American History: Westward Expansion

Oregon Trail

Lewis and Clark ★★★★☆
A companion to Ken Burns’ PBS film, this site provides background on the world of Lewis and Clark, an archive of their expedition, audio excerpts by historians, a discussion of Native American tribes encountered, classroom resources, an interactive story where you lead the expedition, and more. This PBS web site provides biographical information about the members of the Corps of Discovery (the small expeditionary group Jefferson sent to explore the uncharted West), and puts the expedition into historical and political context. There is a searchable, chronological compilation of excerpts from the Lewis and Clark journals, full-length, unedited interviews with seven experts, historical maps created by Clark, a pre-expedition map, and a map showing the route taken by the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific. There are also short articles of Native American tribes that had the most most significant interactions with Lewis and Clark. The lessons plans and activities include a multidisciplinary unit in the subject areas of science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts.

The West ★★★★☆
This is a valuable PBS online supplement to Ken Burn’s documentary film, The West. The companion website includes a timeline, glossary, biographies, a photo gallery, maps, documents, and more. The ‘People’ provides concise profiles of the men and women featured in The West, ‘Places’ features an interactive map of historic landscapes, and Events features a timeline of events across five centuries. There are also select primary source documents and images, recommended resources, and lesson plans. A great general site on the West.

Discovering Lewis and Clark ★★★★☆
This regularly updated site has more than 1400 pages and revolves around a nineteen-part analysis of the Lewis and Clark expedition by historian Harry Fritz. Photos, maps, and audio vignettes help visitors better understand and appreciate the arduous and historic expedition. The web site is managed by the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation of Washburn, North Dakota.

Westward Expansion ★★★★☆ presents a Westward Expansion gallery featuring 13 video clips and 13 photo galleries. Video clip topics include Louisiana Purchase, Gold Rush, The Donner Part, Sitting Bull, Lewis and Clark, and more. The gallery presents images of Native American tribes, warriors, and legislation.

The Gold Rush ★★★★☆
This PBS film companion website includes various classroom resources, a map, a timeline, and “fun facts” for kids. Special features include stories from native inhabitants an online role-playing game on striking it rich. Enjoyable site for younger students.

Exploring the West from Monticello: A Perspective from Columbus to Lewis and Clark ★★★☆☆
This photographic/cartographic presentation by the University of Virginia Library and the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation traces the geographic evolution of North America, and the planning and the planning of the Lewis and Clark journey.

The Avalon Project: Louisiana Purchase; 1803 and Associated Documents ★★★☆☆
The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy offers a varied array of primary source documents. This section includes the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, various Jefferson messages to Congress, and more.

Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase ★★★★☆
This research collection from the Library of Congress provides a variety of contemporary sources centering on issues surrounding the inclusion of Louisiana into the nation. There are maps, letter, manuscripts and more drawn from 119 sources as well as an essay by Senior Reference Librarian Michael Klein.

The Filson Historical Society ★★★★☆
The Filson Historical Society, founded in 1884, is a privately supported historical society dedicated to preserving the history of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley Region. Their site hosts historic collections of original manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, architectural records, rare imprints, books, maps, newspapers, textiles, portraits, and other three dimensional items. The society also published a quarterly, peer-reviewed academic journal, Ohio Valley History, and a quarterly magazine, The Filson.

Westward Expansion 1803 – 1861 ★★★★☆
Program 6 of this Annenberg Biography of America video companion centers on American expansion from the Louisiana purchase to the American Civil War. Among the features are an interactive, expanded timeline, a map of the Louisiana Purchase, and the Mississippi river system. There is also video transcript of a discussion of noted historians, including Douglas Brinkley, Stephen Ambrose Links to sites with primary and secondary source materials.

The Gold Rush in San Francisco ★★★★☆
Leads to a series of articles by the Museum of the City of San Francisco about people and events related to the California Gold Rush. Includes documents and images.

Early Advertising of the West, 1867-1918 ★★★★☆
The University of Washington Libraries has created a collection of advertisements from the Pacific Northwest from 1867-1918. The homepage has an introduction to early advertising and popular categories are listed along the right side of the page. The collection includes over 450 advertisements and is easy to browse.

California As I Saw It ★★★★☆
This research collection from the Library of Congress centers on eyewitness accounts of life in California between the Gold Rush and the turn of the twentieth century. Its foundation consists of texts and illustrations of 190 works documenting this formative period.

Prairie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs and Family Letters ★★★☆☆
This digital presentation by the Library of Congress helps illustrate the story of settlement on the Great Plains. There are roughly 3,000 glass plate negatives and 3,000 family letters in this collection. Perhaps the most revealing elements in the collection are personal letters detailed the struggles of life on the Great Plains.

The Donner Party ★★★☆☆
Part of PBS’s American Experience series, this site tells the story of an ill-fated immigrant group who set out for California in 1846 but whose journey ended up in death and cannibalism. Included are a teacher’s guide, background on western migration, diary excerpts, a map of the route, and recommended readings. You can also follow an interactive map of the Donner party route. The full documentary is available for purchase online.

Mountain Men and the Fur Trade ★★★☆☆
This site teachers about the Mountain Men, hunters and explorers in the Rockies in the early 1800’s. Among the varied resources at this site are artwork on the Mountain Men, business records, diaries, and more. Serves as both an introduction to Mountain Men and a research site.

First Nations Histories ★★★☆☆
Provides a geographic overview of First Nation (Indian) histories as well as a location list of native tribes in the United States and Canada. Has a search function as well.

Index of Native American Resources on the Web ★★★☆☆
The Index is a large gateway to many Native American resources in various categories, such as History, Government, Culture, Education, Bibliographies, and more. The site is organized by geographic regions and “to make it useful to the Native American community and the education community.” There is a useful search engine and the webmaster blogs regularly with news about the site.

The Iron Road ★★★☆☆
Part of PBS’s American Experience series, this site is the story of the building of the first east-west railroad link. There is a teacher’s guide, a bibliography, photos and recommended readings

Africans in America; Westward Expansion ★★★☆☆
Part of PBS’s African-American Journey site, this extended essay explores Jackson’s Trail of Tears, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, and the Dred Scott decision. There is a biography of Dred Scott and text of the decision.

Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides, Activities and more
Lewis and Clark: Classroom Resources
The 17 Lewis and Clark lesson plans on this page offer a wide array of classroom activities. Created by PBS, the activities address all parts of the famous expedition. Lewis and Clark A companion to Ken Burns’ PBS film, this site provides background on the world of Lewis and Clark, an archive of their expedition,

New Perspectives on the West Lesson Plans
A companion to Ken Burns’ The West film, these classroom resources are designed to help you use The West Web site, other material on the Internet, and The West video.The 10 lessons are designed for middle and high school students (grades 6-12).

Westward Expansion: Encounters at a Cultural Crossroads
This Library of Congress Primary Source Set provides a PDF handout teacher’s guide, links to online resources, and more. The focus of the set is for students to explore Westward expansion of the United States and the resulting interactions.

Westward Expansion: Links to the Past Lesson Overview
In this Library of Congress lesson students use sources from the collection “California As I Saw It: First Person Narratives, 1849-1900”, and create a script providing insights in to the lives of immigrants who settled California between 1849 and 1900.

Westward Expansion
This Gilder Lerman module provides a primary source interpretation activity, other primary source with questions, a lesson plan, a factual quiz, and a timeline of the 19th century.

The Iron Road: Teachers guide
In this PBS Teachers guide, students will examine the planning, funding and building of the transcontinental railroad; demonstrate map reading skills; compare and analyze sources of information and discuss how the decision to build the railroad affected different ethnic communities.

Teacher Lesson Plan: Explorations in American Environmental History
Part of the LOC Learning Page, these two lesson plans make use of visual resources. Emphasis is put on understanding the environmental issues that arose with Westward expansion. Grades 8-12

Teacher Lesson Plan: Links to the Past
Students use documents to create a script depicting the motivations, expectations, fears, and realizations of immigrants who settled California between 1849 and 1900. The finished product will be a hyperscript, an online written dialogue, containing links to illustrative written materials, images, and sound files from American Memory collections. Presented by the Library of Congress for grades 6-12

Lesson Plan: Life on the Great Plains
In this four part EdSiteMent lesson plan, students will study the Great Plains. Plan includes a mapping activity and PBS resources. Recommended for grades 9-12

Lesson Plan: On the Oregon Trail
In this lesson, students work with primary documents and latter-day photographs to recapture the experience of traveling on the Oregon Trail. The lesson plan was created by MarcoPolo and boasts a vast collection of resources.

Expansion, Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820 … This is a series of reading guides with discussion questions from the National Humanities Center.

Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion This lesson plan from the Ohio State University History department explores ways the ideology of Manifest Destiny and features select primary sources.

Learn about Westward Expansion
Digital History provides various resources for exploring westward expansion including maps, images, text sources, fact sheets, and recommended lesson plan and readings. Online Resources on Westward Expansion

Digital History Resource Guides
The Digital Resource Guides provides links to American history web sites by period and provide historical overviews, readings (online textbook chapter, Reader’s Companion) primary source documents (documents, maps, cartoons), teaching resources (chronologies, maps, quizzes), audio-visual resources, and additional resources. It is an excellent and comprehensive teaching resource.

Declarations of Independence: Exploring American Indian Rights to Self-Governance
In this New York Times lesson, students will examine what they know about American Indians past and present, then research key issues facing American Indian tribes today. To synthesize thiir learning, students will write letters taking the perspective of an American Indian examining questions of tribe recognition. AP United States History Quizzes
A New York teacher has produced a great general site for history teachers that offers AP-level United States history quizzes on many different periods and topics.

Territorial Acquisitions: Blank Map
Blank map of the U.S., divided into regions based on territorial acquisition.

U.S. Southwest in the 1840s: Blank Map
Blank map of the U.S. Southwest in the 1840’s.

Western History: Photography Collection
This site contains a selection of 65,000, historic photographs from the collections of the Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department and the Colorado Historical Society, including images of Native Americans, pioneers, early railroads, and mining towns.

Images of Indian Peoples of the Northern Great Plains
The digital collection was created in consultation with Native Americans, educators, librarians, and historians. The overall organization of the database is by tribe, including: Crow, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Salish (Flathead), Kutenai, Chippewa-Cree, Gros Ventres (Atsina), and Assiniboine.

Strike it Rich!
This PBS game will see if you have what it takes to strike it rich in the Gold Rush!

Characteristics of Geographic Regions This game quizzes the user on geographic regions in the U.S. in a variety of formats.

Westward Expansion & Manifest Destiny quiz
Students can take this self-scoring, multiple choice quiz to test their knowledge of Westward Expansion and the concept of Manifest Destiny.