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Section 3, Chapter 4 -The Northwest Frontier 1800 - 1840
Chapter 4:
Dividing Territory Between Nations
The Louisiana Purchase
Lewis and Clark
The North West Company
The Astorians
Overtrapping to make a Barren Zone
Trading Posts: Fort Hall
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Routes of Lewis and Clark and Hunt Party explorations plus locations of Mountain Men Rendezvous, early 19th century, after Lavender (1965) and Beck and Haase (1989, maps 25 and 26). Click on image for a larger view.
Dividing Territory Between Nations
As the 19th Century opened, the far northwest corner of the North American continent was almost unknown but was about to become an object of interest and conflicting claims. Little was known about the geography and resources of the area. The newly formed United States was occupied fully with the development of its east coast and with a growing interest in the Mississippi Valley. Most Americans found the Pacific Northwest just too far away. Explorers had sailed along the Pacific Coast, and by 1792, the mouth of the Columbia River had been discovered by the American captain Robert Gray. He was followed a month later by the British sea captain, George Vancouver, who gave his name to an island and to cities in Washington and British Columbia. Vancouver named Mt. Hood for his first mate and Mt. Rainier for the 1st Lord of the British Admiralty. In 1793, Canadian Alexander Mackenzie crossed the continent to reach the Pacific Ocean. Because of voyages by Spanish explorers, Spain made vague claims to the Pacific Northwest. Russians in Alaska were looking south. Some American politicians and entrepreneurs advocated expanding trade between the new nation and the Orient through exchanging furs, obtained from native tribes on the Pacific Coast, for spices, silk and other exotic products. In 1800, incoming President Thomas Jefferson was among the visionaries who foresaw uses for the probable resources of the Northwest. While serving as United States Ambassador to France, he had learned of the possible fur trade in the western lands and he believed the United States would expand to the west.