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Moving West: Westward Expansion in the United States

In the history of the United States, there have been many events that have changed the face of the country. Events such as the American Revolution, Civil War, Repeal of Slavery, Prohibition and many other key moments have helped shape the way the United States is today. Many of these key events began after the American Revolution, and have led to the way the country is today. These moments were vital for the westward expansion from the eastern cities to the frontiers of the west.

Following the American Revolution, the colonies needed to band together to form a united country. The original thirteen colonies were all located in the eastern portion of what is now known as the United States. However, with vast amount of land available, it was crucial for people to explore these expanses and see if they can become settled. Beginning with the Louisiana Purchase which gained a large portion of land for the United States and the subsequent exploration of the area by Lewis and Clark, the look of the country changed.

Over time, since the early 1800's, many key events have changed the country. They include events such as the Indian Removal Act which allowed the settlers to relocate the Native Americans in the west. This led to the California Gold Rush and the implementation of the Transcontinental Railway. With the new areas promising to be beneficial to new settlers, the Homestead Act and Indian Appropriation Act allowed for new homesteaders to have land available and also helped Native Americans reclaim portions of their land to live.

To understand more about the events that helped shape the United States in the 1800's, here are some links and information:

Louisiana Purchase

  • Louisiana Purchase History — Historical rendering and information on the event that helped shape the growth of the United States.
  • Louisiana Purchase — Informative look at the events surrounding the historic land purchase from France.
  • Teaching About the Louisiana Purchase — Helpful article providing guidance on how to teach points about the Louisiana Purchase.
  • Louisiana Purchase — Useful historic information about the United State's purchase of land from France.
  • Original Treaty — Photos and transcript from the National Archive about the historic purchase from France.

Lewis and Clark Pacific Expedition

  • Lewis and Clark Westward Expedition — Historic information on the expedition and advice on how to use it in teaching about westward expansion in the U.S.
  • Lewis and Clark — Brief biographical look at the lives of the famous explorers.
  • Expedition Journals — Eventful journals chronicling the expedition of Lewis and Clark.
  • Expedition Game — Fun game to help children learn about the route taken by Lewis and Clark during their expedition.
  • Exploration Maps — Historical images of the maps that were used by Lewis and Clark in exploring the west.

Indian Removal Act

  • Indian Removal Act — Wording and information on the 1830 legislation to help push westward expansion.
  • Lesson Plan — Educational site providing information on how to present the Indian Removal Act to students.
  • Indian Removal Act of 1830 — Background and historical information on the passing of legislation in the United States.

California Gold Rush

  • Gold Rush History — Brief history and outline of the events leading to the California Gold Rush.
  • The Gold Rush — Informative site from PBS providing information and background on the Gold Rush.
  • Discovery of Gold in California — Historical images are displayed in this exhibit from the San Francisco Museum.
  • Gold Rush — Information and narratives of some events around the California Gold Rush.

Transcontinental Railway

Homestead Act

  • Homestead Act — Overview of the implementation of the 1862 legislation which helped fuel expansion.
  • The Homestead Act — Information on the government bill which encouraged homesteaders to settle in the west by providing them land.
  • Homestead Act and Farming — Useful historic information on the legislation which helped fuel westward expansion and farming.

Indian Appropriation Act

Other Westward Expansion Resources

We hope you enjoyed learning about the growth of the United States in the 1800's. From these events during the 19th Century, the shape of the United States was changed forever.