Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way

Credit: Library of Congress
Media type: engraving
Museum Number: LC-USZC2-3757
Annotation: In 1845 John O’Sullivan, the editor of the Democratic review, coined the term Manifest Destiny to encourage the annexation of Texas and the Oregon country to the United States, “that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us”. In just two years, the Mexican War in California realized the goal of an American California, and rich gold deposits were discovered in Coloma, California. By 1848, tens of thousands of people from the Atlantic seaboard fled across America’s vast frontier to seek their fortunes in the west. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, authorizing the construction the first transcontinental railroad, essentially securing reliable transport to the American west. Currier & Ives, a New York printing house established in 1834, published numerous original prints set in the American west, several of which featured the burgeoning railway system which accelerated western expansion. In Across the Nation, printed in 1868, Currier & Ives seems to portray westward expansion and the railway system as being inseparably tied to one another.
Year: 1868