U.S. Expansion and Exploration
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The U.S. seems to be a country that's always on the move. From adding new territories and states to exploring new regions, the U.S. was often an exciting place to live. Use this Topic to describe what it was like to live in this adventurous nation.
The late 1800's saw a rapid expansion of the United States. Western states joined the union and the country annexed areas such as Alaska and Hawaii. Was he/she interested in or affected by this exciting time of national growth and adventure?
- Between 1850 and 1900, 15 states joined the union, including most of the western states and the Great Plains States. The formation of the new states was exciting both to residents and to people in the rest of the country as well. How did he/she feel about these new additions to the country?
- Where did he/she live during this period? If he/she was living in an area both before and after that area became a state, how did statehood change his/her life, if at all? Did he/she attend a statehood celebration? Did governmental services, such as the legal system and law enforcement, improve?
- Expansion in the West soon prompted the need for a transcontinental railroad. In 1869, the first such railroad was completed and there was great celebration surrounding the event. More railroads followed. Did the construction of the transcontinental railroad have any effect on his/her life? If so, describe how.
- America's great expansion resulted in the death and displacement of thousands of Native Americans to make room for white settlements. Today, many people believe that this was an unjust tragedy, but in the late 1800's that belief was not as common. How did he/she feel about the plight of Native Americans?
America's purchase of Alaska in 1867 was an exciting event in the growth of the country. Was he/she interested in or affected by America's expansion into Alaska?
- Although Alaska was rich in fish, fur, and mineral resources, some people opposed its purchase, calling it "Seward's Folly" in reference to Secretary of State William Seward's negotiation of the treaty. What were his/her feelings on the decision to purchase Alaska?
- Was he/she affected by Alaska's purchase or just interested in the event? Did he/she live in an area where the Alaskan purchase directly benefited trade and commerce, such as San Francisco?
- What was it like to live in a country that was continually expanding into new territories, bringing opportunity and prosperity to Americans, sometimes at the expense of native inhabitants?
The annexation of Hawaii in 1898 was the culmination of decades of increased American influence in Hawaii and the deterioration of the Hawaiian monarchy. Was he/she interested in or affected by the annexation of Hawaii?
- The U.S. government rejected the first few requests for Hawaiian annexation, but the U.S. eventually conceded to the colonialist pressures that were prominent at the time. What were his/her feelings on the decision to annex Hawaii?
- Did he/she support U.S. colonization efforts in Hawaii and other territories or did he/she feel that colonization was wrong? Why did he/she feel that way?
- Did he/she know that the annexation was brought about by a group of Americans who took over Hawaii by subverting the government and deposing Hawaii's queen? Did he/she agree with the American takeover?
- What was it like to live in a country that was continually expanding into new territories, bringing opportunity and prosperity to Americans sometimes at the expense of native inhabitants?
Even in the 20th century, the United States was still growing, officially making Alaska and Hawaii states in 1959. What did he/she think about these exotic additions to the Union? Did the statehood of Alaska or Hawaii affect him directly or indirectly?
- In January of 1959, President Eisenhower issued a proclamation declaring Alaska the forty-ninth state. Alaska was the first new state since 1912. What was his/her reaction? Was he/she welcoming, angry, excited? Did he/she want Alaska to become part of the United States? Why or why not?
- Did he/she or anyone he/she knew participate in the politics of Alaska's statehood? What role did he/she play? What were his/her feelings when Alaska obtained its statehood? Was it worth the work he/she put in? Why or why not?
- Was he/she involved in any of the politics of Hawaii's statehood? What role did he/she play? How did it affect his/her lifestyle?
- The people who fought for Hawaii's statehood were mainly the political, agricultural, and industrial leaders. Many others were against it because of Hawaii's size, distance, lack of contiguity, and the nature of the population. Did he/she want Hawaii to become part of the United States?
- In March of 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state. What were his/her feelings and concerns at the time? Did it matter to him? Why or why not? In what ways did the statehood of Hawaii affect him?
- Did he/she or his/her family live in Alaska or Hawaii at that time? If so, how did the statehood change his/her lifestyle? Were there any immediate changes or were they gradual?
- Because Alaska became a state, it had to take over expenses of public services that had previously been provided for by the federal government. Did this affect him or his/her family? Did he/she think it was fair at the time?
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, there was a great deal of interest in the quest to reach the North Pole. Was he/she interested in the race to reach the North Pole?
- Why was he/she interested in the exploration of the Arctic? Was he/she intrigued by the adventurous lifestyles of the explorers? How did he/she feel about geographic exploration in general?
- For centuries, explorers had been searching for a passage through North America that would give trading vessels a shortcut between Europe and Asia. Some thought it would be found in the Arctic Circle. Was he/she also interested in this search for the "Northwest Passage"?
- After many arduous attempts, an American naval commander, Robert Peary, finally reached the North Pole in 1909. Did the news of his/her discovery excite him? If he/she was American, was he/she proud that the discovery was made by an American?
Did he/she have a general philosophy about U.S. expansion and exploration?
- What were his/her feelings in general about U.S. expansion? Did he/she think that it was important that the U.S. control as much territory as possible? Why? Did he/she think that the U.S. was growing too big?
- How did he/she feel about the people who lived in areas that the U.S. took over? Did he/she think that it was beneficial to them, that it would improve their lifestyles? Did he/she think that it was unfair to impose our government on them?
- What about exploration? What were his/her thoughts on that? Did he/she think that it was important for us to know more about the world around us? Why or why not?
- Was there any particular area that he/she wished the U.S. would explore? If yes, why was he/she interested in this area? Did he/she wish that he/she could go there someday?