Western Industries: Ranching, Farming, and Mining

U.S. History Gilded Age Western Industries: Mining, Ranching, Farming
Students learn about the growth of the cattle industry following the Civil War. They identify some of the difficulties involved in cattle drives, and then they examine the growth of cow towns. Finally, they reflect on how the cattle industry contributed to westward expansion.

This learning experience is designed for device-enabled classrooms. The teacher guides the lesson, and students use embedded resources, social media skills, and critical thinking skills to actively participate. To get access to a free version of the complete lesson, sign up for an exploros account.

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Here are the teacher pack items for Western Industries: Ranching, Farming, and Mining:

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In this experience, students build a word cloud of associations with cowboys and the Wild West. Then they learn about three major economic activities that developed with westward expansion: ranching, farming, and mining. Next they explain an invention or innovation that impacted these activities. Finally they create a map of economic activity in the United States at the end of the Gilded Age.


  • Analyze economic activity on the western frontier.
  • Explain the impact of inventions and innovations on ranching and farming.


From the days of the early Republic, residents of the United States had turned their eyes longingly westward. Whether driven by the ideal of Manifest Destiny or the more personal dream of owning a small piece of land, the nation was pushing its frontier farther west each generation. Life was different for people leaving the crowded industrial regions of the country and venturing into previously unsettled regions. In this experience you will learn how people made their livings across the western frontier.


  • Analyze economic activity on the western frontier.
  • Explain the impact of inventions and innovations on ranching and farming.

poster advertising Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show

William “Buffalo Bill” Cody helped spread the myth of cowboys and the Wild West
both across the nation and around the world.

In a word or short phrase, post what comes to mind when you hear the words cowboy and Wild West. To list multiple responses, separate them with a comma, like this: ship, pirate.

Post your answer

Being a cowboy was hard, physical work. Yet many people across the United States and even around the world held a romantic vision of the cowboys and the Wild West. How did the myth of the American cowboy originate? One person who contributed to the image was William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He assembled a traveling show called The Wild West, which was a cross between a rodeo and a staged production. Cody hired real ranch workers and American Indians to perform in the show, which toured both the United States and England. In these days before movies or television, many people developed their mental image of the Wild West from the show.

The Student Pack contains a link to a biography of William Cody.

It also includes the link to an article about historical views of land ownership. The contrast between European views (and those of immigrants to the United States who brought these views with them) on land ownership versus the views of American Indians can lead to some interesting class discussion.

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