This Day in History
Early Crossing


On a day like today in the 1880’s...

One of the most dramatic shifts in the kaleidoscope of American history was the replacement of millions of buffalo that had roamed the Great Plains by cattle, and of the Indian and the miner by the cowboy and the cattle king. The territory between the Missouri and the Rockies, and from Texas to the Canadian border - an area comprising one-fourth of the United States - was the Cattle Kingdom, the last and most picturesque American frontier.

The development of the Cattle Kingdom - and its unique culture, economy, and society - in the 1870s and 1880s was due to a peculiar combination of factors: the opening up of the public domain, the elimination of serious dangers from the Indians, the annihilation of the buffalo, the extension of railroads into the high plains, rapid increases in population at home and abroad, which in turn increased beef consumption, the invention of the refrigerator rail car and the growth of great packing centers in Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City.

As early as 1856, a drove of Texas Longhorns had pastured their way to Chicago, but it was not until the late 1860s that the “long drive” became an institution. Cattlemen like Charles Goodnight and Jesse Chisolm marked out trails on which thousands of herds beat a path sometimes a quarter mile broad. Altogether over six million cattle were driven north along these trails.

Though the Cattle Kingdom collapsed by 1890, it left a lasting impact on the American popular imagination - an appeal to which a vast body of fiction, film and television still caters. It is not surprising that Theodore Roosevelt should have ranched in the Badlands of South Dakota, that Franklin Roosevelt’s favorite song was Home on the Range, or that President Eisenhower’s favorite reading was Westerns.





September's Archived Features:

Saturday September 1, 2018
Sunday September 2, 2018
Monday September 3, 2018
Tuesday September 4, 2018
Wednesday September 5, 2018
Thursday September 6, 2018
Friday September 7, 2018
Saturday September 8, 2018
Sunday September 9, 2018
Monday September 10, 2018
Tuesday September 11, 2018
Wednesday September 12, 2018
Thursday September 13, 2018
Friday September 14, 2018
Saturday September 15, 2018
Sunday September 16, 2018
Monday September 17, 2018
Tuesday September 18, 2018
Wednesday September 19, 2018
Thursday September 20, 2018
Friday September 21, 2018
Saturday September 22, 2018
Sunday September 23, 2018
Monday September 24, 2018

 

 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2018. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.