Departure of a Colony of Emigrants at Train Station

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Departure of a Colony of Emigrants at Train Station


By: Anonymous

Date: 1869

Source: © Corbis.

About the Artist: The artist is unknown. This image is part of the collection of the Corbis Corporation, headquartered in Seattle. Corbis maintains a worldwide archive of more than seventy million images.


Since the first settlements on the Atlantic coast, Americans had been moving westward in search of better opportunities. To many, it was their god-given or manifest destiny to fill up the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They viewed Americans as chosen people who had divine blessing to multiply and to push out the Native Americans. Many whites would eventually prosper in the West but survival in a such a challenging environment proved to be quite difficult and a good number of people failed.

By the 1840s, American settlers had reached the Missouri River. From there, until they reached the West Coast, pioneers had to cross plains, mountains, and deserts. Many, however, found other ways to reach California and Oregon. Pioneers with enough money to do so traveled by sailing ship around South America, while others sailed to Panama, traveled on foot or by horse across the Isthmus, and then sailed up the Pacific coast. (The Panama Canal was not yet built). The Great Plains of the West, also known as the Great American Desert, were strewn with the wrecks of wagons, the bones of cows and oxen, and the graves of the unlucky.

On the eve of the Civil War in 1865, approximately 175,000 white Americans and a sprinkling of blacks were in the future states of Montana, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho, and Colorado. Except for the 25,000 Mormons who settled in Utah, almost all of them moved around frequently like the Native American inhabitants. Most settlement of the American west came after the Civil War, aided by the construction of railroads that speeded and eased travel. Immigrants could board a train and spend a couple of days traveling safely to their destination instead of devoting months to a risky trip.



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In 1890, the U.S. Census announced the end of the frontier as a clear dividing line between settled and undeveloped areas. The frontier no longer existed. The availability of free land and influence of the frontier had played a major role in American history from the founding of the colonies. The West had been a place where emigrants could start anew. An era had closed. In short order, the western territories became states.

Colorado, the destination of many emigrants, became as settled as the rest of the nation. Its growth in the years since World War II has been typical of the states in the Mountain West. The state grew by 156 percent from 1950 to 1992, with much of this growth occurring after 1970. Most of the change came from interstate migration, drawn to Colorado for employment and the attractiveness of its environment. Up until the mid-1990s, Colorado's immigrant population remained small and politically inconsequential. This changed by the start of the twenty-first century with Mexican immigrants in particular becoming much more of a political concern. Along with other Mountain West states, Colorado is experiencing a boom in Latino immigration that has the potential to significantly shape the state's future.



Abbott, Carl, Stephen J. Leonard, and Thomas J. Noel. Colorado: A History of the Centennial State. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2001.

Casper, Scott E., and Lucinda M. Long. Moving Stories: Migration and the American West, 1850–2000. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2001.

Gimpel, James G. Separate Destinations: Migration, Immigration, and the Politics of Places. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.

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Departure of a Colony of Emigrants at Train Station

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Departure of a Colony of Emigrants at Train Station