Social Mobility 1877-1890
Achieving higher social levels seemed to be on everyone’s mind as they traveled west. Wealth perceived attainable to everyone through advertisements all over the world. Therefore, western life attracted optimistic people who hoped to make their fortune. However, American residents during 1877-1890 did not have access to social mobility because the west contrary to most belief was not a great place for upward social mobility. The wealth was solely concentrated amongst a few people.
Those with wealth were able to use it to gain more power and wealth, those without it did not often climb the social/economic ladder. The railroad companies are a great example of wealth being used to gain more.
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They inflated the prices on tickets“…stung by exorbitant rates and secret kick backs farmers and small business owners turned to state government for help. ” (The Enduring Vision, Ch. 18 pg. 544-545) yet “…showered free passes on politicians, and granted substantial rebates and kick backs to favored clients” (The Enduring Vision, Ch. 8 pg. 544-545). Through corruption within the railroad companies as well as others, there was no room for vast social mobility.
For the average westerner life was primarily a continuous struggle for success, with minimum conveniences. Most men would think that“…improvement in education, science, art or government expands the chances of man on earth” but no, “Such expansions is no guarantee of equality. ” (Reading the American Past, William Graham Sumner on Social Obligations. Pg 45-8). Unfortunately, success was measured in materialistic terms. The man who moved west had no desire to create a new world; he just wanted to have a better standard of living than he could have back East.
Johnson, Michael P. Reading The American Past: 4th edition Volume 2, From 1865. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Boyer, Paul S. , Clifford E. Clark Jr. , Karen Halttunen, Joseph F. Kett, Neal Salisbury, Harvard Sitkoff, Nancy Woloch. The Enduring Vision: Seventh Edition, A History of the American People. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011, 2008.