Friday, April 5, 2013

East vs. West Coast Mentality

One really interesting thing going on during the "Old West" is this very distinct division of east coast vs. west coast mentality.  Keep in mind that original thirteen colonies were British.  So even though the colonies won their independence from the British in 1776, many of the inhabitants were still heavily drawing cues from their former rulers a mere 70ish years later.  The United States of America was the new kid on the block with no distinct cultural identity.

So on the one hand we have the east coast which, by that point, had quite a few major cities.  It was "civilized" and there was a strong sense of class/society levels despite the lack of nobility.  Manufacturing was taking place which make quite a few individuals wealthy.  In order to gain status, the "new money" would travel to Europe and try to marry titled spouses.  The fact that marrying the daughter or son of an earl counted for something in the eyes of American society is significant.

On the other hand, you have the people heading west to make a fresh start, either from desperation or a craving for adventure.  Cities were crowded and smelly.  Plus it was no easy task climbing your way out of the lower classes.  So the prospect of becoming a landowner was appealing.

Both the east coast and the west coast produced a breed of self-made men.  One came from dealings with the old world and the other came from starting completely from scratch.  At the time the points of view seemed almost incompatible but really what was happening was the beginning of what would be the American identity.