Towards the end of the 18th century, a major part of the USA was still covered with natural vegetation. A large portion of the country was inhabited by the Native American Indians who depended on hunting, gathering and fishing for a livelihood. Many of them were nomads while a few, were settled cultivated corn, beans, tobacco and pumpkin for their personal use.
The white settlers, during this time, were confined to a narrow strip of coastal belt in the east. After the American War of Independence between 1775 and 1783 the United States of America was formed and the white settlers were now keen to exploit the many opportunities that the USA presented to them.
The government of the USA adopted a policy of driving out Native American Indians to pave way for the white settlers to spread across the country towards the west. By the beginning of the 18th century, the white settlers settled on the Appalachian Plateau but moved further into the Mississippi Valley between 1820 and 1850.
Their entire landscape changed and replaced the natural wilderness with cultivated fields of corn and wheat. This remarkable change came only after the 1860’s, when the white settlers moved into the Great Plains across the Mississippi river.
The Great Plains became major wheat producing area earning the USA the title of the ‘Bread Basket of the World’. The wheat production in the USA boomed to meet the growing needs of the urban population and the export market.
The development of railways supported this boom, and transporting wheat from the central Great Plains to the ports on the east coast became easy. The big farmers, or the wheat barons as they were called, took full advantage of the First World War when the supply of wheat to Europe from Russia was cut off.
The situation at that time can be aptly understood in US President Wilson’s famous words when he called upon farmers to ‘Plant more wheat, wheat will win the war.’ From advent of a systematic agriculture, to the wheat boom in late 19th century, the wheat production in the USA had expanded by 65% by 1920, making USA the Bread Basket of the world!