historian Marc Reisner, virtually every acre received enough rainfall____ M uch of the West suffers through months of habitual drought. 6 In his 1878 Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) identified the amount of annual average rainfall as constituting a fundamental difference between the lands of the western...

Land Law in the Arid West

A land policy shaped by the agrarian ideal in the well-watered and wooded East often proved disastrous when settlement pushed onto the arid plains beyond the 100th meridian. Traditional farmers lured too far west by wet years in the climatic cycle were devastated when more normal drought years followed. Moreover, the cattle ranching, dry-land wheat production, and mining that could be practiced in the arid West required far more land to support a family than the 160-acre norm of federal land...

Pueblo Indians and the Southwest

In the American Southwest, a long history of environmental adaptation by Amerindians preceded the arrival of the Spaniards in the sixteenth century a.d. Early peoples changed and evolved over time in relationship to changing environmental conditions. Paleo-Indians (meaning ancient or very ancient) lived in the Southwest from about 11,500 to 8,000 b.p. (before present) by hunting mammoth and bison. The Clovis culture derives its name from the long pointed arrowheads, found first in Clovis, New...

Water Pollution

A fourth major problem faced by burgeoning urban areas was access to clean water. Historian Theodore Steinberg notes the strain put on rivers and streams by the polluting effects of industry Industrial transformation created a new ecology of its own with far-reaching effects on the water quality of a region's rivers____Rivers were used to generate energy for production, to carry off human and factory waste, and ultimately to supply cities with water for domestic use.14 Contaminants such as...

Creation of the National Parks

The movement to preserve areas for their aesthetic and recreational benefit led to the establishment of state and national parks. Between the cre ation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the passage of the National Park Service Act in 1916, thirteen National Parks were set aside to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the...

Nature and the Market Economy

By the eighteenth century in America, two types of economies existed in interaction but also independently of each other a coastal exporting economy along the eastern seaboard and an inland subsistence-oriented economy, where access to transportation and export markets was limited and costly. During the nineteenth century, a dynamic market-oriented economy arose throughout the United States westward to the Mississippi River that integrated the two sectors.This chapter explores the transition...

The Idea of Wilderness

The concept of wilderness is one of the most complex ideas in environmental and human history. As environmental historian Roderick Nash pointed out in Wilderness and the American Mind 1967 , the word wilderness comes from old English and Germanic words, wildern and wildeor. Nash notes, The root seems to have been 'will' with a descriptive meaning of self-willed, willful, or uncontrollable. From 'willed' came the adjective 'wild' used to convey the idea of being lost, unruly, disordered, or...

Conservation and Preservation

A core topic for environmental history is the formation of land, water, and conservation policies how land was allocated as the country was being settled how land use policy developed and what laws allowed people to gain title to land as private property. By the late nineteenth century, most of the unsettled land had been allocated and people began to press for the conservation of natural resources for efficient use and to join a growing national movement to set aside wilderness areas for...

The City as Wilderness

In reaction to all these changes, a new perception of the city as wilderness emerged. In 1898, writer Robert Woods described The City Wilderness as a dark, dismal, depressing place filled with squalid alleys and poverty-stricken inhabitants. Novelist Upton Sinclair's The Jungle 1905 , written to expose the unsanitary conditions and working-class misery in Chicago's meatpacking industry, depicted the urban environment as dingy, smoky, and rancid with stockyard odors. Booth Tarkington's The...

The New England Forest and Indian Land

The New England forest provided rich, although different, resources for Native Americans and European colonists. It is made up of three primary ecological regions. The northern forest is composed of conifers, such as balsam, fir, and spruce, and hardwoods, such as aspen and birch food for the beavers prized by Indians and colonists for their furs. In the middle band, where Indians established horticulture and hunted deer, immigrants found white pine for ship masts, red and white oak for barrel...

Garbage

A second problem for urban areas was garbage disposal. On farms the practice was often to throw buckets of gray water or garbage out the door. But when that method of disposal was transferred to cities, garbage and rubbish rapidly piled up in alleys, where it caused odors and created health hazards. In large cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, garbage and refuse accumulated faster than it could be collected. Collection was haphazard and primitive. Street teams collected garbage, and large...

Conclusion

The study of the environmental history of the Tobacco and Cotton South from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries provides a window on the complex relationships among people, crops, labor, and soil. The plantation system depended on marketable crops such as tobacco, cotton, rice, sugar, and indigo a source of cheap labor found in slavery and later in sharecropping soils that were exceptionally fertile and whose fertility could be maintained over time and the control of insect pests...

Marketing the Forest

European colonists came from countries that were undergoing transformations from organically based to inorganically based economies. In the Middle Ages, wind, water, animal muscle, and human labor were integral parts of an organic economy, used to supply human needs. But by the seventeenth century, when New World colonization was taking place, inorganic resources were increasingly beginning to be exploited, such as iron ore for guns, spades, and kettles and silicon for glass-making. Charcoal...

The Era of Environmentalism

During the latter half of the twentieth century, the resource conservation movement based on efficient use of natural resources changed to an environmental movement concerned with quality of life, species preservation, population growth, and the effects of humanity on the natural world. A multitude of government projects, policies, and laws, together with citizens' movements, increasingly regulated economic development and sought to preserve remaining wilderness areas.The rise of...

Industrial Cities and Labor

During the nineteenth century, industrialization transformed the urban landscape. Originally the urban system had been devoted mainly to trade, from the wharves and warehouses of the great Atlantic ports, to the wholesale merchandising houses of interior towns along major transportation routes, to the country stores around which rural villages straggled. Interspersed among these commercial facilities were skilled and independent mechanics or artisans, who owned their small home workshops and...

The Transportation and Market Revolutions

The commercial boom inspired dreams of a comprehensive national transportation system, and in 1808, Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin proposed a federally financed network of roads and canals to shorten the distances into the remote corners of the United States.7 The War of 1812 and fears of a powerful central government stymied this grandiose plan. But when the war ended in 1815, an outburst of entrepreneurial zeal, technological ingenuity, and financing by state and...

The Pueblo Indians and Spanish Settlement of the Southwest

Into the Pueblo culture, which had evolved slowly over time to a very complex level, the Spaniards were suddenly injected. Their presence in the New World began in 1492 with the first of four voyages by Columbus. Earlier voyages by Vikings and Basques to Labrador, Newfoundland, and the Grand Banks along the eastern coast of Canada had taken place, but land-based explorations with lasting consequences stem from the post-1492 period. In the American Southwest, the first exploration was led by...

European Settlement of the Great Plains

The main settlement of the Great Plains occurred after the 1840 migrations to Oregon and the 1849 Gold Rush to California. Environmental historian William Cronon has interpreted the history of the Great Plains in terms of narrative. The grand narrative of America, Cronon argues, is a story of progress. The frontier narrative depicts that formative story and, as such, is the master narrative of American culture. A hostile environment, initially conceptualized as a Great American desert, was...

The Dust Bowl of the s

Donald Worster's Dust Bowl 1979 analyzes the factors that led from the Euro-American settlement of the Plains to the disastrous Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Worster's story, unlike the triumphal stories of Turner and Webb, begins with the ecologically evolved buffalo-grass biome, details capitalist expansion on the Plains, and ends with the defeat of the exodusters refugees from the Plains, many of whom migrated west to California in the 1930s. How did the yeoman farmer become a Dust Bowl refugee...

New Deal Conservation

During the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government promoted conservation in ways that would benefit wage-workers and jobless and homeless people, as well as Native Americans. Such issues dovetailed with the creation of the welfare state. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal helped to repair the effects of the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929. The government provided relief for the unemployed during the Depression and took on the responsibility of promoting the...

The Impact of the Boll Weevil

The boll weevil crossed the border from Mexico into Texas in 1893 ten years later, in 1903, it was poised on the Louisiana border. The boll weevil, a beetle of the order Coleoptera, differed from the cotton bollworm, a moth larva. The weevil went through four stages of development, taking about 25 days to mature. The insects reproduced very rapidly and were extremely resistant to all kinds of weather conditions. If a single pair mated in the spring, it could produce as many as 250,000 offspring...

The Hudson River School of Painters

The dialogue between Thoreau and Emerson became richly visual in the landscape paintings of a group of artists called the Hudson River School. They were so called because many of them lived in New York City and found their favorite locale for painting in the nearby Catskill Mountains region of the Hudson River Valley. Here, and later in New England, the West, Europe, and even South America, they sought out landscapes through which to capture on canvas their preoccupation with nature and its...

The Chesapeake Environment and Indian European Relations

Nature's fecundity greatly impressed the English who first settled on the southeastern coast of North America first on Roanoke Island present-day North Carolina in 1585 and then permanently, in 1607, further north at Jamestown present-day Virginia near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Off the coast of the future state of North Carolina, Arthur Barlowe reported in 1584 that his expedition encountered so sweet and so strong a smel, as if we had bene in the midst of some delicate garden. And on...

Human Ecology

Chemist Ellen Swallow Richards 1842-1911 developed the concept of human ecology and applied it to the human home and its surroundings. In his 1973 book Ellen Swallow The Woman Who Founded Ecology, Robert Clarke attributed the introduction of ecology in the United States to Swallow. As early as the late 1860s, Haeckel is credited with suggesting a science be developed to study organisms in their environment____Then leaving Oekologie for others to develop, he concentrated on other sciences____...

Cotton Production

Southern life was centered on cotton planting and harvesting. Whether by slaves, yeoman farmers, or sharecroppers, cotton was planted in April, with the seed scattered at about 100 pounds per acre. Seedlings came up about 10 days later and, after the third leaf appeared, workers hoed the ridges to remove the weeds and loosen the soil closest to the plant. Short, light bull-tongue plows were used to turn up the earth between the rows. Plowing continued to alternate with hoeing to remove the...

Ernst Haeckel and the Origins of Ecology

Ecology derives from the Greek word oikos, meaning household, and is the study of the relationships among organisms and their surroundings. The science was named by German biologist Ernst Haeckel 1834-1919 , who introduced the term in several works in the 1860s and 1870s, first in German and then in English, inspiring others to develop the science. In his Generelle Morphologie General Morphology, 1866 , Haeckel included a section entitled Oecologie und Chorologie, in which he defined ecology as...

Slavery and Southern Agriculture

The change in the labor system from indentured servants to slaves had been foreshadowed in 1619, when twenty black Africans were sold as indentured servants from a Dutch ship anchoring at Jamestown. It did not take planters long to discover that black servants were more exploitable than white servants. Unfamiliar with the dominant language and culture, they were less able to know and defend their legal rights under the indenture system. If abused by masters, they were less able to run away and...

Soil Exhaustion in the Tobacco South

Craven, in Soil Exhaustion in the Agricultural History of Virginia and Maryland, 1606-1860 1926 , maintained that soil exhaustion and tobacco cultivation went hand in hand.10 Tobacco rapidly depleted the soil, hence luxuriant crops could be grown for only three or four years. Soon after planting, soil nutrients especially nitrogen and potassium began to decline and soil microorganisms created toxins that poisoned tobacco plants. Soil fungi and root rot resulted from continual...

Plains Indians and the Westward Movement

A third case of Indian ecological modes of living and their transformation is that of the bison cultures of the Great Plains. Native Americans of the Great Plains centered their subsistence economy around the buffalo. But as Europeans moved onto the Plains, they developed policies toward Indians and buffalo that altered the region's ecology and native cultures. The Great Plains presented unique ecological challenges to both native inhabitants and European Americans seeking to expand westward....

Noise Pollution

A third problem for urban development was noise from new forms of transportation. Industrial cities continually generated huffings, clankings, screechings, and smokings that went on for 12 to 14 hours a day and sometimes around the clock. Brakes, gears, motors, and bells mingled with the noise of street traffic and elevated railroads. Noise was a major issue for those in inner cities. Poor women in Philadelphia complained What we can't stand is the noise. It never stops. It is killing us. We...

Indians and the Creation of the National Parks

That Indians, always and everywhere, had to move on was demonstrated most forcefully when Henry David Thoreau's dream of preserving wildness achieved its greatest triumph in the creation of the national parks. The very idea of a national park was first articulated by the painter of Indian life George Catlin 1796-1872 , who wanted, like Thoreau, to save both vanishing wildness and the vanishing Indian. Proposing a national park on the Great Plains in his 1844 book North American Indians, Catlin...

The Antitoxics Movement

The antitoxics movement grew out of public attention to the pollution of Love Canal, a community near Niagara Falls, New York, in 1978. The main spokesperson was Lois Gibbs, whose son and daughter had both experienced major health problems as a result of living in an area formerly used as a waste site by Hooker Chemical Company. The company had sold the site to the city of Niagara Falls for one dollar, and a school was built on it in 1954. As the mothers of the school children in the late 1970s...