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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course United States Migration Patterns  by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Chronology - Coming of Age, 1866-1919

1867 On March 30, the United States acquires Alaska in a secret treaty for a total cost of $7,200,000. The territory is put under the control of the Treasury Department.
1869 Riots against the Chinese occur in San Francisco. Chinese laborers have come into the United States in increasing numbers.
1869 The Union Pacific Railroad links up with the Central Pacific Railroad. This connects the United States from coast to coast.
1870 The population, now at 38,358,371, has increased at a rate of 35.6 percent in the decade before the Civil War, slowing down to 22.5 percent in the postwar decade. The black population has declined to 12.7 percent of the total, numbering about 4,000,000. The foreign-born component is about the same size. The nation remains four-fifths rural in 1870. Only 13 cities have populations exceeding 100,000.
1873 The Timber Culture Act, which will remain in effect for 15 years, authorizes grants of an additional quarter of a section (160 acres) to a homesteader who will agree to plant trees on a quarter of his land. The Coal Lands Act opens public lands for purchase by private individuals and groups at prices ranging from $10 to $20 per acre.
Financial panic occurs in the United States due to speculation, inflation, and unlimited credit.
1876 At the Battle of Little Big Horn, Gen. George A. Custer’s entire command is killed by the Indians.
1877 The Desert Land Act is enacted by Congress to encourage development of arid lands in the Great Plains and Southwest.
1877 The Nez Perce battle the Army in Idaho with Chief Joseph defeated as he tries to reach the safety of Canada.
1879 Thousands of terrified blacks, fearing both white rule and tales of Indian attack, sell their small holdings and cross the Mississippi in June. By August, they number 7,000 and find relief in camps in hot, dusty Kansas where they are provided food and shelter. The exodus climaxes and dies down by the end of the year.
1880 Stimulated by a flood of immigrants, America’s population has grown by more than 11.5 million in the last decade to a total of 50 million. Until now, the country has been predominantly rural, populated by Northern and Western Europeans. The United States is becoming increasingly heterogeneous and urban. Americans are still moving West, with much growth in California, Oregon, and Washington.
1883 Both the Northern Pacific and the Southern Pacific Railroads are completed.
1885 The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad is completed.
1887 The Dawes Severalty Act provides for 160 acres to be given individually to each Indian family.
1889 Great tracts of Oklahoma Territory, land formally ceded to the Indians, are opened by government decree to white settlement.
1890 Population has swelled to 63 million, a 25 percent increase in just a decade. The United States no longer has a settlement frontier; the settled areas extend throughout the entire nation. More than a third of the population live in urban areas.
1891 Another 900,000 acres of Indian land in Oklahoma are opened for settlers.
1892 Ellis Island replaces Castle Garden as a reception center for immigrants.
1892  Another 3,000,000 acres of Oklahoma is opened to white settlers as well as 1,8000,000 acres of Indian reservation in Montana.
1893 On September 16, more than 50,000 people rush to settle the Cherokee Strip between Kansas and Oklahoma.
1893 The Great Northern Railroad is completed.
1898 In April, Spain declares war on the United States. The Treaty of Paris, signed December 10 by the U.S. and Spain, ends the Spanish-American War.
1900 The population has jumped to 75.9 million, with New York and Chicago the largest cities. Some 3.5 million immigrants have arrived in the last decade. Foreign-born residents amount to 10 million; second-generation Americans number 26 million. The foreign-born population still consists mostly of Germans, Irish, Canadians, Britons and Swedes (in that order). But the new immigration trend is for Southeastern Europeans, with Slavs, Poles, and Italians settling in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
1901 Status of the former Spanish possessions of Puerto Rico and the Philippines is determined by the Supreme Court. Their inhabitants are American nationals but not American citizens.
1901  Congress votes to grant full American citizenship to all Indians living in the Oklahoma Territory.
1903 For the first time since its invention, a motor car crosses the continent. The journey takes two months. Also during this year, the Wright brothers’ machine takes to the air.
1904 The St. Louis World’s Fair marks the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase.
1905 Portland, Oregon, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Lewis and Clark Expedition on the Pacific Coast.
1906 The city of San Francisco experiences the most disastrous earthquake in the history of America’s West Coast.
1908 Mail-order firms such as Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck have introduced farmers to the appliances, clothes and luxuries of city people at reasonable prices.
1910 This year’s census of 105,710,620 involves a general urbanization of the nation. Only 30 percent of the overall population live on farms. In the last decade, 8.7 percent of the total population immigrated to this country. Over 2/3 of the immigrants made the journey using tickets prepaid by friends, family, or businesses in the United States. Over 35 percent of New Yorkers are foreign-born.
1914 The Panama Canal opens to commerce. The 40-mile journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific is a shortcut that will lessen the voyage between the west and east coasts of North America by some 7,000 miles. Construction began in 1904.
Americans participate in World War I. This ends an era as people become truly “modern.”


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course United States: Migration Patterns offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 16 September 2014, at 20:21.
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