The American West

When we hear the words, "The Old West," images of cowboys, Indians, gunslingers, pioneers, and gold seekers immediately spring to mind. We also commonly associate the Old West with adjectives like "wild," "untamed," and perhaps "American."

A study of the American West reveals a rich chapter in American history. No other historical era has captured the imagination of more people than the fabled era of the exploration and settlement of the United States west of the Mississippi. An exploration of these resources will provide a better understanding of the development of the American nation and the American character as a result of the settlement of the Western Frontier.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

Kid Info: Pioneers and Westward Expansion
This student-friendly Internet guide offers a collection of annotated links to resources that discuss westward expansion.
Multicultural American West
This site examines the history of the American West through the lens of multiculturalism. It offers links to online documents, course syllabi, journals, resource sites, popular culture sites, and other relevant materials regarding the American West as a region.
The West
A companion to the Ken Burns PBS documentary series, "The West" views the events, places, and people of the West. It also contains an archives and an assortment of links dealing with the American West.
WestWeb is a topically organized web site about the study of the American West. Under each topic heading, you will find collections of primary and secondary documents, biographical and bibliographical resources, lists of hot links to other sites of interest, and images.

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People To See

Mountain Men and the Fur Trade
Dedicated to the history of the trappers, explorers and traders known as Mountain Men with a map, images, photos, a library, and more.
Native Web
The Native Web resource database contains information about all of the Native tribes of the New World including the Aztecs of Mexico.

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Things To Do

The Donner Party
This transcript of a PBS documentary leads you almost step-by-step along the route taken by the Donner expedition, from the first days of enthusiasm and optimism, across the plains and a desert to the mountains and a horrifying snow-bound winter of starvation and extreme cold.
Go West Across America with Lewis and Clark
It is 1804. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson has asked Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition across western North America--unknown territory for all but Indians. The goals: map the rivers, make friends with natives, open the West to trade, and look for a Northwest Passage (an easy water route from coast to coast). Lewis and his colleague William Clark have chosen a special team for the journey, and you're invited!
The Gold Rush
Learn about the frenzied rush of gold seekers to California that started with the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill on January 24, 1848. This web site, a companion to the PBS documentary of the same name, is based on information provided by The Sacramento Bee newspaper. It presents information about the Gold Rush, classroom resources, fun facts, and links to other sites about the Gold Rush.
Schoolhouse Rock Lyrics: "Elbow Room"
Read the lyrics to the SchoolHouse Rock song "Elbow Room," which describes westward expansion in America.
Western History Photography Collection
View a selection of historic photographs from the collections of the Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department and the Colorado Historical Society.

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Teacher Resources

Lewis and Clark Classroom Resources
A series of lessons and activities from the PBS site about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Living Edens: Canyonlands
These classroom activities were created to parallel the one-hour television documentary "Living Edens: Canyonlands."
Union Pacific Rail Road-History
This is the story of the first transcontinental railroad; the greatest, most daring engineering effort the country had yet seen. The idea was to span the west with iron rails from Omaha to Sacramento.


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  • Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Touchstone Books, 1997.
  • Bial, Raymond. Frontier Home. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.
  • Carlson, Laurie. Westward Ho!: An Activity Guide to the Wild West. Chicago Review Press, 1996.
  • Cox, Clinton. Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers. Point, 1996.
  • Duncan, Dayton. The West: An Illustrated History for Children. Little, Brown and Company Boston, 1996.
  • Erickson, Paul. Daily Life in a Covered Wagon. Puffin, 1997.
  • Greenwood, Barbara and Heather Collins. A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
  • Hatt, Christine. The American West. Peter Bedrick Books, New York, 1998.
  • Hill, William E. The Mormon Trail: Yesterday and Today. Utah State University Press, 1996.
  • Hill, William E. The Oregon Trail: Yesterday and Today: A Brief History and Pictorial Journal Along the Wagon Tracks of Pioneers. Caxton Press, 1987.
  • King, David C. and Bobbie Moore. Pioneer Days: Discover the Past With Fun Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes. John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
  • Knight, Amelia Stewart et al. The Way West: Journal of a Pioneer Woman. Aladdin Picture Books, 1999.
  • Krensky, Stephen and Anna Divito: Striking It Rich: The Story of the California Gold Rush (Ready-To-Read). Aladdin Paperbacks, 1996.
  • Levine, Ellen and Elroy Freem. If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon. Scholastic, 1992.
  • Lewis, Meriwether et al. The Essential Lewis and Clark. Ecco Press, 1999.
  • Maguire, James H. et al. A Rendezvous Reader: Tall, Tangled, And, True Tales of the Mountain Men, 1805-1850. University of Utah Press, 1997.
  • McMorrow, Catherine and Michael Eagle. Gold Fever (Step into Reading. Step 3 Book). Random House, 1996.
  • Milner, Clyde A., II et al. The Oxford History of the American West. Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Morley, Jacqueline and David Dalsriya, David Antram. How Would You Survive in the American West? Franklin Watts, Incorporated, 1997.
  • Penner, Lucille Recht and Bryn Barnard. Westward Ho!: The Story of the Pioneers. Random House, 1997.
  • Roop, Peter and Connie Roop. Westward Ho, Ho, Ho! The Millbrook Press, Brookfield, Connecticut, 1996.
  • Schanzer, Roszlyn. Gold Fever! Tales from the California Gold Rush. National Geographic Society, 1999.
  • Schmidt, Thomas. National Geographic's Guide to the Lewis and Clark Trail. National Geographic Society, 1998.
  • Slaughter, Michael Landon and William W. Slaughter. Trail of Hope : The Story of the Mormon Trail. Shadow Mountain, 1997.
  • Steedman, Scott and Mark Bergin. Frontier Fort on the Oregon. Peter Bedrick Books, 1994.
  • Stegner, Wallace Earl. The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail. University of Nebraska Press, 1992.
  • Trinklein, Michael. Fantastic Facts about the Oregon Trail. Boettcher/Trinklein, 1995.
  • Wilder, Laura Ingalls and Renee Graef. Going West (My First Little House Books). Harpercollins, 1997.
  • Vestal, Stanley. Jim Bridger, Mountain Man. University of Nebraska Press, 1970.