Image used from: Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (born Schwabisch-Gmund, Germany 1816 - died Washington, DC 1868) (American) (Artist, Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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United States: expansion
When the United States declared its independence in 1776 it was only one fourth its present size. By negotiation, purchase, annexation, and war it extended its boundaries from the Atlantic to the Pacific by 1853. This map shows the acquisitions and the dates the areas were added.
After the United States became independent, people began to move into the region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The first states created west of the Appalachians were Kentucky in 1792 and Tennessee in 1796. Most of the people who lived in the West were farmers. They shipped their farm products down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans for shipping outside the country.
At the time, New Orleans and the surrounding area were French territories. In 1803 Thomas Jefferson, who had been elected president in 1800, decided that the United States should buy New Orleans and the land along the lower Mississippi River from France. In a surprise move, France agreed to sell all of its land west of the Mississippi to the United States for about 15 million dollars. This land was known as the Louisiana Territory, and the deal was called the Louisiana Purchase. It nearly doubled the size of the United States. Between 1804 and 1806 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led an exploration of this territory (see Lewis and Clark Expedition). The movement into the lands west of the Appalachians then became a flood. The United States also expanded to the south. In 1819 Spain signed a treaty that gave Florida to the United States.
Developments in Industry and Transportation
The 1800s was a period of great industrial growth in the United States. An important development was Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793. This machine speeded up the process of separating seeds from cotton fibers. It led to a major expansion of the textile industry. It also caused the growing of cotton to spreadthroughout the Southern states. Farmers in the North were helped by other inventions, such as Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaper for harvesting grain. Ironworks were set up to manufacture these farm tools, along with household utensils, factory machines, and other items.
A key part of the economic growth of the United States in the 1800s was the development of better means of transportation. Goods had to be shipped from factories to farms and from farms to towns and cities. To meet this need, new roads and canals were built. The Erie Canal, opened in 1825, connected Lake Erie with the Hudson River. It provided a major boost to shipping between New York City and the Great Lakes region. The invention and improvement of the steam engine led to even more important developments in transportation and trade. The first successful steamboat was built by Robert Fulton. It made its first voyage on the Hudson in 1807. In the early 1830s the first American railroads were built. Thousands of miles of track were laid in the following decades.
Improvements in transportation encouraged further expansion to the west. The growth of the United States was also encouraged by an idea called manifest destiny. In the mid1800s many Americans came to believe that the United States was destined to expand westward to the Pacific Ocean, and even beyond. But the push toward the Pacific coast led to conflict with foreign powers. Mexico owned Texas, California, and much of the Southwest. The British had a strong claim to Oregon. In each case Americans first penetrated and then won complete control of the area.
The conquest of the Mexican territories began in Texas. In 1836 Americans who had settled in Texas revolted against Mexican rule and declared their independence. Nine years later Texas became part of the United States. The addition of Texas to the United States led to a conflict known as the Mexican War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848. After Mexico was defeated, the United States took possession of Texas, California, and almost the entire Southwest. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 attracted tens of thousands of newcomers to the
Meanwhile, pioneers had begun following the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest. Heavy migration to Oregon won the region for the United States. In 1846 the United States and Britain agreed on the boundary line between British Canada and the United States.