The Need for Freight Wagons

“Moreover, no goods were manufactured west of the Mississippi; everything used there had to be shipped from the East. The manufacturing states east of the Mississippi routinely moved goods along navigable rivers, barge canals, and, increasingly, railroads; yet none of these conveniences existed west of the Mississippi. In that whole western expanse, only the Missouri River could be used by steamboats for any great distance, and the Missouri was hazardous as well as indirect. From St. Louis its path meandered 3,175 miles far to the northwest, so that even steamboats capable of braving its unpredictable shallows to its distant headwaters at Fort benton still found themselves at least 1,000 miles north of California or New Mexico or Salt Lake. In effect only one means existed for moving bulk supplies and heave machinery across the Great American desert: the freight wagon.”