During the 19th Century, Americans were fascinated by the idea of moving west in North America.
Printed imagery — lithographs and engravings — played an important role in the dissemination of knowledge and understanding about the West and its inhabitants. More than 40 of these hand-colored engravings and lithographs will be on display at the Old Depot Museum through a new exhibit, Imprinting the West: Manifest Destiny, Real and Imagined, which opens Saturday and will be on display through May 25.
In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. This transaction extended the United States’ boundaries by 828,000 square miles, including all of present-day Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and parts of Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. The Louisiana Purchase set the stage for exploration, migration, and settlement, as well as struggle and conflict. Many Americans were convinced that God wanted the country to extend to the Pacific Coast — an idea called “Manifest Destiny” — and began moving west.
The experiences of native peoples were closely intertwined with westward expansion. This exhibition’s artists, including George Catlin and Frederic Remington, sought to document the indigenous people of the West along with those migrating west. Artists often accompanied governmental geographical surveys and created images to illustrate official publications. Others sold engravings to popular periodicals like Harper’s Weekly. Whether real or imagined, these lithographs and engravings informed the rest of America and the world about Native Americans and America’s western landscapes and its natural resources.