Pride and Shame of the Past

By Rachele Crossan

Transcontinental Rail-Road

The journey across North America used to be long and very dangerous using wagons. Later on the Gold Rush made the need for railways apparent. Talk about building the Transcontinental Rail-Road began in the 1860's and construction started in 1862; it was completed on May 10, 1869 when the lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah. The railway stretched from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California. I am proud of the Transcontinental Rail-Road because it increased trade and business and played a major role in the populations spread and growth. I am also ashamed of the Transcontinental Rail-Road because of the means with which we acquired the land to build the railway, and for some of the things we did with it after, for example the eradication of the buffalo.

Homestead Act of 1862

The Homestead act was passed into law on May 20, 1862, by Abraham Lincoln. It allowed a claim to be made on up to 160 acres of land, for a small fee and a required amount of years of residency. The settlers of this land had top quality weapons of the time compared to those of the Native Americans currently living there, giving the Native Americans three choices; death, relocation, or assimilation. I am ashamed of this part of our history because of the way that we treated the Native Americans, as if we were superior to them.
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Eradication of The Buffalo

I am ashamed of the eradication of the buffalo because it was an unnecessary act, falsely justified for personal gain. The eradication of the buffalo was an act by settlers to remove the Indians from what they saw as "their territory." The Native Americans used every part of the buffalo so that nothing was wasted, but the white men killed them out of greed for money; some were skinned and their hides sold, others were shot and left to rot. In 1873 over 750,000 hides were shipped on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad alone, and it is estimated that over 7.5 million buffalo were killed from 1872 to 1874 (General Pope and U.S. Indian Policy, p. 179).

Chinese Exclusion Act

The Chinese Exclusion Act was put into place on May 6, 1882. It was one of the first and biggest restrictions placed on immigration; it suspended Chinese immigration into the U.S. for ten years and then was renewed for another ten years. It was enacted because the Government felt that the growing Chinese population would be a threat to certain areas. I am ashamed of this because it was unfair of the U.S. to regulate immigration on just one race of people, out of fear of their growing population.
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Tenement Housing

Tenements were overcrowded and cramped, with many poor living conditions such as bad plumbing and ventilation. The tenements were not up to safety standards; for example, there was one fire escape per building and it was usually built out of wood. Tenements started during the periods of mass immigration, when immigrants were fleeing from harmful or unfavorable aspects of their home countries; for example, the potato famine in Ireland or a rebellion in Germany, in search of things such as freedom or liberty. I am ashamed of this because tenement housing is something that should have been a top priority and something that they accounted for rather than being something that no one would do anything about until muckrakers wrote about, and photographed their conditions to open the eyes of the public.


Assimilation was an effort by the government and some citizens to integrate immigrants into our culture. They wanted to assimilate these people into our ways because they feared that they would begin to change us from the way we were, into something more foreign. they feared that important aspects of our culture would get lost in the "melting pot." I am ashamed of this because it took away the cultures and practices that make many people unique and forced them to stay here, which they did because the conditions in their home countries, were most of the time, far worst.
Schoolhouse Rock - ''The Great American Melting Pot''

Politcal Machines

A political machine is an organization in which a boss or small group commands the support of people and businesses, who receive rewards for their efforts. These bosses would take advantage of the new immigrants and offer them things such as money, or a place to stay in return for a vote for the person of the bosses choosing. This led to a corrupt government with the wrong agendas. One of the most famous political bosses was William Magear Tweed, Sr., better known as Boss Tweed, the political boss of Tammany Hall. I am ashamed of political machines because they led to a corrupt government, and because of this many things that needed to be addressed sooner got put aside.
Immigrants, Politics, and Political Machines
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Bessemer Process

The Bessemer process was the industrial process for the rapid, mass-production of steel. Before the Bessemer process the material used to make bridges and other infrastructure was weaker than steel but less expensive. The Bessemer process allowed to build more bridges, railways, and build sturdier buildings that were taller than before. I am proud of this part of our history because it was a smart invention that led to many great benefits.


One major piece that led to urbanization was the fact many people could travel from one place to another quickly and that the jobs were mainly concentrated within the cities. With the factories located in the cities, man people wanted to be closer to their jobs so they moved into the cities. With the population gathering together in a smaller place traffic and congestion became more of a problem. I am proud of this invention because it was created to solved a problem and it accomplished its goal and helped traffic and transportation.
Boston History in a Minute: First Subway in America

The Child Labor Act

The Keating-Owen Child Labor Act was implemented on September 1, 1916. Its goal was to address the growing problem of child labor. It prohibited the sale of goods made by factories that employed children. In 1900, 18 percent of all American workers were under the age of 16. I am proud that this act was put into place because it prevented more injuries of children who were working for less pay in very hazardous conditions for about 16 hours a day.

Labor Unions

Labor unions were created to protect the interest of workers. They fought for better wages, reasonable hours, and safer working conditions. Many labor movements put a lot of effort into stopping child labor, and finding health benefits to aid injured or retired workers. I am proud of these labor unions because they were fighting for good causes that did not get enough attention.
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Women Suffragists

Two very important women suffragists were Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. Alice Paul led demonstrations, and Susan B. Anthony was a pioneer crusader; they both sought to change the voting amendment. Their actions helped pass the 19th Amendment in 1920. I am proud of all of these women and what they were fighting for because i believe that it was a worthy cause that was postponed and disregarded for too long.

Moral Diplomacy

Moral Diplomacy was proposed by Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election. It said that we should give support and aid to countries with moral beliefs that were similar to ours. I am proud of this because it was wanting to help and spread our ideals. I am also ashamed of it because it does not encompass a bigger range of people to help.
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Dollar Diplomacy

Dollar diplomacy was proposed by William Howard Taft during his term. It is the use of diplomacy to promote our commercial interest and economic power by giving loans to foreign countries. It added stability in a few places and attempted to expand our spheres of influence over China and other places. I am both proud and ashamed of this because while it did help a few countries i believe that it was created for the purpose of earning money and gaining power.

Effects of Imperialism on People

Imperialism was more harmful than beneficial. It over-exploited resources, weakened the unique cultural aspects, and the places being controlled had no say in their government. I am ashamed of this part of our history because we controlled a few places and caused these negative effects, there were some good aspects; for example, we helped in fields like technology and infrastructure, but these benefits do not out weight the negative.
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Zimmerman Telegram

The Zimmermann Telegram was sent from Germany to Mexico and proposed that Mexico be allied with Germany. Germany wanted Mexico to attack the U.S. from their front and in return they would receive land in the U.S. and in a few other places. The telegram was decoded by the British and they sent it to the U.S. The telegram and a few other factors brought the U.S. into the war. I am proud that we were one of the main forces that was able to stop the war.
Zimmerman Telegram

War Bonds

War bonds are debt securities that fund military operations and other costs of war. They removed money in circulation to control inflation. War bonds were heavily advertised, and the public bought many so that they could be part of the war, and help out. I am proud of the use of war bonds because they were a good thing, and made the public feel as if they were very important.

Anti-German Sentiment

Anti-German Sentiment was a period of time during and after World War One when the U.S. removed and renamed anything with German ties. The U.S. shut down newspapers and other organizations, they also renamed food, places, and music, so that they had American names. I am ashamed of this because it was a loss of culture, and because the name of these actions had no real effect, other than appeasing suspicious people.

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