In the early 1840s the American West, though claimed by the United States, was considered by many white Americans to be untamed, wild, and possibly rife with unknown wealth. This was a West that existed largely in the American imagination.
In fact, the area west of the Missouri was home to complex Native societies, was divided into political structures, and was intimately known, if not formally mapped.
These two competing Wests - that imagined by many Americans and that inhabited by Souix, Pawnee, Snake and Nez Pierce tribes - were mapped both geographically and textually by John C. Frémont between 1842 and 1843. Frémont set out from St. Louis in the summer of 1842, and began to chronicle his journey west, in the wake of "emigrants" who were moving to the Oregon Territory - a route known as the "Oregon Trail." Frémont's first expedition covered the land between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains during the summer and fall of 1842. In the summer of 1843 he set out to write an account of the second half of the Oregon Trail, from the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River in Oregon.
The maps contained here are drawn from the Library of Congress's collection "Topographical map of the road from Missouri to Oregon, commencing at the mouth of the Kansas in the Missouri River and ending at the mouth of the Walla-Wallah in the Columbia." They were created using Frémont's journal, and cover his first and second expeditions. I have annotated the maps with accounts of the resting places, flora, fauna, and people Frémont's and his party encountered on their journey west.
You’ve played the game Oregon Trail via DOS (as a child), online, or via app but have you traced the actual trail taken by John C. Frémont between 1842 and 1843? Now you can with this daily interactive map with journal.
I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history.
I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.
View all posts by Chris Aldrich