Westward Expansion

Westward expansion refers to the expansion of United States towards the west. Originally, the United States comprised of the Thirteen Colonies on the day of its independence in 1776. Over time, the country began to grow westwards and incorporate more and more of the North American territories.

In time, United States spread all the way to the Pacific coast in the west, while also expanding southwards. The expansion transformed the nation and the fabric of the American society. It also defined American culture and politics for most of the 19th century.

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California Gold Rush

James Marshall discovered gold near Coloma, the start of the California Gold Rush 1848 Read more about the California Gold Rush >>

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First Transcontinental Railroad

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Hugh Glass was a famous fur trapper and American frontiersman Read more about the Hugh Glass >>

Lewis and Clark Expedition

In 1803, American government purchased the Louisiana territory, it needed to be explored Read more about the Lewis and Clark Expedition >>

Louisiana purchase 1803

Louisiana Purchase - America bought a large parcel of land called the 'Louisiana Territory' in 1803. Read more about the Louisiana purchase 1803 >>


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The United States of America purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 in the 'The Alaska Purchase'. Read more about the The Alaska Purchase >>

The Gadsden Purchase

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Trails into the West

Popular westward trails were the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail and the California Trail Read more about the Trails into the West >>

Treaty of Oregon 1846

'Treaty of Oregon' was an agreement between USA and Great Britain over the control of the Oregon area Read more about the Treaty of Oregon 1846 >>

Wild West

'Wild West' was a name that was popularly used for the Western Regions of United States of America Read more about the Wild West >>

Westward Expansion – Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of Louisiana Territory from France. This was a large parcel of land which stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Canadian border in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south.

Louisiana Territory was purchased for a sum of $15 Million Dollars. The addition of Louisiana Territory to United States effectively doubled the size of the nation.

It also ushered in the era of westward expansion. Soon after the Louisiana Purchase, Americans begun to migrate westwards in search for land they could own and other opportunities.


Manifest Destiny

Manifest destiny was a concept coined by a journalist John O’Sullivan in 1845. According to this concept, it was the manifest destiny of the United States that it must spread its principles of liberty and freedom to the entire North America.

The concept was repeatedly used to justify the westwards expansion of the United States during the 19th century. It also rallied the support of patriots and other political groups in the favor of expansionist policies.

Westward Expansion Trails

When the United States began to expand westwards, the West had no roads or any other form of infrastructure. The migrants used overland paths and trails to make long journeys in order to reach different parts of the west.

Some of these trails ran thousands of miles. Nearly all were served by wagons on which migrants, their families and their goods journeyed.

Famous trails into the west included the Oregon Trail, the California Highway, the Mormon Trail , the Santa Fe Trail, the Old Spanish Trail, and the Southern Emigrant Trail.

Westward Expansion and Slavery

The westward expansion of United States raised the issue of slavery. Should the new territories and states be allowed to practice slavery?

The country already had pro-slavery and anti-slavery states, and the issue of slavery became a major point of disagreement. Throughout the early 19th century, attempts were made to settle the question through a compromise – by keeping the number of slave states and free states equal.

But the issue ultimately erupted in the American Civil War in 1861.

The Wild West

As United States expanded westwards, the Wild West came into being. Wild West was a land of opportunity, freedom and liberty. It also lacked the power of the law, so lawless elements reigned free.

Killings and shootings were frequent. At the same time, Wild West was also the home of self-reliant, sturdy and brave frontiersmen who stood their own against all obstacles.

  • President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory from France for only $15 Million Dollars
  • The Exploration of this new territory became known as ‘Westward Expansion’.
  • American’s were given free land in these new territories as a way to colonize the area.
  • During this westward expansion many famous trails were created such as the Oregon trail.
  • This new territory also became popularly known as the ‘Wild West’ due the the fact that it was a dangerous and fairly lawless place.
  • The Louisiana purchase was a massive land mass that hugely increased the size of America at that time.
  • The Louisiana purchase expanded from the Mississippi River right up to the Rocky Mountains areas, Canadian border and to the Gulf of Mexico in the south.

We hope you enjoyed this article about Westward expansion and the Louisiana purchase which greatly increased the size of America and was negotiated by  ‘President Thomas Jefferson’ in 1803 for the princely sum of $15 Million dollars.

If you would like to learn more about Westward expansion and the ‘American Wild West’ please see some of the links at the bottom of this page.