Westward Expansion


James Knox Polk

Summary and Definition of Westward Expansion
Definition and Summary: What does Westward Expansion mean? The term Westward Expansion encompasses the acquisition of territories by the United States across the whole area of the North American continent from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. Westward expansion was enabled by buying land, wars, treaties and the displacement of Native American Indians. The rapid settlement of territories gained during  the process of Westward Expansion was made possible by
progressive transportation systems such as roads, canals and the railroads and the belief in the Manifest Destiny of the United States of America.

Westward Expansion Timeline for kids
James Polk was the 11th American President who served in office from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849. One of the important events during his presidency was the notion of the Manifest Destiny of the United States and the continuance of the Westward Expansion.

Westward Expansion Map
The Westward Expansion Map details the dates and the historical treaties made by the United States of America that increased the nation's lands and made Westward Expansion possible.

When did Westward Expansion begin?
Westward Expansion began with the settlement of the first 13 colonies in the East. The 1783 Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783 and ended the American Revolutionary War and established the early U.S. boundaries.

When did Westward Expansion end?
Westward Expansion ended on February 14, 1912 when Arizona was admitted to the Union as the last of the 48 contiguous (adjoining) states. The admittance of Arizona to the Union completed the process of conquering, establishing and organizing the American West.

Westward Expansion Map

Westward Expansion Map

Who was involved in the Westward Expansion?
It could be said that between 1783-1912 all of the people of America were involved in the Westward Expansion of the United States. Westward Expansion was led by all of the Presidents of the United States during this period. Treaties were enacted by the politicians and the diplomats. The wars were waged by the military and U.S. citizens. Henry Clay introduced the "American System" that included a subsidized transportation infrastructure of new roads and canals.  The inventors during the period of the Industrial Revolution made new transportation systems such as the railroads possible. Entrepreneurs invested in the systems. But it was the people of America who built the systems making it possible for Westward Expansion to become viable and help the pioneers and settlers to head west and build new lives in new lands.

Reasons for Westward Expansion
Why was westward expansion important and what were the reasons for Westward Expansion? There was a whole continent to explore that offered a range of different climates, geographical features, vegetation, animals and raw materials. The potential of the new resources and the massive areas of land were waiting for American settlers to discover, some land was almost free. Westward Expansion offered people the opportunity to find new homes and work, to experience adventure, to explore possibilities, to become rich, to find gold or silver, to escape from the constraints of civilization and to make a new start. In other words Westward Expansion enabled people to live the 'American Dream'. Americans were motivated to move west for a whole variety of practical reasons but they were inspired by the belief that the Manifest Destiny of the United States was God's will.


Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny for kids
notion of the "Manifest Destiny" of the United States was that the occupation the whole continent of North America, was a divine right of the American people. Manifest Destiny was based on the belief of cultural and racial superiority over other nations and the obligation to bring enlightenment and civilization to other races like the Native American Indians. The belief in the Manifest Destiny of the United States justified the darker side of Westward Expansion.

Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny
The picture on your right is of a painting depicting Westward Expansion and the concept of Manifest Destiny. It was painted in 1872 by John Gast (1842-1893) and called American Progress "Spirit of the Frontier". The painting depicts American people moving west, using different types of transport guided and protected by the goddess Columbia, as a symbol of America, holding the book of knowledge and enlightenment. The painting provides a graphic representation of Westward Expansion combined with the concept of Manifest Destiny. Look carefully and you will see people including Native American Indians, pioneers, settlers, prospectors and farmers. The history and progress of transport systems by foot, horse, covered wagon, stagecoach, canal steamboats and the railroad. Communication systems are represented by a Pony Express rider and telegraph wires.

Westward Expansion Picture - American Progress "Spirit of the Frontier"

Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny Painting
American Progress "Spirit of the Frontier"


Presidential Seal


Westward Expansion and Westward Expansion Timeline and Facts for kids
Interesting Westward Expansion Facts and Timeline for kids are detailed below together with details of important events in Westward expansion. The history of Westward Expansion of the United States is told in a factual timeline sequence consisting of a series of short facts providing a simple method of relating the relevant, significant events that lead to the Westward Expansion of the United States of America. All of the events are explained with access to additional articles containing detailed facts and information about each of these important historical events that aided Westward Expansion in the United States. 

Westward Expansion Timeline and Facts for kids

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 1:17831783 Treaty of Paris

The War of Independence (1775–1783) ends, and the U.S. acquires the  first 13 colonies in the east by the Treaty of Paris that establishes the first U.S. boundaries

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 2:1800Cities and Travel

The towns and cities increased and methods of transport included the stagecoach

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 3:1803Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase of land from France extends US lands from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains between the Canadian border and the Gulf of Mexico

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 4:1804Lewis and Clark Expedition

The Lewis and Clark Expedition explores and map the US lands bought in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 5:1807Steamboats

The invention of steam engines result in steamboats appearing on western rivers

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 6:1811The
Cumberland Road

The Construction of the Cumberland Road began in Maryland and stretched 600 miles into the Northwest Territory.

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 7:1812Turnpikes
(Toll Roads)

The era of road building introduced the system of Turnpikes (Toll Roads)

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 8:1812War of 1812

The War of 1812 resulted in the people of America thinking of itself as a unified and strong nation increasing the urge for Westward Expansion

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 9:1813The Creek War

The Creek War (1813–1814) resulted  in the vast cession of Creek lands in Alabama and Georgia

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 10:1817American

The economic plan introduced by Henry Clay, called the American System, was aimed at creating a subsidized transportation infrastructure of new roads and canals

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 11:1817Erie Canal

Construction of the Erie Canal begins that stretched for 363 miles allowing the passage of boats inland carrying produce and passengers from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Erie

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 12:18181818 Convention and Treaty

The Convention and Treaty of 1818 with the British establishes the border with Canada at the 49th Parallel

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 13:1819Florida Treaty

The Florida Treaty, aka the Adams Onis Treaty, set the boundary between the US and New Spain (now Mexico)

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 14:18201820 Land Act

The 1820 Land Act led to the future confiscation of lands from Native Americans and lower cost land for settlers in the west

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 15:1821Santa Fe Trail

The 900 mile trade route, the Santa Fe Trail, opens from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe (now New Mexico).

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 16:1823Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine stated that attempts by European nations to colonize land in North or South America, would be viewed as acts of aggression

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 17:1824General Survey

The 1824 General Survey Act authorized the president to have surveys made of important transportation routes

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 18:1828The Railroads

The 'Stourbridge Lion' was the first operational locomotive on an American railroad

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 19:18301830 Indian Removal Act

The 1830 Indian Removal Act led to the forced migration of approximately 60,000 Native Americans

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 20:1830Trail of Tears

Between 1830 to 1840 the forced migration included the terrible journey of the Creek nation on the infamous Trail of Tears

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 21:1832The Horsecar

The first horse car line is built in Lower Manhattan

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 22:1843Oregon Trail

The first Important migration of settlers traveled in Wagon Trains along the 2000 mile Oregon Trail

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 23:1844The Telegraph

The First telegraph line is established and Morse Code is sent by Samuel Morse from Washington to Baltimore

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 24:1845Texas

Congress passed a "Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States"

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 25:1845Manifest Destiny

1845: John O’Sullivan initiates the phrase 'Manifest Destiny'

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 26:1846Mexican-American War

The Mexican American War begins, also known as the Invasion of Mexico

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 27:1846Bear Flag RevoltThe Bear Flag Revolt against Mexico in Alta California
Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 28:1846Oregon Treaty

1846: The Oregon Treaty settled the lands south of the 49th parallel as a US possession

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 29:1846Mormons
in Utah

Brigham Young leads 5,000 Mormons to Utah after experiencing religious persecution

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 30:1848Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

The  Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo by which Mexico ceded Upper California and New Mexico to the United States that covered 525,000 square miles for a payment of $15,000,000

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 30:1848California Gold Rush

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) started when gold was discovered at Sutter's Lumber Mill in Coloma, California

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 31:1849Apache Wars

The first conflicts of the Apache Wars (1849 -1924) erupted in the Southwest

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 32:1853Gadsden Purchase

The Gadsden Purchase acquires territory in  Arizona and New Mexico

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 30:1854Sioux Wars

The Sioux Wars (1854 - 1890) led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull break out in South Dakota, Minnesota and Wyoming

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 30:1854Treaty of Kanagawa

The Treaty of Kanagawa with Japan extended the belief of Manifest Destiny and began a tradition of "Gunboat diplomacy".

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 31:1854Ostend

The Ostend Manifesto planned for the annexation of Cuba from Spain

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 32:1860Pony Express

The short lived Pony Express was established as the most direct means of east–west communication before the telegraph was established

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 32:1862Homestead Act

1862: The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged 600,000 families to travel westwards by giving them land (usually 160 acres) almost free

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 30:1867Purchase of AlaskaAlaska was purchased from Russia for $7.2 million
Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 30:1869Transcontinental Railroad

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed joining the eastern and western parts of the United States

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 31:1872Manifest Destiny Painting

The Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion Painting called American Progress "Spirit of the Frontier" was painted  by John Gast

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 32:1879The Exodusters

The Exodusters and the mass migration of African Americans to Kansas

Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 33:1898Annexation of
Queen Liliuokalani was deposed leading to the Annexation of Hawaii.
Westward Expansion Timeline Fact 34:1912Arizona

Arizona was admitted to the Union as the last of the 48 contiguous (adjoining) states.

Westward Expansion and Westward Expansion Timeline and Facts for kids

Westward Expansion for kids - President James K Polk Video
The article on the Westward Expansion for kids provides an overview of one of the Important ideas of his presidential term in office. The following James K Polk video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 11th American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849.




Westward Expansion
Facts and Manifest timeline for kids and schools
Definition of the Westward Expansion in US history
Facts about the Westward Expansion Timeline
James K Polk Presidency from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849
Fast, fun, Westward Expansion about Important events in his presidency
Westward Expansion Painting and Timeline
James K Polk Presidency and the Westward Expansion timeline for schools, homework, kids and children

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