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1890-1900
1900-1917

Events of the West (1900 - 1917)

   
1901 The Spindletop oil gusher in Beaumont, Texas, opens a century when "black gold" will play a vital role in the economy of the West, as Americans exchange the horse for the horsepower of the automobile.
1901 Congresss confers U.S. citizenship on all Native Americans residing in the Oklahoma Territory after the failure of an 1890 law that offered citizenship to Indians who applied for it. Only four applicants had taken advantage of the earlier law, all of whom evidently suffered ostracism for adopting the white man's ways.
1902 Owen Wister publishes The Virginian, a novel romanticizing cowboy life in the Wyoming cattle country of the 1870s which introduces the strong, silent hero and the climactic "showdown" to the growing myth of the American West.
1902

Theodore Roosevelt at the dedication of the first Reclamation Service project in ArizonaPresident Theodore Roosevelt secures passage of the Newlands Reclamation Act, an unprecedented law authorizing federal construction of dams and reservoirs in the West funded by public land sales. The act is designed to promote settlement (rather than industry) by limiting tracts within the water project areas to 160 acres, in accordance with the 1862 Homestead Act, and is designed to be self-sustaining by passing the costs of construction on to water-users, who are to assume management of each project once the federal government has been reimbursed.

In practice, these latter aspects of the law often prove unworkable, and the effect of the Newlands Act is to institute a massive federally-funded public works program operating under bureaucratic control that measures its success by the number of dams built and the millions of acres of water impounded. By this measure, the Newlands Act achieves outstanding success, leading ultimately to the colossal projects of the Depression years: Hoover Dam, the Grand Coulee Dam, Shasta Dam and the Glen Canyon Dam.

1905 President Theodore Roosevelt transfers management of the federal forest reserves to the United States Forest Service, an agency headed by college-trained conservationist Gifford Pinchot. Invoking scientific principles and applying bureaucratic procedures, Pinchot works effectively to guarantee the long-term usefulness of western timberlands, resisting business interests that would exploit them for short-term profit as well as preservationists, led by John Muir, who would remove them forever from the national economy.
1905 Western Federation of Miners official, William K. "Big Bill" Haywood, hoping to broaden the base of unionism in the West, co-founds the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a socialist organization opposed to capitalism and dedicated to the creation of "One Big Union" for all members of the working class rather than individual unions for each industry. IWW members become known as "Wobblies," a nickname that has never been successfully explained.
1906

A devastating earthquake virtually destroys San Francisco, setting off fires that burn out eight square miles in the city, leaving 250,000 homeless.

Devil's TowerCongress adopts the Preservation of American Antiquities Act, designed primarily to protect historic sites for posterity. President Theodore Roosevelt turns the law to his conservationist purposes by using it to preserve natural treasures, like Devil's Tower in Wyoming and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, which he designates National Monuments.

1906 The San Francisco school board orders segregation of Asian children in the city's public schools, setting off an international crisis when Japan protests that such discrimination violates its treaty relationships with the United States.
1907 Oklahoma enters the union.
1907 Hoping to repair U.S. relationships with Japan, President Theodore Roosevelt persuades the San Francisco school board to reverse its order segregating Asian students. As a result, Roosevelt wins Japan's agreement to a new immigration policy that will bar Japanese and Korean laborers from the United States, thereby effectively extending the Chinese Exclusion Act to all Asian nationals.
1908 President Theodore Roosevelt creates a National Conservation Commission to propose policy for using the country's natural resources in a way that will maintain their usefulness into the future. For the commissioners, conservation involves regulated and efficient exploitation of Western land, not preservation of the Western landscape for its own sake.
1909 Under the Dawes Act, 700,000 acres of former tribal land is opened to white settlers in Washington, Idaho and Montana. The steady erosion of tribal integrity represented by the Dawes Act will continue until its repeal in 1934.
1909 The Selig Polyscope Company leads the exodus of motion picture companies from the east coast to Los Angeles, where the mild climate, abundant sunshine and variety of natural backdrops provide the ingredients for year-round filmmaking in the era of outdoor production.
1909 The Industrial Workers of the World, led by "Big Bill" Haywood, bring the Montana timber industry to a standstill through a series of strikes reinforced by "direct action" tactics that include sabotage and arson. This willingness to use violence as a force for social reform, which some link to the union's Western heritage, together with a commitment to radical socialism, sharpens opposition to the Wobblies among industrialists and more conservative unionists alike.
1911 The Nestor Company opens the first film studio in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, taking over a tavern closed by temperance activists. Within the decade, "Hollywood" will become the nickname for an entertainment industry destined to make the West the source of American popular culture and home of America's most incandescent cultural stars.
1912 Arizona and New Mexico enter the Union. Arizona, Kansas and Oregon give women the right to vote.
1913 William MulhollandWilliam Mulholland completes construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, an engineering marvel that stretches more than 200 miles through mountains and over desert to bring his city the water it needs to grow. Tapping the Owens River in the Sierra Nevada, the aqueduct transforms the once fertile Owens Valley into a watershed for what will one day be the most populous city in the nation, providing a forecast of issues that will arise repeatedly as water resources are redistributed across the West.
1913 The U.S. Mint issues the "Buffalo" or "Indian Head" nickel, with an Indian's head shown in profile on the side inscribed "Liberty" and a buffalo on the side bearing the motto "E pluribus unum," or "From many, one." The unconscious irony of the design makes the coin almost an emblem of the nation's complex relationship to its Western heritage.
1913 California adopts the Alien Land Law, which targets Japanese in the state by making it illegal for aliens ineligible for citizenship to own farmland or lease it for more than three years. President Woodrow Wilson voices objection to the law, fearing its effect on U.S. relations with Japan.
1913 The Industrial Workers of the World fail in their pioneering attempt to win better wages and working conditions for migrant workers at the Durst hop ranch in Wheatland, California, when police intervention sparks a riot in which four people are killed.
1914 Socialist mine workers overthrow the Western Federation of Miners in Butte, Montana, where it has represented labor interests since 1892. Accusing WFM leaders of election fraud and collusion with the copper companies, the insurgents blow up the union hall, leading Montana's governor to send in the state militia to restore order. While the city is under martial law, company officials take advantage of the situation by withdrawing union recognition, leaving miners on both sides of the dispute without job protections.
1914 Copper miners at work in Butte, MontanaNational Guardsmen and security agents attack striking mine workers at Ludlow, Colorado, setting fire to their tent city and shooting them down as they flee. Three men, two women and 13 children are killed in the "Ludlow Massacre," which company and National Guard officials defend as necessary to prevent anarchy.
1914 The Panama Canal is completed, opening a new economic era in the West as Pacific seaports suddenly find themselves positioned on the world's busiest sea lanes.
1915 The first tourist automobiles enter Yellowstone Park.
1915 Joe Hill, whose radical protest songs made him the troubador of the Industrial Workers of the World, is executed by a firing squad in Salt Lake City, convicted of a murder no one saw him commit and for which he had no motive. IWW President "Big Bill" Haywood makes Hill's case a national sensation, raising a popular outcry that causes even President Wilson to urge clemency, but without success. On the eve of his execution, Hill sends Haywood a telegram that confirms his place among the Western heroes of American radicalism: "Don't waste time mourning. Organize."
1916 William E. Boeing, a Seattle timber baron, establishes the Boeing Airplane Company with a contract to build 50 biplanes for the Navy. His factory is the harbinger of an aerospace industry that will flourish in the West, drawing billions in government funds to the region.
1916 A six-month-long lumber strike organized by the Industrial Workers of the World leads to violence in Everett, Washington, where a sheriff's posse makes union members run a ganlet that leaves the roadway stained with blood, then opens fire at a protest rally, killing five and wounding 31. Still the Wobblies press their call for "One Big Union."
1917 "Buffalo Bill" Cody dies in Denver, Colorado, where he is buried in a tomb blasted out of Lookout Mountain.
1917 The United States declares war on Germany, entering World War I.

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