Unit 2: Westward Expansion
Frameworks for America's Past

Click on the links below - 

Teacher Key - for Unit 2

Maps - for Unit 2

Historical photo sets

1.  Great Plains geography

2.  Why people went west

3.  Settling the Plains - inventions and adaptations

4.  Beef cattle raising in the West

5.  Impact on Indians: Reservations and conflicts

6.  Impact on Indians: Assimilation

History food feature
Stewed Rabbit - A Frontier Meal  (This short video shows how to cook a meal that settlers of the West often ate.)

How wheat is made into flour for bread  (a short video)
Exploring further
From primary sources:
History - and a love story - in primary source documents
Videos and
Internet sites

Students: Check with your parents for permission before visiting Internet links.
The Impact of the Homestead Act  (a short video overview)

Cutting sod, plowing land, planting seeds the old way  (a short video that shows how it was done on homestead farms of the West)

If you are interested . . .

Harvesting wheat by hand  (a short video that shows how wheat was cut with a scythe by hand)

Harvesting wheat with a reaper  (a short video that shows a mechanical reaper used on farms in the 1880s and 1890s)

Steam powered thresher for wheat  (a short video that shows the machine used in the old days to separate the wheat from the stalks.  It also shows an old steam tractor and a sawmill.)

Wheat harvest on a modern farm  (a video showing a large, modern version of the reaper.  It is called a combine because it combines a reaper with a thresher, which separates the wheat from the stalks.)

Maps - Wheat production: 1859 - 1889 - 1919  (from an online historical atlas)

The Transcontinental Railroad  (a short video produced by the Union Pacific Railroad company)

Maps - Railroads: Railroads in Operation 1870 -
Western Railroads 1880 - Western Railroads 1930  (from an online historical atlas)

Texas Longhorn cattle  (a short video shows a parade in San Antonio, recalling the cowboys and cattle drives of long ago)

Maps - Cattle production: 1860 - 1890  (from an online historical atlas)

Indian Reservations maps:  1840 - 1875 - 1900 - 1930 
(from an online historical atlas)

The Nez Perce - A people in exile  (a short video about the Nez Perce today, with a brief account of Chief Joseph)


Days of '49  (a short video that features an old folk song about the California Gold Rush, with some good historical photos.  A "bummer" is slang for a man who drifts from town to town, without work.  The "bummer's shore" was the West Coast of the Gold Rush era.  A "gin sot" is a drunk.)
Mainly for teachers America: The Story of Us TV mini-series, Episode 6, "Heartland," has great video segments about topics in this unit.  This widely praised production originally ran on the History Channel.  Less than $20 on Amazon for the 3 DVD set.  Segments in this episode include:
  • The building of the Transcontinental Railroad
  • The Homestead Act / life of a homesteader family
  • Buffalo hunters / impact on Plains Indians
  • Texas cattle industry / cowboys / cattle trails
  • Invention of barbed wire and its impact
  • (Segments on the Battle of Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee massacre are very condensed and not as helpful)
  • The final clips on the spread of railroads, the Sears catalog, and the growing national economy give a good wrap up to this unit.
My Antonia, by Willa Cather   You can read this famous American novel in this online edition, or find a copy at any library or bookstore.  It tells the story of Americans and immigrants who settled the Great Plains in the decades after the Civil War.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2018 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.