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A Time Of Change:The 1880’s and 1890’s Kansas

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A Time Of Change:The 1880’s and 1890’s Kansas

As history cascades through an hourglass, the changing, developmental hands of time are shrouded throughout American history. This ever-changing hourglass of time is reflected in the process of maturation undertaken by western America in the late nineteenth century. Change, as defined by Oxford’s Dictionary, is “To make or become different through alteration or modification.” The notion of change is essential when attempting to unwind the economic make-up of Kansas in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Popular culture often reveres the American cowboy, which has led him to become the predominate figure in America’s “westering” experience (Savage, p3). However, by 1880 the cowboy had become a mythical figure rather than a presence in western life. The era of the cowboy roaming the Great Plains had past and farmers now sought to become the culturally dominant figure and force in the American West. Unlike the cowboys, farmers were able to evolved, organizing and establishing the Populist Party. The farmers’ newly formed political organization provided them with a voice, which mandated western reform. Furthermore, the populist ideas spread quickly and dominated western thought in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The period of the 1880’s and 1890’s marked the end of the American cowboy and gave farmers a political stronghold that would forever impact the modernization of the West.

Although early nineteenth century Kansas was vast in territory, the land was mostly unpopulated. This cheap abundant land along with the dream of a better life lured farmers from the east to start their lives in Kansas. Many people were driven to pack their belongings and start their westward bound journey. Floyd Benjamin St...


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...ture and the development of small towns led to the inevitable transformation of cattle-towns into large well-populated cities. In June of 1887, a survey conducted by Bradstreet ranking real-estate transactions listed Wichita third with a population increase of 500% (Miner, 174). As the cowboys lost national prominence, farmers became organized groups and gained access to government offices. The Populist Movement brought national attention to the struggling farmer, and secured them an unprecedented quality of life. No longer a diminutive group that the government could ignore, many populist leaders had now attained prominent spots in the House and Senate. The western voice was now abundant, an unyielding force that not only legitimatised farmers, but also helped facilitate the development and modernization of Kansas and other territories throughout the American West.

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