The Mexican War resulted in Mexico ceding an area from Texas to California to the United States, extending the country to the Pacific Coast and immensely increasing its territorial assets and economic potential. The acquisition benefited the gold, silver, iron, copper, cattle, farming, banking, real estate, railroad, and telegraph industries, decisively advancing U.S. industrialization and financial strength.
The Mexican War ended with the signing of the Treaty of
In August, 1848, gold was discovered in
Mining brought many other businesses to San Francisco. In 1853 Levi
The San Francisco-based Bank of California opened in 1864 and immediately became one of the richest banks in the country, financing extensive commercial, manufacturing, and real estate enterprises.
Along the East Coast, the need to transport goods to the gold fields stimulated business development. The long route by sea, around the southern tip of South America, required fast ships. Shipbuilding industries accelerated their production of clippers, the fastest vessels on the sea. In 1840, the Cunard Line introduced transoceanic steamship travel, which eventually replaced clipper transport.
Companies providing rapid overland transportation also emerged. Wells Fargo (founded in 1852) developed rapid pony and stagecoach delivery of passengers, goods, and communications. During the 1860’s, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads extended their lines from California and Nebraska, respectively, to meet in Utah, linking the country from coast to coast. A multiplier industry, railroads stimulated a host of businesses, including iron, steel, coal, and oil enterprises. The Western Union Telegraph company (founded in 1851) had established a transcontinental communication line by 1861.
Wherever transportation and communication improved in the West, settlement and land values of adjacent areas increased. The Great Plains became an agricultural breadbasket, exporting foodstuffs to the industrializing East and Europe.
Further wealth came from California.
The Mexican War fundamentally changed the nature of how business was conducted in the West. Under Mexico, enterprise in the region had been corporate and regulated. After the U.S. acquisition of the land, businesses became entrepreneurial and shaped by market competition. Moreover, a culture that was mostly Hispanic and Catholic became predominantly Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.
Crawford, Mark, David S. Heidler, and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds. Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 1999. Concise compilation of information on the issues, regions, and individuals engaged in the events leading up to and through the conclusion of the war. Frazier, Donald S., ed. The United States and Mexico at War: Nineteenth-Century Expansionism and Conflict. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998. Examines both the war and the desire of the United States to expand to the West Coast. Hine, Robert V., and John Mack Faragher. The American West: A New Interpretive History. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000. The middle chapters of this work concentrate on the development of the mining, cattle, and transportation industries in the decades immediately after the Mexican War. Includes maps and extensive bibliography. Rayner, Richard. The Associates: Four Capitalists Who Created California. New York: Atlas, 2008. Traces the lives of Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker, four nineteenth century U.S. railroad and banking investors who laid the foundations of the entrepreneurial wealth of California. Torr, James D., ed. The American Frontier. San Diego, Calif.: Greenwood Press, 2002. An examination of the history of the American West that looks at how the area was settled and developed. Contains essays covering mining and cattle operations.
California gold rush