Americas Acceptance Of Ruins In The 19th Century Research Paper

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Americas Acceptance of Ruins During the 19th Century
When America was a young nation it believed that it was not plagued with the past that would hinder itself. It was as if having ruins and a bloody history muddied the present and future. During the 1830 's through the 1870 's this began to change. Americans began embracing ruins and the past that was connected to such as burial mounds, abandoned houses and whole towns, and the natural antiquity of America as a way to be superior to Europe. Americans viewed the western United States as a vast open wilderness ready for their taking. Not only was this land in need of human cultivation it was a god given destiny. The United States and Americans were giving this land by a divine being; this
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One example of this was the mounds in the Mississippi river valley. Priest believed these mounds to be better than Europe for three main reasons, "number, magnitude, and obscurity of origins (Priest, 38)." Because of these observations he believed these ruins to be those of earlier European decent at least 600 years ago, rather than ancestors of modern Native Americans. By Priest viewing Native Americans as inferior, it was easy to dismiss them as the possible collaborators of the mounds. He speculated the ruins could possibly be from traveling Europeans such as Egyptians, Tartars, or Danes (Priest, iv). These civilizations in Priest views were capable of building such exquisite mounds. The Native Americans in contrast could not. He believed Native Americans could not sustain a population large enough to explain the amount of bodies found in the mound, because of their food sources and type of community they lived in. Because Americans moving westward held these views of Native Americans and their ruins, it made it easier for westward expansion. Pioneers could then move westward with less remorse for taking Native American lands and ruins, such as the mounds, if they believed that it has not been settled for nearly 600 years and they are inferior as …show more content…
One example of this is found in the book Sketches of Urban and Cultural Life by Friedrich Ratzel. In this book, Ratzel goes to the Adirondacks and various parts of the United States. While in the Adirondacks he finds an almost completely abandoned city thought was once a potential mining town. This mining town appeared as though everyone left spontaneously but with intentions of coming back. The bank was cleared out, but the schools and other buildings still had belongings as well as the equipment for mining. The people left the town because of the lack of railroad to the town to take away the iron ore. Two people were left to watch over the equipment until the railroad company built up into the mountains. While Ratzel was there he also encountered other tourists in the area, indicating the potential start of ruins as tourism (Ratzel, 291-293). The abandoned town represents the improvement of the American economy after the 1873 economic downturn. The people had better options so they chose to pursue those, while still having a prospect to come back to this particular area once the railroad comes through. Ratzel viewed ruins as things that dot America as Americans moved westward; they were a sign of an increasing economy. The ruins Americans left behind could be resurrected unlike those of European

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