How did the vast continental scale of the American economy in the late 19th century shape American transportation and marketing?

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The vast continental scale of the economy meant, perhaps foremost, a dependence on the railroad. The first transcontinental railway link, completed in 1869, allowed goods to be moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific without having to sail around the southern tip of South America. This was obviously a major boon economically. It shaped the way products were produced and marketed. Livestock, for example, was shipped by rail from the grazing lands of the Great West to slaughterhouses in cities like Chicago and Cincinnati. Manufactured goods would be shipped out west in the other direction.

Marketing was also affected by this continental economy. Rather than pander to the rich and focus on luxury goods, the late-nineteenth-century American economy was increasingly one of scale. Mass-marketed goods were emphasized and created a motivation for mass production. By the 1870s, one also began to see the first mail-order catalogs with full-color pictures (Montgomery Ward in Chicago was one of the first companies to do this on a wide scale) which were designed to market goods to the widest possible audience of consumers. And through the railroad, every small town in the American West would come to be connected to the cosmopolitan centers in this way.

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The vast scale of the economy meant that it was important to have a vast transportation network and marketing procedures that could reach a wide market.  Both of these things were present in the late 1800s.  For transportation, we can see the development of the transcontinental railroads.  For marketing, we can see that the late 1800s brought us mail order houses that were able to get catalogs to far-flung areas.  Because of the railroads and the mail order companies, people anywhere in the country could buy all sorts of items and get them shipped to their homes.  In these ways, the vast scale of the economy shaped transportation and marketing processes.

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