Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas
About the Seminar
Between 1845 and 1848 the United States acquired 1.2 million square miles of western territory. This expansion aggravated old tensions between the North and the South over the institution of slavery, and those tensions eventually tore the nation apart. But when the War ended, the United States found itself transformed. Not only was it united once again, but it was free of slavery and in possession of vast new lands, rich in mineral wealth and promise.
How did Americans exploit this new territory? How did the West remake and redefine the nation? Using Primary Resource Sets from the Library of Congress and primary source collections from the National Humanities Center, this seminar will address these and other questions.
Suggested Additional Resources
- From the American Memory Timeline from the Library of Congress: The American West, 1865-1900.
- From the American Memory Timeline from the Library of Congress: Railroads in the Late 19th Century.
- The Library of Congress also offers these primary source materials: Westward Expansion: Encounters at a Cultural Crossroads.
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- The Homestead Act, 1862.
- Daniel Freeman, first to file for homestead. Photo
- Diary of Luna E. Warner, teenager on a homestead, 1871–72.
- Speeches of Senators on 1867 excursion.
- Cartoon suggesting unification.
- North American railroads in 1879, 1885, 1893. Maps
- Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade, Joseph G. McCoy, 1874.
- Cattle Trails. Map. See p. 1.
- The Recollections of an American Cowboy: Reflections Upon the Life on the Range, George Martin, c.1880.
- US gold and silver production (chart); Global copper deposits (map); Gigantic tree, ox team pulling cut timber (photos). See pp. 2-4.
- Hydraulic mining. Photo. See p. 5.
- “A Day at Dutch Flat," Albert F. Webster.
- The Shirley Letters from the California Mines, 1851-52.
- “La Californie.” Poster. See p. 6.
- States with highest percentage of foreign born. Table. See p. 7.
- Report of the Secretary of War, 1868.
- “Custer’s Last Fight.” Battle of the Little Big Horn.
- Drawing by Kicking Bear. See p. 8.
- “The Future of the Red Man,” Simon Pokagon.
- Chiricahua Apaches at Carlisle Indian School, before and after. Photos. See p. 9.
- “Ishi: The ‘Last Wild Indian.’” Photos. See p. 10 and video.
- “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” Frederick Jackson Turner.
- The Virginian. Owen Wister.
- Cattle branding. Thomas Edison. Film, 1898.
- “Cripple Creek Bar-room Scene.” The first "western" movie. Thomas Edison. 1899.
- “The Coming and Going of the Pony Express,” Frederic Remington. 1900. See p. 11.