(1870 - 1879)

In spite of the overwhelming results of the American Civil War, such as the division of the once-United States, the massive slaughter of innocent lives, and the abolition of the inhumane slavery in U.S., America tried to stand up once again from its fall and to rebuild itself as it approached the decade of 1870's, making this Reconstruction period a truly indispensable part of U.S History. Events such as The Panic of 1873 and the settlement of the West gave way to the rapid expansion and industrialization of U.S. territories. Furthermore, during this decade, inventions led the path to a more advanced society. Thomas Edison, the most successful inventor the world has ever known, took his fame during this period and inspired many people with his determination and success through hardships and trials. Movements also were prominent during this period, such as the Civil Rights movement that helped protect the civil and political rights of U.S. citizens and the nativism that dealt with immigrants and their place in the American societies. These events, people and movements greatly defined this decade as a turning point of America to a more unified and more advanced nation.


Some of the events that were significant to U.S. history during this decade were the Panic of 1873 and the settlement of the West. During this period, the railroad industry was the largest employer involving large investments and risks. A boom in railroad constructions greatly encouraged entrepreneurs, such as Jay Cooke, a powerful banker, to invest heavily in projects such as the Northern Pacific Railway. Little did they know that this would become overextended and out of control. Bankruptcy was declared, upsetting the economy of the U.S. A total of 18,000 businesses failed and unemployment was in uncontrollable elevation, during a time which became known as the Long Depression. Wage cuts, poor working conditions, violent strikes, and tensions between workers, leaders and owners were the spontaneous effects of the Long Depression. Northerners became less concerned with addressing South racism, which helped the South regain power. The formation of railroads also led to another significant event during that period, the settlement of the West. Railroads reached the Great Plains and allowed ranchers to build ranches there and settlers to file for a homestead and to start farming the regions. The Native Americans were dramatically affected by these settlements. The buffalo, to which the Native Americans depended for food and clothing, were killed in large numbers by migrants in order to clear the land for railroads and trains. Later on after this decade, these events would result in the constraint of Native Americans to reservations, to contentions, disputes and resistance against the settlers, and the adaptation of Native American culture and ways of life to a new world in order to survive.  


One inspiring person of this decade that had an everlasting influence throughout the United States' ever-advancing way of life was Thomas Alva Edison. Many people of today are familiar of Edison through his contributions to Science laws and theories, but not everybody knows about the kind of life he had to go through. Thomas Edison had almost no schooling in his life and had an accident that made him deaf at 12 years old, but this didn't hinder him from doing what he had always wanted to do. He was a tinkerer, interested in how things work. He liked taking something apart and assembling it back together but always in a better way. The question is how he got all this knowledge without sufficient education and hearing. Edison was a hard-working and determined person. He went to libraries, got books and taught himself. He believed that, "Genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration". He worked on a train and sold candy and newspapers. He rescued the child of a telegraph operator from being killed by a rushing train down the tracks. The father of the child helped him enter the world of inventions by teaching him further knowledge about telegraphs. Edison was able to invent 1,000 inventions before he died, and two of them were the light bulb and the phonograph. The light bulb gave a lasting light that "glowed like the setting of the sun in the dusk of early autumn", according to one of his assistants, while the phonograph led to the tapes and CD players that people listen to today. Edison's influential and inspiring life is still remembered and respected in our present time.


Two defining movements of this decade were Nativism and the Civil Rights movement that protected citizens' rights. Nativism was defined as the preference for native-born people and the desire to limit immigration. Around the 1870s, immigrants from all over the world arrived to America one after another. Some of them came from Germany, Ireland, Russia, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Holland, and Asia especially China. Most of them chose to come to America in search for freedom that they didn't experience in their homeland. Most of them also heard of the United States' Declaration of Independence. By heart they knew and believed these words: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Unfortunately, some Americans didn't like seeing foreign people in their country. Surprisingly, even the immigrants didn't want other foreigners to come. This was mostly because of the fear of job competition. American nativists formed groups and acts that deprived the immigrants and the blacks of the opportunities in the land of freedom. Among them was the Ku Klux Klan, an anti-black and anti-Semitic group. The Ku Klux Klan was notorious for their violence and brutality against the Black people. Due to this, a Civil Rights movement was established. It included the Civil Rights Act, Enforcement Acts, and the 14 th and 15 th Amendments which were all created for the same reason, to secure and to protect the rights of the people. Through these movements, equality was starting to be felt and to be experienced in the country.


Indeed, America, or rather the United States of America, was able to stand up on its feet once again after the struggles it faced concerning moral and political issues. The destructive effects of the Civil War left the U.S. with a lasting scar in its history, but the Reconstruction period covered it with all the reparations and advancements that continue to benefit America in our present time. During this period, Americans underwent an evolution of knowledge through the ideas of the curious and determined men; through the sacrifice of the dedicated citizens, the unity between whites and blacks was slowly becoming acceptable as equality was starting to be established. Looking back to all the things that occurred during the Reconstruction Period, people should realize that through the unity of the citizens who stand up for what's right, America had been and will always be able to overcome anything that comes its way.



Appleby, Joyce, Brinkley, Alan, Broussard, Albert S., McPherson, James M., and Ritchie, Donald A. The American Vision ModernTimes. Columbus: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Baker, Lawrence W., and Kelly King Howes. Reconstruction Era: Almanac. Detroit: Thomas Gale Corporation, 2004.

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. "WIKIPEDIA, the Free Encyclopedia".2 Oct. 2007 < /wiki/ Panic_ of _ 1873>.

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. New York: Harper and Row Publishers Inc., 1990.

Grumet, Bridget Hall. Reconstruction Era: Primary Sources. Detroit: Thomas Gale Corporation, 2005.

Hakim, Joy. A History Of U.S., Reconstructing America 1865-1890. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.


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