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Anyway, does this notion that the mere potential of the railroad opened [or played a previously unrecognized role in opening] the frontier deserve more research? That is the kind of thing I'm wondering about in regard to railroads.
His story is not unique and in it's broadest terms was quite common. the public consciousness was so infused with railroad fever that separating it from Manifest Destiny would be difficult.
But by 1843 when settlers began moving to Oregon by the wagonload, this clearly had changed.
(Texas fits in here, too, but there seems to have been a mixed bag of expectations – whether it was really American expansion, or merely emigration).
and how were those expectations manifest in daily living (manifest by people who had never seen a train)?
There is a story – perhaps more myth than true – that Leland Stanford told his seasick wife on their way to California that he would build her a railroad for her return journey.
But that great work, colossal as appears the plan on its first suggestion, cannot remain long unbuilt.