Two of the industries that attracted many potential western transplants were the railroads and mining. The railroads became a huge source of labor especially for Chinese immigrants. Working on the railroad was difficult and sometimes fatal but the ability to make more money than in the industrialized east areas was a main attraction. Mining was really the first large economic “boom” of the west. Mining took hold very quickly, with the most well known being the Gold Rush of 1849 in California. Usually though after major success the area slowly vacated as other more prosperous areas were found.
Another draw for the west was the availability of large tracts of land for a very low price. This term is referred to as Homesteading and also from the Homestead Act of 1862. This law gave 160 acres for ten dollars. The main stipulations of the law were having to live on the land for five years and cultivate the area as well. This was a immense draw to the west for many people who had either option to live in a tenement or their own land they could do with as they pleased within the boundaries of the law. A tenement was usually cramped over capacity and smaller than the average efficiency apartment of today, and prone to large fires and filthy hygienic standards. With the dangle of a large tract of land in front of them, its no wonder many people took the chance on the west.
As much as the west was idolized and made out to be the next best thing there were problems. Natural disasters were prevalent. Coming from the east,