THE valley of the Mississippi River and its tributaries is the core of the republic. It comprises, between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rockies, about one million two hundred and fifty thousand square miles, almost exactly one third of the entire area of the United States. Within these limits are included nearly all types of soil and life that characterize the nation. The flanks of the valley rest in the extreme East and the far West, while in the North it touches the frozen clime of Manitoba, and in the South the great river empties among the semitropical foliage and fruits of Louisiana. There is the widest variety in its surface, including forest, prairie, and mountain, the richest soil and the most arid, great pastoral plains and closely tilled farm lands. There is the same variety in the occupations of the millions of people who live in this vast area. There are farmers everywhere. There are miners in the cast, in Illinois and Missouri, on the slopes of the western mountains, and on the shores of Lake Superior. There are lumbermen in Minnesota and Wisconsin, sugar planters in Louisiana, cotton planters in Mississippi, manufacturers and merchants clustered in all the crowded cities. The resources for creating wealth are many and various; and all of them are eagerly employed with the energy, and with the success, too, that mark the great West.
The interchange of products which makes possible an advanced civilization requires means of communication and transportation that shall be convenient, rapid and comparatively cheap. This the valley affords, in the first instance, by its extensive system of water ways. The Mississippi is the great central artery of travel. From the head of navigation at Minneapolis to the Gulf there are twenty-two hundred miles of channel on which a steamboat may float. The two giant branches, the Missouri and the Ohio, penetrate the Northwest and the Northeast with twelve hundred and