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The Manifest Destiny Painting

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How Useful is the Painting "American Progress" to a Historian Studying Reasons Why People Went West? The "American Progress", painted by John Gast in 1872, is a representation of the Manifest Destiny. The Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States was destined by God to expand from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. The painting would be very useful to a historian. On the painting an angelic-looking woman with a star on her head and a bible (or a school book) in her hand is seen bringing "light" to West. The side from where she is coming is light, and the West, where she is heading, is dark. This light can be interpreted as Christianity; highlighting the idea that the United States thought that by bringing Christianity to the West they also brought "light" to the Indians, whom they considered savage and barbaric. ...read more.


The changing forms of transportation are also highlighted in this painting through the trains on the "United States" side, which also shows that the government encouraged people to go west. There is also a wagon with horses, which suggests that people travelled to the West in families. The woman is connecting telegraph poles, thereby binding the two nations, and the telegraph poles also show the advancements in communication. The painting's main use is that it highlights the idea of the Manifest Destiny, as well as giving the historian other information about the time, such as the changing forms of transportation and the economic activities of the pioneers. The painting does, however, have its limitations. It doesn't tell us anything about the Mormons (members of a religious sect, who went westward in 1847 to escape persecution of their religious beliefs, and settled near the Great Salt Lake, and also founded Salt Lake City and Utah. ...read more.


The "American Progress" is definitely more useful than limited. It clearly highlights the main idea; the Manifest Destiny. The woman's angelic look, book, and light show that the United States thought they could bring light to the West, which is one of the most important ideas. The painting also covers the political and economic aspects of the Manifest Destiny. It shows the gold diggers, the farmers, and the cattle. It also shows the railways, which represent two ideas; the new forms of the transportation and the encouragement of the government. The fact that the West side is dark also shows the fact that the United States thought of the Indians as barbaric, which is a very important idea. In general, the painting covers most aspects if the Manifest Destiny and could definitely give lots of information to a historian. ...read more.

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