Making a Living in Gold and Cattle

Review Questions

Which of the following groups was not impacted by the invention of barbed wire?

  1. ranchers
  2. cowboys
  3. farmers
  4. illegal prostitutes



The American cowboy owes much of its model to what other culture?

  1. Mexicans
  2. Indians
  3. Northern European immigrants
  4. Chinese immigrants



How did mining and cattle ranching transform individual “get rich quick” efforts into “big business” efforts when the nineteenth century came to a close?


In the cases of both mining and cattle ranching, diminishing resources played a key role. In mining, the first prospectors were able to pan for gold with crude and inexpensive materials, and therefore, almost anyone could head west and try his luck. Similarly, the quantity of cattle and the amount of grazing land meant that cowboys and would-be cattle barons had ample room to spread out. But as the easiest minerals were stripped away and large-scale ranchers purchased, developed, and fenced off grazing land, opportunities diminished. It took significantly more resources to tunnel down into a mine than it did to pan for gold; instead of individual prospectors, companies would assess a site’s potential and then seek investment to hire workers and drill deep into the earth. Likewise, as the cattle trails were over-grazed, ranchers needed to purchase and privatize large swaths of land to prepare their cattle for market.