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Authored by: Jim Craine , Chris Dando , Ron Davidson

The Ashgate Research Companion to Media Geography

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409444015
eBook ISBN: 9781315613178
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042822


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In 1869, after traveling across the continent to California as part of an Interior Department survey team, Albert Bierstadt completed The Oregon Trail, perhaps the most celebrated image of frontier expansion and the heroic achievement of “manifest destiny” in the annals of American art. That same year, the driving of the golden spike through the rails at Promontory, Utah, marked the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. The railroad’s completion underscored how Bierstadt’s painting was one of rousing nostalgia rather than of history in the making. A more contemporary rendering of the American West, published that same year, came in the form of a travelogue, George A. Crofutt’s Great Trans-Continental Railroad, that described more than 500 places to see in the newly opened West. The contemporaneous appearance of The Oregon Trail, the spike, and the travelogue illustrates how romantic imagery of manifest destiny overlapped with the rise of national tourism in the post–Civil War West. Indeed, this chapter adopts the perspective that manifest destiny, as a cultural institution, national identity project, and set of spatial representational practices, became inseparable from the colonization of the West as a tourist space starting in the late nineteenth century. Moreover, the cultural meanings and associated spatial representations of manifest destiny evolved as the tourist industry itself adapted to wider social, economic, and political forces.

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