taken from The New York Times Learning Network

Imagine that you never left the block where your home is but knew that there was much more to your city, state and country beyond this small piece of land. How would you feel? Would you want to explore, or would you be content just being where you were? In the 19th century, many Americans felt the way you probably would in this scenario -- they were thirsty for expansion and to claim new territories.

1-The Thirst for Expansion: Manifest Destiny

In 1845, American editor John L. O'Sullivan coined the term "manifest destiny" for this sentiment. He wrote:

".... the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federaltive development of self government entrusted to us. It is right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth."

During the 1840's, people living on North America's east coast, with the concept of manifest destiny as their guiding light, began a westward expansion.This Web Exploration will introduce you to the laws, expeditions and people who made this expansion possible. You might want to look at a United States map or an atlas as you go through this Web Exploration to better follow the progress of westward expansion during this time period.

The address (URL) of the current site is:


Use the Web site above to answer the following questions:

2- This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land: The Louisiana Purchase (1803)

Men, women and children could not just move anywhere they wanted and take over new territories. People had already been living in the west. In order for the United States to expand westward, it had to acquire properties that were owned by the people and their governing authorities.
The Lousiana Purchase of 1803 was an agreement between the United States and France that expanded U.S. territory by more than 2 million square kilometers. The site below explains all the details concerning this agreement.

The address (URL) of the current site is:


Use the site to answer the following questions:

3 - Where's the West Stuff?: The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804)

In this age of exploration, pioneers were looking to explore new areas. In looking to find new lands and different people, they needed to also find routes of travel. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were two such pioneers. Take a look below and use the information to answer these questions:

The address (URL) of the current site is:


4- Sad History: The Trail of Tears (1830's)

As American settlers moved west, they came into contact with new soil and other resources, causing some major problems. The Native Americans (often referred to as Indians) who were inhabiting western lands were being forced to move elsewhere. Naturally, not all people opted to give up land and their homes for which they had worked hard. Cherokee Indian families were driven thousands of miles away from their homes in one of the saddest episodes in American history. The trail that they followed was called the Trail of Tears.
Can you think of any similar events that have happened around the world in the 20th century?

Read through the passage below and answer the questions.

The address (URL) of the current site is:


What were some Cherokee customs? What did they accomplish?
What was the Indian Removal Act in 1830? Who signed this bill? What was the Supreme Court's ruling?
What caused the Treaty of New Echota? Who went against ratification of the treaty?
What details are offered about the Trail of Tears?
Did everyone support the moving of the Indians? Who supported it, and who fought against it?

5- Hot on the Trail: The Oregon Trail (1840's)

Pioneers had a lot to look forward to as they travelled across the land. There was promise of land, resources and opportunity. People needed a path to reach their destination, and the Oregon Trail was the major route used by immigrants who wanted to go westward to Oregon.

The address (URL) of the current site is:



Use the site above to answer the following questions about the Oregon Trail:

6-The Gold Rush: A Profitable Move to California (1848)

When gold was discovered in California in 1848, word spread fast, and people from all over were motivated to travel long distances to strike it rich. Read the passage below to get an idea of what this discovery was like and how it impacted expansion.

The address (URL) of the current site is:


Then, answer the following questions:

7-Slaving for Compromise: The Compromise of 1850

Though the nation unified in its quest for expansion in the 1800's, the people of the country continued to vastly disagreed over the issue of slavery. In northern states, abolitionists rallied against slavery and thought it should be abolished. In southern states, there was great support for slavery. On the acquisition of new territories, there was a debate of whether these new states should be "free" or "slave" states. What war in the United States was fueled by this debate?

The address (URL) of the current site is:


Use the site above to answer the questions below:

8-Hear This!: The First Transcontinental Telegraph Line (1861)

In the middle of the century, with the Civil War raging, the nation was split in two. And in order to plan war strategies, northern and southern states needed a way to communicate with their troops to relay messages. Communication by letters sent via horse was too slow and not always efficient, particularly during war. The telegraph served as the first electronic link between the east coast and the west coast. In 1861, the first transcontinental (which means "across the continent) telegraph line made communications fast, easy and much more dependable.

The address (URL) of the current site is:


Look at the site above and observe how the transcontinental telegraph changed the nation. Here are a few questions to keep in mind:

9- Home, Home on the Range: The Homestead Act (1862)

Having your own space was important. In some places, your home was your source of income, relaxation, and education. Through passing the Homestead Act, President Abraham Lincoln hoped to plant the seed to grow the nation. Not only did this act inspire former slaves and new immigrants, it also gave incentive for southern states to come back to the Union.

The address (URL) of the current site is:


Read the page above and find out what the Homestead Act is all about. Answer the following questions:

10-All Aboard!: The Transcontinental Railroad (1869)

The transcontinental telegraph helped people communicate, and the transcontinental railroad brought them together in person. The journey along these rails would lead to a thriving economy, but there were many obstacles along the way.
The address (URL) of the current site is:


Take a look at the site above and gather your thoughts to the following questions:

11- The Faces of Expansion

Behind all of the many changes that took place in the nation as it spread westward in the 1800's were individuals. Politicians, explorers, pioneers, Native Americans, inventors and builders are just a few of the groups of people whose lives were changed, and who changed lives, as the country grew.

The address (URL) of the current site is:


The site above offers information about some of the interesting people who were involved in westward expansion.