In 1877 the Long Depression ended and the American economy began to grow at a very fast pace. Agriculture was still a large part of the economy. More immigrants were coming to America every year and the nation needed food to feed its growing population. Also, the fertile soil in the Southern and Midwestern states produced wheat, corn and rice that were exported to other countries.
Manufacturing was growing but most factories were still small and most labor was done manually. Machinery for farming rails for the railroad tracks, clothing and glass were some of the products made during this time. Immigrants made up approximately one-third of all the workers in manufacturing industries.
Between 1880 and 1920, American entered a period called the Industrial Revolution. The Northeast and the Midwest were the largest manufacturing areas in America. Manufacturing grew as more railroads opened. Raw materials, such as iron ore for the production of steel and cotton for the production of cloth, could be transported to the factories that were manufacturing the goods. Once the finished products were made, rail lines were used to transport the products to markets within the United States and to seaports for shipment overseas.
Between 1880 and 1890 more than 70,000 miles of rail lines were laid. Every state had access to railroad transportation, including the Pacific coast states. The expansion of the railroad allowed products and raw materials to be moved from coast-to-coast. It also allowed people to travel more easily from one region of the country to another.
The railroad also began to set the stage for the next big surge of growth in America. Immigrants were coming to America in the largest numbers in history. The railroads allowed these newest Americans to spread out across the country. To join communities in the Midwest, of people from their home countries who had already come to America and established cities and communities. Also, the railroads allowed ranchers in the Midwest and Western states to transport cattle and sheep to Eastern states to help feed the growing cities. Because cattle and sheep could now be transported via rail instead of one foot, the animals weighed more when they reached slaughterhouses. These animals were sold by a price per pound. The more the animals weighed the more profit for they made for the ranchers.
The ability to transport livestock, raw materials, finished goods and people all over the nation drove the economy during this period.