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[Detail] The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore.

The materials found in The Nineteenth Century in Print provide opportunities to chronicle the political and geographical development of the United States. They also allow for discussions on the use of violence to bring about social change and an examination of the regional tensions that preceded the Civil War. Books and reports pertaining to Native Americans can be analyzed to discern contemporary attitudes towards Native Americans as well as the concept of race. Additional materials support the research of nineteenth-century social history.

Chronological Thinking Skills: Westward Expansion

The United States grew dramatically during the second half of the nineteenth century and searches on the terms, expedition and survey, yield accounts from various parties that explored the country’s western territories. Reports such as the Expedition Down the Zuni and Colorado Rivers (1853) and the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey (1857) document these explorations with maps, illustrations, and detailed descriptions.

These materials can be used to create a series of maps charting the progression of westward expansion. For example, one might create a map chronicling events from 1845 to 1855 that depicts events occurring across the nation such as the acquisition of Southwest territories in the wake of the Mexican-American War (1848), the admission of the state of California to the Union (1850), exploration of the Colorado territory (1852), and the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854).

By creating such maps, one may gain additional insight into the factors influencing political debates such as slavery in the territories (e.g., Compromise of 1850), the treatment of Native Americans, and the industrial growth of the nation. For example, territorial expansion and exploration played an integral role in planning the transcontinental railroad authorized by Congress in 1862. A search on the phrase, war dept., produces 12 volumes of Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, chronicling the massive effort to link eastern cities with new areas on the Pacific coast. Create a map that depicts the relationship between expansion and exploration and the development of railroads.

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