Abbildungen der Seite

All went smoothly on this trip. The cable was laid, messages were sent to and fro, and events which happened on one side of the ocean could be made known a few minutes later on the other side. Not only had Mr. Field


Bringing the Cable Ashore.

succeeded in laying a cable, but he now also proved that a broken cable could be mended by sending a ship to the place where the broken cable lay. Its big grappling hooks sank several thousand feet below the surface of the ocean, were dragged about on the bottom, and finally caught the cable near the loose end. It was then carefully hauled up and joined to some cable on board, and the vessel then proceeded to lay the rest of that wire, too.

To accomplish his aim, Field had worked hard for more than thirteen years, had spent all his own money, besides large sums supplied by his friends and the government, and had crossed the Atlantic thirty-one times. But his patience now reaped its reward. The cable proved so useful that fortune and honors were bestowed upon the man who alone had not lost courage, in spite of many failures.

Now there are more than a dozen cables across the Atlantic Ocean, and, before long, wires across the Pacific will complete the circuit of our globe. Cables also connect our country with many of the West Indies, and with South America.

In 1867, one year after the Atlantic cables were in perfect working order, and the same year that Mexico recovered her freedom, the United States bought Alaska from Russia for about seven million dollars. Secretary Seward urged this purchase, but Congress did not, at first, favor

[graphic][merged small]

it, saying that the United States did not need such an expensive " refrigerator."

Still, the furs, timber, and fishing were very valuable, and the seals alone brought in about two million dollars a year. Thus Alaska more than paid for its own purchase even before gold was discovered there. Since that discovery, the land, cold and uninviting as it may otherwise seem, attracts hosts of miners, who rush thither as they did to California in 1849, in hopes of making a fortune in a very short time. Many of them are now working hard along the Yu'kon River, where much gold has already been found.

When a new presidential election was held, in 1868, three of the Southern states were still unrepresented in Congress. The country this time elected Ulysses S. Grant, the hero of the Civil War, to be the eighteenth President of the United States. He was, as you know, a good, firm, and very silent man; but every one says he was a much better general than a politician.

Shortly after Grant's inauguration, a very important and interesting ceremony took place. Even before the war, a plan had been made to build a railroad all the way across our continent. This was absolutely necessary, because the " Pony Express" and stagecoaches were far too slow means of travel. Indeed, when California first asked to come into the Union, a member of Congress proved that a representative of California could spend only a fortnight each year in Washington, for he would have to be on the.road all the rest of the time.

But the day of slow travel was nearly over. One railroad company began building westward from O'ma-ha, while another started from Sacramento to meet it. Although nine mountain chains had to be crossed, and trains had to go first up and then down seven thousand feet, the work was carried on with such energy that finally it was all done. On a certain day in 1869 the directors of the two roads set out, with their friends, and the two engines met at Og'den, in Utah. Here the last spike—it was made of gold—was driven in, amid great rejoicings.

People could now travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific in less time, and with far more comfort, than Washington had traveled from Boston to New York. Besides, the railroad was a great help to commerce, for goods from China and Japan could now be shipped direct to San Francisco or Sacramento, and thence be sent across the continent, reaching New York about a month after they had left the shore of Asia. Before long, too, this railroad, and others like it, were supplied with refrigerator cars, and now people on the Atlantic coast eat cherries, peaches, grapes, and many other fruits which have ripened on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

[ocr errors]


THE Union Pacific Railroad brought about many other improvements. Emigrants were no longer afraid to travel farther westward, where the government promised to give them farms, or "homesteads." They quickly settled all along the new railroad. Before long several prosperous towns arose in the far West, also, and train after train bore produce from Western farms to the Eastern market. Many of the broad prairies, where huge herds

[graphic][merged small]

of bison once fed, are now plowed by steam, and immense fields of wheat can be seen stretching on every side as far as the eye can reach.

Thus, you see, our country was growing—growing fast. In spite of the war, where so many were killed, the census of 1870 showed that there were about thirty-nine million inhabitants in our country, and that wealth had increased as fast as the people. Railways and steamboats greatly helped commerce, and since the weather signal service was established, in the year 1870, fewer vessels have been lost at sea.

Still, while the East and West were prospering, the South had a very hard time to get on, for in some states the colored voters outnumbered the white. Schools had

« ZurückWeiter »