Westward Expansion of the United States From the Years 1860-1890

Westward expansion of the United States from the years 1860-1890 was due to many factors from the 19th century. Major cities were built, along with railroad networks, improved agricultural land, and newly defined states and territories. Other factors to consider during this time were native tribes of the west, geologic features, and precipitation. (PBS learning media, 2010). In order to fully comprehend the westward expansion of 1860-1890, one must interpret, analyze, and synthesize the data given. This westward expansion is due to economic opportunity, the belief in manifest destiny, and geographic features. From the year 1860-1890, westward expansion from the “map” on pbslearningmedia.org is fairly easy to interpret. Using the interactive map, anybody can navigate the changes that spanned throughout the United States with each decade of 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1890. As far as analyzing the data, this takes a bit more studying. Each decade, starting with 1860, more and more cities, railroads, agriculture land, and states and territories began to rise and move out west. While the geologic features, native tribes of the west, and precipitation remained unchanged.

Now, in order to synthesize all of this data, there needs to be an idea, such as the one posed prior with the expansion due to economic opportunity, technology, and geologic features. Next, economic opportunity was on the rise in the 19th century due to all of the opportunity from the vast land in the United States, at the time. Outlined in “Structural Change in American Manufacturing, 1850-1890,” there was much “capital-deepening technical change” at the time. This promoted the growth of large firms and concentrated markets. Based on census data, there was much production and yield from sixteen major industries during that time. Increases in optimal firm size, and dictating natural monopoly or tight oligopoly market structures improved substantially. Technology was not a major influence on the markets during this time period (Cambridge, 1983). The reason this economic opportunity is so important, is because it shows a direct relation to the westward expansion, with more opportunity comes more capitol.

This can be shown from all of the major cities, and the states and territories that were on the rise through this time period. In 1860, there were only nine major cities which expanded to thirteen in 1870, then seventeen in 1880, and finally twenty-four in 1890 with a number of those cities growing in population as well. From 1860-1870, there were two fewer unorganized territories, which led to three more states in 1880, and on to seven more states in 1890. Furthermore, Manifest Destiny is, “the belief that Americans had the God-given right to expand westward, spread democracy, and conquer anything and everything they marched across in the North American Territory.” Three absolute beliefs of Manifest Destiny remained constant: “Americans would geographically, politically, and economically expand to the continental limits; Americans will Americanize all people living within the continental limits; and Americans would conquer both the people who resisted Americanization and the natural geographical forces that stood in the way.” The desire to explore was a huge factor in the expansion of North America, as well. In 1800, no one knew what was beyond the land that they did not occupy.

The federal government advocated for four major expeditions. Religious opportunity also played a key role in westward expansion of North America (Humboldt). In addition, geographical features essentially remained the same on the interactive map. The geographical features along with railroads showed a limitation. As shown, the mountainous areas have less railroads. The for example the cities such as, Crow and Ute, in the west side of the United States. The railroads increased on east side of the United States. The east side of the United States is where the majority of the major cities are located. Through the rise in the major cities, the connection between plots of land were becoming easily accessible. Continuing along with the geographical factors, purchases made expanded the land. The Alaska purchase in 1867, is where the United States bought Alaska from Russia. At first the American people were unhappy of the purchase because of the location of Alaska.

The discovery of gold later on changed the perception of Alaska. The new founded territory correlations with principle manifest destiny. The desire and reasoning to expand is evident. The frame of mind towards the geographic of the United States is to gain territories, spread our ideals, and increase our economic opportunity. Moreover, through the development of the United States during 1860-1890, the evidence is clear. The westward expansion of the United States was due to several factors. The factors influenced the rise in cities, increase of railroads connection, improved agricultural land, and defined states and territories as shown on the interactive map. The historical events such as purchases and development of the railroads contributed to the United States. The primary factors of the westward expansion lie in economic opportunity, the belief in manifest destiny, and geographical features.