Subtopic : Starting a Second Century: The Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition, 1905: A Helping Hand from Washington
Themes: People and the Environment, Transportation
Farms, forestry, factories, and railroads meant that Oregon in the early twentieth century was a great place to seek a living or a fortune. There may have been no discernable frontier line across the continent after the 1890s, but there were plenty of frontier districts in the Northwest—landscapes waiting for homesteaders and investors to risk their futures. Indeed, we can describe the first two decades in the twentieth-century West as the era of the federally sustained frontier. New federal agencies staged a sort of inventory clearance of federal lands with increasingly generous homestead terms and promotional pamphlets. Federal agencies such as the Reclamation Service initiated projects that were far larger than local communities or private companies could undertake. The new Forest Service (1905) assisted logging and the National Park Service (1916) helped to develop tourism.
The climax of the federally sustained frontier came with World War I, which linked the minerals, food, and lumber of the West to the appetites of a warring world. The war brought the deepest penetration of farming into marginal lands as the U.S. Food Administration guaranteed prices. Coal, tungsten, and zinc mining boomed, as did coastal shipyards—30,000 workers in Portland and more in Seattle and San Francisco. By 1919, the federal government had helped to advance American enterprise further than ever before—more deeply into mountain valleys, further onto the arid plains, far into the interior of Alaska. In the process, Americans had improved 80 million acres of new farmland, more than doubling the total in nine western states. The western share of national petroleum production rose from 29 percent to 68 percent and the share of timber production from 10 percent to 35 percent. Along with Portland, cities like Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, and San Antonio had doubled in population.
© Carl Abbott, 2004
Themes: People and the Environment,Transportation
Regions: Willamette Valley
Author: Carl Abbott
Oregon’s Exposition coincided with the national era of a federally-sustained frontier.
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