In what ways did the development of the Old West influence the economic and social development of the United States?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Economically, the development of the Old West had some pretty major impacts.  The most important of these was the impact of all the precious metals that were to be found in the Rocky Mountain states.  These contributed significantly to American wealth and led, among other things, to the conflict over the gold standard that was a political hot topic in the 1890s.

Socially, there are so many ways that you can say this era affected the US.

  • It attracted many European immigrants who helped to settle the West.
  • It also attracted Asian immigrants and helped lead to such things as the Chinese Exclusion act of 1883 (I think it's '83).
  • It helped develop the idea that America is a frontier country made up of independent, tough people who can stand up to anything (the cowboy/pioneer legend).
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The increase of industrialization in the Old West helped to transform the economic and social development of the United States.  The building of the transcontinental railroad linked Eastern business centers with emerging Western ones. It also helped to facilitate a national network of commerce between both ends of the nation.  Towns along these lines developed and helped to create both commercial and population based centers.  The lack of regulation in the Old West allowed industrialists to employ any workers under the most hazardous of conditions and reap massive profits.  At the same time, graft and economic consideration was given to where the railroad went in order to select areas of industrial growth over other areas.