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Title: America

Americas HeartlandThe MidwestA Primary
Source Collection for Regions of the United
States5th grade Teaching American History
(TAH)Loudoun County Public Schools
Historical Map of the Region
Includes an inset map for principal products
Note that the Dakotas are still a single
territory and not individual states the map was
published four years before the Battle of Little
Note the presence of canals what waterways do
they connect?
Kentucky is usually categorized as part of the
Southeast region
Note how Oklahoma and its panhandle are labeled
at this time
Follow the link for a zoomable version of this
1872 map of the region available on the
University of South Florida Maps ETC website
(accessed November 14, 2012) http//
aps/pages/6600/6683/6683.htm Source James
Monteith, Comprehensive Geography (New York, NY
A. S. Barnes and Company, 1872) 40-41
The States of the Midwest
Environment The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes Drainage Basin Source U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) http//
Drawing depicting the opening of the Illinois
Michigan Canal in 1848 the canal connected Lake
Michigan to the Illinois River and helped
transform Chicago into a regional and national
center for transportation and industry.
Travelers could now move entirely by waterway
from the Mississippi River basin to New York City
on the Atlantic coast using rivers, canals, and
lakes. Source Chicago History, DePaul
University. http//
The Canal Corridor Association provides a website
that describes the history and significance of
the Illinois Michigan Canal, as well as photos
of reconstructed canal boats http//www.canalcor.
org/CCA2005/CCA_Hist.html The Great Lakes
Historical Society website offers helpful links
to historical background and images, as well as
information on the National Great Lakes Museum ,
scheduled to open in 2013 http//www.inlandseas.o
The Great Lakes Today
Duluth, Minnesota iron ore docks ship iron ore
mined from the Mesabi Range see the Minnesota
Mining History website for historic photos of
mining (see the open pit mine photo below) and
shipping http//
esotaMiningHistory.html the Visit Duluth
website also has a brief video entitled Seaport
City showing ships operating in the harbor
area http//
Photo of the Lake Erie Islands the five Great
Lakes rank among the worlds 20 largest lakes and
are often described as inland seas
Chicago, Illinois is the largest Great Lakes city
with a population of over 2.6 million, making it
the third largest U.S. city
Environment The Central Plains
100 West longitude
Pictured above A 1907 postcard image of a
steamboat near St. Louis, Missouri. Steamboats
played a vital role in transporting Midwest farm
goods along the Mississippi and other major
rivers from the mid-1800s on into the 1900s.
Source http// Pictur
ed below Iowa farm scene.
The Central Plains extend from eastern Ohio to
the edge of the Great Plains in the west they
are lower in elevation and receive more annual
average rainfall than the Great Plains to the
west of the 100 West meridian the Mississippi,
Missouri, and Ohio rivers traverse this area
Environment The Great Plains
Above A bison herd crosses the Great Plains.
Once the primary resource of Plains Indian
tribes, bison herds were nearly wiped out in the
buffalo hunts of the 1870s-1880s. Their near
extinction helped contribute to the demise of the
Plains Indians way of life, as depicted below in
artist Albert Bierstadts The Last of the Buffalo
(1888). Source http//
The Ogallala Aquifer (depicted here in a U.S.
Geological Survey map) is one of the worlds
largest underground sources of water, making
Great Plains farming and ranching possible. The
USGS provides a site dedicated to learning about
U.S. water resources at http//
Environment The Great American Desert?
While considered an important part of the
nations breadbasket today, Americans in the
early 1800s viewed the Great Plains as a
forbidding desert and preferred crossing over
it to make the long and dangerous trek to Oregon
and California rather than attempt to settle on
this virtually treeless grassland. The Oregon,
Mormon, and Santa Fe trails all crossed this
region. Washington Irving, in his Astoria,
published in 1836, wrote  "This region which
resembles one of the ancient steppes of Asia has
not inaptly been termed 'The Great American
Desert.' It spreads forth into undulating and
treeless plains and desolate sandy wastes,
wearisome to the eye from their extent and
monotony. It is a land where no man permanently
abides, for at certain seasons of the year there
is no food for the hunter or his steed. Source

Left Chimney Rock, Nebraska a major landmark
on the Oregon Trail. Right Image of Oregon
Trail wagon ruts that still exist today near Rock
Creek, Nebraska. Source http//www.legendsofamer
Print entitled Caravan of Emigrants for
California Crossing the Great American Desert in
Nebraska (c. 1850) Source Library of Congress,
Environment The Dust Bowl
In the 1930s, the Great Plains witnessed one of
the worlds greatest manmade ecological
disasters, as a series of severe droughts struck
the Midwest region. In prior decades, farmers
had plowed up the native prairie grass in order
to grow more wheat and other grains to meet
growing world demand. With native grasses gone
and crops withering in the fields, nothing
remained to hold down the thin layer of topsoil,
which blew away and created massive dust storms.
See Ken Burns PBS documentary series on the Dust
Bowl. http//
The photographic images on this page are
available on the website for Wessels Living
History Farm in York, Nebraska. The website
includes a description of Dust Bowl conditions as
well as videotaped interviews with several Dust
Bowl survivors. Source http//www.livinghistoryf
Economy Agriculture
The Midwest is one of the most agriculturally
productive regions in the United States. Both
the Corn Belt and the Wheat Belt are located
in the Midwest. The region is also one of the
leading producers of soybeans in the country.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service of
the U.S. Department of Agriculture produces maps
that show crop production by county. The map
below shows the Corn Belt in dark
green. http//
Technology has played a critical role in the
farming history of the Midwest. Pictured above
is an original John Deere steel plow (first
invented in Illinois in 1837) a modern John
Deere tractor and plow are pictured below. The
Illinois State Museums exhibit on the history of
Illinois agriculture provides images, background,
and activities on the subject http//
Economy Railroads
Railroads have played a vital role in the
settlement and economic development of the
Midwest region since the mid-1800s. The Pacific
Railroad Act, signed into law by President
Abraham Lincoln in 1862, provided for the
incorporation of the Union Pacific Railroad and
the construction of the nations first railroad
linking the eastern United States to the Pacific
West. Building west from Council Bluffs, Iowa,
the Union Pacific (UP) eventually met up with the
Central Pacific line working east from California
at Promontory Point, Utah in May 1869, thus
creating the Transcontinental Railroad. A
journey that once took pioneers nearly six months
along the westward trails could now be made in
six days. Today, UP is headquartered in Omaha,
Nebraska and operates the nations largest
railroad network.
Above A Chicago railroad freight yard. Left A
map depicting the progress of the Union Pacifics
construction progress in the 1860s. Below A UP
freight train
Union Pacific maintains current historical maps
of its system http//
Economy Meatpacking
In the years following the Civil War, the
meatpacking industry emerged as a major part of
the nations economy. Ranchers shipped their
beef cattle east on railroads to stockyards in
cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City,
and Omaha. Several major meatpacking companies,
including Swift and Armour, were headquartered in
Chicago and used advertising (see the image
below) to help promote the sale of meat products.
Above View of the Chicago stockyards c. 1880.
Below Slaughterhouse workers, c. 1892. Both
images are from the Chicago History Museums
online exhibit Slaughterhouse to the
World. http//
Author Upton Sinclair exposed abuses in the
meatpacking industry in The Jungle, first
published in 1906.
Source Library of Congress. http//
Economy Manufacturing
The Midwest is home to some of the most important
manufacturing centers in the nation. Perhaps the
most important Midwest industry is automobile
manufacturing, which started in the Detroit area
around 1900. The steel and tire industries have
also played a critical role in Midwestern
economic development. Since the 1960s, the
industrial Midwest has suffered a gradual decline
due to foreign competition and the movement of
factories and jobs from the Rust Belt to the
warmer states of the Sun Belt in the southern
and western U.S.
Below Fords assembly line in 1913,
Henry Ford (pictured above) founded the Ford
Motor Company in 1903 and began producing the
Model T in 1908 using mass production techniques.
Left Fords River Rouge Plant in Dearborn,
Michigan, c. 1930s. Right Ford assembly line
workers today. The Henry Ford Museum has an
extensive collection of images and lesson plans
on the auto industry at http//www.thehenryford.or
People The Lakota
Above Citizenship ceremony at Fort Yates, North
Dakota. The U.S. government encouraged the
Lakota to assimilate as American citizens and
give up their cultural identity. Citizenship
rituals required that the Lakota recite an oath
like the following _________________ (white
name). What was your Indian name? (Gives
name.) _________________ (Indian name). I hand
you a bow and an arrow. Take this bow and shoot
the arrow. (He shoots.) _________________ (Indian
name). You have shot your last arrow. That means
that you are no longer to live the life of an
Indian. You are from this day forward to live the
life of the white man. But you may keep that
arrow, it will be to you a symbol of your noble
race and of the pride you feel that you come from
the first of all Americans Source http//www.n
The Lakota (Sioux) of the north central plains
region attempted to retain their independence in
the face of westward settlement and U.S. policies
that eventually forced them on to reservations in
the Dakotas. Their leaders, such as Sitting Bull
(pictured above left), challenged U.S. treaty
violations and successfully confronted the U.S.
military at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876
(aka, Custers Last Stand pictured above
However, this victory was short-lived, as the
Lakota were eventually forced to accept life on
reservations operated by the U.S. government.
In 1890, the so-called battle of Wounded Knee
in South Dakota resulted in a massacre of Lakota
(pictured right) and represented the last violent
confrontation between Native Americans and the
U.S. government.
Click on photos for Library of Congress links.
Wounded Knee
After being forced on to reservations by the late
1880s, Native Americans across the West responded
to the call of Wavoka, a Pauite mystic known as
the Messiah, to revive Native American
traditions through the Ghost Dance ritual.
Wavokas prophecy that a day would soon come when
the white man would disappear and the buffalo
would return gave hope to a desperate people.
However, the Ghost Dance movement also created
concern that Native Americans were planning a
general uprising against U.S. authority.
Increasing tensions led to the massacre of Lakota
at Wounded Knee. The picture below from The
Illustrated London News of January 3, 1891,
depicts a Ghost Dance ceremony.
Source http//
The Lakota leader, Bigfoot, thought he was
leading his people to safety when they entered
the Pine Ridge Reservation in December 1890.
Instead, they were attacked and massacred by
The following ballad was composed by Private W.H.
Prather, an African-American cavalryman, to
commemorate the militarys actions at Wounded
Knee. This source and the photo of Bigfoots
frozen corpse above are from the PBS website for
The West, which also has an archive of documents
and images related to the Lakota http//www.pbs.o
rg/weta/thewest/resources/archives/ The Red
Skins left their Agency, the Soldiers left their
Post,All on the strength of an Indian tale about
Messiah's ghostGot up by savage chieftains to
lead their tribes astrayBut Uncle Sam wouldn't
have it so, for he ain't built that way.They
swore that this Messiah came to them in visions
sleep,And promised to restore their game and
Buffalos a heap,So they must start a big ghost
dance, then all would join their land,And may be
so we lead the way into the great Bad
Land.   ChorusThey claimed the shirt Messiah
gave, no bullet could go through,But when the
Soldiers fired at them they saw this was not
true.The Medicine man supplied them with their
great Messiah's grace,And he, too, pulled his
freight and swore the 7th hard to face    
People Homesteaders
The Homestead Act of 1862 opened up western lands
in the Plains region to farm families in the late
1800s. Homesteaders could obtain up to 160 acres
of land for a 10 registration fee and proof of
residence. Railroad companies also sold land to
prospective farmers and profited from storing
their grain and shipping their produce to market.
The image pictured to the right is an 1872
railroad company ad aimed at enticing prospective
land owners. Source Library of Congress.
The photo above is of the Bakken family standing
in front of their sod house near Milton, North
Dakota, c. 1895 from the Fred Hulstrand History
in Pictures Collection available at the Library
of Congress website http//
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Perhaps no homesteader is more famous than Laura
Ingalls Wilder, the credited author of the famous
Little House series of eleven books published
between 1932 and 1974. The books recount Lauras
childhood and early adulthood in the late 1800s
and provide a firsthand glimpse of the challenges
of living on the Midwestern frontier, from the
north woods of Wisconsin to the plains of Kansas,
Minnesota, and South Dakota. After moving many
times around the country and experiencing great
financial and physical hardships, Laura and her
husband, Almanzo, settled in the Missouri Ozarks
in 1894 and remained there until their deaths
Almanzo in 1949 at the age of 92 and Laura in
1957 at the age of 90. Their daughter, Rose
Wilder Lane, an accomplished writer, likely had a
hand in helping to author her mothers books.
By the 1970s, the Little House series had
achieved widespread national popularity and
inspired the long-running Little House on the
Prairie television series (pictured above). For
background and primary resources on Laura Ingalls
Wilder, check out the following
sites http// http//laur The National Archives
also has a collection of documents related to
Charles Ingalls (Lauras father) homestead
claims http//
People Immigrants
Midwestern cities and rural areas attracted a
growing number of immigrants in the late 1800s
and through the 20th century. Large numbers of
Germans and Scandinavians settled the north
central plains and a diverse mix of European
immigrants helped to create a melting pot of
cultures in large cities such as Chicago. The
Chicago Historical Societys The History Files
has resources on topics such as the Chicago Fire
of 1871 http//
ml Below Left 1916 aerial view of Chicago.
Source http//
Pictured above left Social reformer Jane Addams
founded Hull House in 1889 on Chicagos southwest
side. The institution was Americas first
settlement house designed to help newly-arrived
immigrants adapt to urban American society. The
University of Illinois - Chicago has created a
web site on Hull House and the immigrant
experience in Chicago that provides helpful
background and multiple primary source
documents http//
Above Photograph of the Pettersens, a Norwegian
immigrant family, in front of their farm home
near Lodi, Wisconsin, c. 1870 from photographer
Andreas Larsen Dahls collection available on
the Wisconsin Historical Societys website
People The Great Migration
U.S. involvement in the world wars of the early
1900s increased the demand for industrial labor
in Northern factories, including those of the
Midwest. The lure of jobs and new economic
opportunities drew thousands of African-American
families from the rural South to Midwestern
cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.
The Great Migration resulted in the
establishment of large African-American
communities in areas such as Chicagos South
Side and the emergence of a vibrant culture in
which blues and jazz music played a central role.
The Library of Congress online exhibit entitled
Chicago Destination for the Great Migration
includes related maps, photos and
letters http//
Above African-American family photographed
arriving in Chicago, c. 1919, from,
an online resource for African-American history
developed by Dr. Quintard Taylor of the
University of Washington. http//
/?qaah/great-migration-1915-1960 Right Jacob
Lawrences Great Migration, published in 1940, is
a collection of Lawrences paintings inspired by
the experiences of African-American families and
includes a foreword by the author, as well as the
poem Migration by Walter Dean Myers.
Geography of the Great Migration
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