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Some went west to find gold, or oil ...
Some went west to find gold, or oil or to seek their fortunes in the modern boomtowns of Silicon Valley. Their story, in all its complexity, is prototypically American, whether it confirms or subverts the notion of e pluribus unum -- one out of many. It is a tale that surprises, that challenges traditional stereotypes, and that illuminates the multifaceted character of one of the world's most dynamic and unique territories.
Several fault lines distinguish people's ideas about the West. One separates those wedded to the victory narratives of Buffalo Bill, Turner, or novelist Zane Grey, from demythologizers who are more aware of "the manifold ways in which one people's ambitions are fulfilled at the expense of another's." A parallel fault line divides those who see the frontier narrative as progressive and ennobling from those who stress conflict, conquest, and environmental depletion. Another line splits those who define "the West" as myth or state of mind from those who anchor it in historical and geographical fact. Still another separates those who define the West as the interior, exclusive Dodge-to-Sierras country, from those who see it extending from the Great Plains to the Pacific. The former think it really ended around 1915. The latter will tell you that it is still happening.
The Angeleno's view of the world is certainly more cosmopolitan than the 1970s' perspective from midtown Manhattan in Saul Steinberg's cartoon. But neither says much about history or about the migrations that have peopled the West. It is time to get to the story, keeping in mind that the West in question here is the Plains-to-Pacific West, the census's West plus the Great Plains, the left half of the map of the United States. Millions of people went there, motivated in most cases by homesteading, gold rushing, California dreaming, nostalgia, or unembellished wage earning. That is the where and the why. Who peopled the West, and when? Those are questions for a demographic history, which is as follows.
|1||Where the West Is and Why People Have Gone There||3|
|2||From Time Immemorial to 1848||18|
|3||The United States Captures Its West, 1848-1889||54|
|4||Defying the Depression, 1889-1901||98|
|5||The Golden Twilight of the Settlement Frontier, 1901-1913||131|
|6||Tourists, Honyockers, Mexicans, and More, 1914-1929||174|
|7||Dust Bowl and Depression, 1929-1941||227|
|8||The War, the Baby Boom, and Slouching toward Watts, 1941-1965||255|
|9||"Where It All Starts," 1965-1987||312|
|10||The Leading Edge, 1987-1998||351|