News broke that members of Congress had been involved in rail industry corruption. The Union Pacific Railroad company had been hired to build part of the transcontinental railway. Instead of hiring outside contractors to complete the construction, however, Union Pacific vice president Thomas Durant and Union Pacific’s other largest stockholders organized their own construction company—Crédit Mobilier—and awarded the UP building contract to themselves. Durant and other Crédit Mobilier executives reaped major profits for themselves from the...
Congress passed the Desert Land Act to promote the development of arid western lands. The act allowed settlers 640 acres of public land at a cost of twenty-five cents per acre in return for settlers’ promise to irrigate the land within three years.
Hostilities between settlers and the Nez Perce Indians became violent in June 1877. For the next four months, the Nez Perce were pursued by the US Army, and the two sides clashed across Montana and Idaho. In October, led by Chief Joseph, the Indians surrendered. Though promised a safe return to their Oregon homeland, the Nez Perce were relocated to Kansas and Oklahoma.
Railroad workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia, initiated a strike to protest working conditions and wages. The strike spread and lasted more than a month, sparking violence and damaging the economy before being put down by federal troops.
At the Democratic National Convention, Nebraska’s William Jennings Bryan delivered his “Cross of Gold” speech and was nominated for president. Populism had helped transform the Democratic Party and lift Bryan to become the first major candidate from west of the Mississippi, though he did not win the election.