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.





November's Archived Features:

Tuesday November 1, 2022
Wednesday November 2, 2022
Thursday November 3, 2022
Friday November 4, 2022
Saturday November 5, 2022
Sunday November 6, 2022
Monday November 7, 2022
Tuesday November 8, 2022
Wednesday November 9, 2022
Thursday November 10, 2022
Friday November 11, 2022
Saturday November 12, 2022
Sunday November 13, 2022
Monday November 14, 2022
Tuesday November 15, 2022
Wednesday November 16, 2022
Thursday November 17, 2022
Friday November 18, 2022
Saturday November 19, 2022
Sunday November 20, 2022
Monday November 21, 2022
Tuesday November 22, 2022
Wednesday November 23, 2022
Thursday November 24, 2022
Friday November 25, 2022
Saturday November 26, 2022

 

 

 
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 © 2001-2019. 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.