Alex Hassen, Drew Arciuolo

American agriculture changed in the mid to late 19th century due to technological advances in farming techniques and tools, changes in government policy on labor and land, and economically because of the dependence of famers on the countries fluctuating economic conditions.



1865 - 1877

The rebuilding of the post- Civil War South.


Twine Binder


Invented by John Appleby, the twine binder was used to tie the top of a shock of wheat together for easier handling and transport. It increased the speed at which crops could be harvested.

Dry Farming


Due to drought in the west, the technique of "dry farming" was developed. In order to adapt to the arid plains the farmers used shallow cultivation.

Bonanza Farms


Large-scale commercial farming where farmers used advanced technology and abundant land out west to grow and sell more crops than ever. This began the industry of farmers working directly for companies to mass-produce items and food products.

Barbed War


Joseph F. Glidden invented barbed war in order to create barriers for farming in the treeless desert.



The combined reaper-thresher was a farming tool that was drawn by twenty to forty horses and which both reaped and bagged the grain. It sped up the process of farming exponentially.

Steam Engine Plow


The steam engine allowed farmers to drag behind it simultaneously the plow, seeder, and harrow.


Homestead Act


The Homestead Act granted government land to private owners for little cost. It was designed to settle open space and encourage home farming.

Pacific Railroad Acts


Acts granted by Congress to build train tracks and telegraph lines from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. The railroads received over 175 million square miles of public land, this created a new and efficient way for farmers out west to send their crops at lower prices to cities in the East.

Treaty of Fort Laramie


This was a treaty between the U.S. and the Lakota Indians. The two parties came to an agreement to give the Lakota people the Black Hills and hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. However, migrant workers looking for gold had crossed the Lakota borders, in violation of the treaty. Indians had assaulted these workers, also in violation of the treaty. War would soon follow. The U.S. government then seized the Black Hills land in 1877. The dispute over the land between the Lakota Indians and the U.S. can still be found in courts today.

American Federation of Labor


A national federation of trade unions that included only skilled workers. The group was led by a cigar maker named Samuel Gompers for almost 4 decades. The union looked to negotiate with employers for a better kind of capitalism that rewarded workers with better wages, hours, and conditions.

Dawes Severalty Act


Act issued that made Indian tribes legal entities and wiped out their ownership of the land. With 160 acres of free land, the U.S. created individual Indian family heads. They were told that if they behaved like white citizens than they could be granted ownership of their land and full citizenship in 25 years. This struck directly at tribal organization and tried to take away Native American culture. It also was a big part in why the number of Indians in the lands was declining.


Cash Crops


Due to highs prices farmers decided to produce single "cash crops" such as corn and wheat. The farmers massed produced the crops and used their profits to buy foodstuffs and manufactured goods.

Prices of "Cash Crops" Decrease


Many farmers had to go bankrupt because of their dependence on single crops. The prices on the "cash crops" decreased in the 1880's and caused economic hardship for the farmers.

Interstate Commerce Act


Regulated the railroad industry to make sure that the prices were reasonable and not out of control. It also required that railroads publicize their shipping rates and also prohibit short haul/long haul fare discrimination.

Pullman strike


Pullman Palace Car Company employees walked away from the company due to the lowering of wages. The striking workers joined the newly formed American Railway Union. The Union together boycotted the whole railroad system, putting the railways from Detroit to the Pacific to almost a standstill. The strike turned violent and things began to get out of hand. Riots and sabotage caused $80 million in damages; 30 people were killed. Finally the Army was ordered to, and did crush the boycotters. This was the first time Washington had to use such a legal weapon and it caused many to be jailed with no trial. This was proof of an unholy alliance between business and the courts.

Gold Standard Act


This Act established gold as the only standard for redeeming paper money. This moderate inflation in money took care of the currency needs of the explosively expanding nation.