There were some relevant national events prior to 1893 that affected life in Bozeman and the formation of a college. In 1862 the U.S. Congress passed the (first) Homestead Act that encouraged people to move West and the (first) Land Grant act that appropriated public lands to be managed for supporting public Colleges. The U.S. Congress officially recognized the Territory of Montana in 1864 and admitted Montana as the 41st state in 1889. Yellowstone National Park was established by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.

The country did not recover from the Panic of 1893 until about 1897. It is remarkable that the people in Bozeman were able to found and open their land grant institution in 1893. In the first few months of the depression, more than 8,000 businesses, 156 railroads, and 400 banks collapsed. Workers strikes occurred across the country, sometimes resulting in violence. One in five Americans lost their jobs. It seems a contradiction that the 1890s, have often been called the “Gay Nineties,” referring to the fact that the decade was full of merriment and optimism. However, Mark Twain called the decade the “Gilded Age,” alluding to the seemingly profitable era that was riddled with crime and poverty. 

The Second Industrial Revolution was well underway, bringing advancements in manufacturing and production technology that enabled the widespread adoption of technological systems such as telegraph and railroad networks, gas and water supply, and sewage systems. Commercial production of automobiles was just beginning. The term “mass production” was coined in the 1890s, when factories got bigger and faster, when the number of people who worked in them skyrocketed, and when the men who owned them got staggeringly rich.3   As the Bozeman college was struggling to get started, Chicago hosted the 1893 World's Fair. It was an influential social and cultural event and had a profound effect on architecture, sanitation, the arts, Chicago's self-image, and American industrial optimism.

Incumbent Democratic President Grover Cleveland, who was politically damaged by the Panic of 1893, did not seek election to a second term. In the 1896 election, William McKinley, the Republican candidate, defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court arrived at the tragic decision in the Plessy v. Ferguson case that Jim Crow laws did not violate the Constitution; that is, it asserted that separation and equality were wholly separate ideas. Segregation, based on “separate but equal,” would persist in the U.S. until the 1960s. Cities and counties in the North and West passed racial zoning laws, banning blacks from the middle-class communities. For example, in 1890 Montana, blacks lived in all fifty-six counties in the state; by 1930, they’d been confined to just eleven.6

In 1898 the U.S. became involved in the Spanish-American War. The war lasted only 4 months and ended with the U.S. acquiring Spain’s colonies of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, while Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. Then the U.S. became embroiled in the Philippine–American War (1899–1902) which led to U.S. occupation of the Philippines. The United States' vision of itself as a "defender of democracy" and as a major world power began during this period.

National Events during Era 2
 Beginning of Era 2

Table of Contents

(Last revised: 2021-04-17)