Land Departments and Bureaus of Immigration

Land-grant railroads became the West's principal colonizers. Their benefit was two-fold: newcomers would not only buy their land, but create way traffic previously lacking in the barely settled region. Soon every western railroad set up both a Land Department and a Bureau of Immigration. The Land Department took care of selling the alternate sections granted by the government and priced the land - usually at from $2 to $8 an acre. It arranged credit terms needed by the immigrants and supervised numerous activities to attract prospects: reduced round-trip tickets for possible buyers, land-viewing expeditions where purchasers were luxuriously entertained, elaborate "reception houses" along the way where buyers and land viewers were accommodated. Land Departments worked long and hard to attract settlers.

The Bureaus of Immigration were equally active. Their task was to advertise the Great Plains until the whole world contributed a share of its population to the region. Those who settled on railroad lands were welcome, and those who did not were equally welcome as producers of goods the railroads could carry. All railroads had agents in eastern seaboard cities to greet immigrants, arrange their transportation west, and make sure that no rival company lured away prospective settlers. Agencies were also set up in Europe. The example of the Northern Pacific Railroad's pattern - a central office in London with branches in Liverpool, Germany, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries - was followed by most lines. Agents were usually returned immigrants with excellent persuasive powers, or the prominent figures in their communities. In Scandinavian countries, ministers were often employed to influence people to migrate.

The agent's primary mission was to present the American West as a land of milk and honey to every European. Their brochures, newspaper advertisements, and posters were glossy examples of exaggeration. The Northern Pacific Railroad assured possible settlers the new country was so healthy, every known disease was cured there. A Union Pacific agent transformed the Platte Valley into a "flowery meadow of great fertility clothed in nutritious grasses, and watered by numerous streams[43]". Usually the leaflets emphasized the profits waiting for settlers on the Great Plains, and stories of personal success were often used to illustrate this point. Writers were eager to point out how comfortable and easy settling on the prairie was, as opposed to settling in a region covered with timber. "Nature seems to have provided protection for man and beast; all that is required is diligent labor and economy to ensure an early reward[44] ", a Union Pacific writer claimed.

The women were not left out. One Burlington brochure indicated to them that men so outnumbered ladies in the West, that "when a daughter of the East is once beyond the Missouri, she rarely recrosses it except on a bridal tour.[45]" The railroads promised everybody homes and wealth in the heavenly west[46]. Statistics do point out that states such as Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio experienced a noticeable increase in population, construction, and manufacturing following the completion of rail lines across their territories. And these states together with Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kansas replaced New York and Pennsylvania as the granary of the nation[47] .