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Westward Expansion and the Old West

History

Westward Expansion
California Gold Rush
First Transcontinental Railroad
Glossary and Terms
Homestead Act and Land Rush
Louisiana Purchase
Mexican American War
Oregon Trail
Pony Express
Timeline of Westward Expansion
Frontier Life
Cowboys
Daily Life on the Frontier
Log Cabins

People of the West
Daniel Boone
Famous Gunfighters
Lewis and Clark
James K. Polk
Sacagawea
Thomas Jefferson


The original thirteen colonies of the United States were settled along the east coast of North America. For many years, few colonists went beyond the Appalachian Mountains. However, as the country gained independence and continued to grow, more land was needed. The country began to expand into the western frontier.


History of the US expansion west
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Early Expansion

In 1700 there were around 250,000 colonists living in the American colonies. By 1775, this number had grown to 2.5 million. Many people wanted new land to farm and hunt. They began to move west of the Appalachians.

One of the first areas settled was the Northwest Territory. This area today makes up the states of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Daniel Boone led settlers across the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky.

Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from the French for $15 million. This was a huge area of land west of the Mississippi River. It nearly doubled the land size of the United States. President Jefferson sent explorers Lewis and Clark to learn more about this vast frontier.

Manifest Destiny

Many people in the United States believed it was the country's destiny to expand westward all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This belief became known as the Manifest Destiny.

Continued Expansion

The United States continued to expand westward and gain land. After a war with Mexico over the rights to Texas, the country gained much of the southwest including the land of California. They also gained the Oregon Territory in a treaty from Great Britain.

Settling the West

Pioneers and settlers moved out west for different reasons. Some of them wanted to claim free land for ranching and farming from the government through the Homestead Act. Others came to California during the gold rush to strike it rich. Even others, such as the Mormons, moved west to avoid persecution.

Wild West

As the first settlers and pioneers moved into the west, there was little government. The law was the local sheriff and people had to look to protect themselves against bandits and outlaws. During this time, gunslingers of the west such as Wild Bill Hickok and Jesse James became famous.

End of the Frontier

In 1890, the US government announced that the west had been explored. The country now had 44 states. Only Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arizona had not been admitted as states from today's contiguous 48 states.

Interesting Facts about Westward Expansion and the Old West Activities

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Recommended books and references:

  • Westward Expansion by Dale Anderson. 2001.
  • Which Way to the Wild West?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About America's Westward Expansion. 2009.
  • Life in the West by Teresa Domnauer. 2010
  • Wagon Trains and Settlers by Ellen H. Todras. 2011.
  • Wild West days: Discover the Past with Fun Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes. 1998.
  • Why the West was Wild by Wayne Swanson. 2004.


  • Westward Expansion
    California Gold Rush
    First Transcontinental Railroad
    Glossary and Terms
    Homestead Act and Land Rush
    Louisiana Purchase
    Mexican American War
    Oregon Trail
    Pony Express
    Timeline of Westward Expansion
    Frontier Life
    Cowboys
    Daily Life on the Frontier
    Log Cabins

    People of the West
    Daniel Boone
    Famous Gunfighters
    Lewis and Clark
    James K. Polk
    Sacagawea
    Thomas Jefferson


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