How Much Do You Know About the American Frontier?


By: Tasha Moore

6 Min Quiz


About This Quiz

It's history trivia time! American history, that is. How much do you know about the great ol'American frontier? Can you differentiate legislative acts from land ordinances and treaties? So many expansionist trails and so little time for you to identify the correct pathways that made the wild, wild West happen!  You won't need a covered wagon (do you know what they were called?) for this quiz, just a computer and your thinking cap!

The American frontier was a crucial time in American history that occurred in several chunks. The first two nuggets are covered in this fun and educational quiz. And speaking of nuggets, what would a drill about the American frontier be without a few sizable lumps about the American gold rush? You'll find that economics played a huge part in motivating folks to brave and carve out the untamed unknown. Religion was also a massive motivator, so was free government land. Then there are the great American pioneers, like Lewis and Clark, whose early nineteenth-century ink fashioned the maps we rely on to this day. 

All of these facts and more are waiting to be explored just a few scrolls yonder. So slog on to your destiny of truth!

In what direction did the American frontier expand during the 19th century?

European settlers first began seizing land along the Atlantic coast in the seventeenth century. The western expansion occurred primarily during the nineteenth century.


Connecticut, Virginia, New York and Massachusetts controlled this area before ceding power to the central government between 1780 and 1800. What was the name of this territory?

In 1787, Congress created the Northwest Territory which included the area spanning northwest of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River, west of Pennsylvania and south and west of the Great Lakes region. This area was known as the Old Northwest and was the first possession of the United States.


What was the patch of unclaimed land called during the American expansion?

The American frontier expansion occurred west of the civilized Atlantic coast region. Settlers set out with their belongings in wagon trains to brave the wild unknown under threat of death from hostile enemies, dangerous conditions and illness.


Attacks from frontier natives, disparate land grants for English courtiers, tax inequities and egregious English mercantile laws led to what 1676 rebellion?

Born in Suffolk, England on January 2, 1647, American planter and colonist Nathaniel Bacon led the rebellion in the Virginia colony in armed protest of unfair English laws and Indian aggression in the frontier. Bacon organized a band of disgruntled frontiersmen in the area.


Which 1803 transaction nearly doubled the land mass of the United States?

On May 2, 1803, America purchased the Louisiana territory from France for the price of $15 million. As a result, the size of the country grew by 828,000 square miles.


The first two frontier expansions were motivated primarily for what purpose?

The first expansion along the Atlantic coast and the second expansion out west were both motivated by an agricultural purpose. Settlers ventured off into unclaimed regions procuring resources, such as timber and precious metals, from the earth. The surplus of raw materials led to the burgeoning of American industry.


Who wrote the 1836 text "A New Guide For Emigrants to the West"?

John Mason Peck was a pioneer and Baptist missionary born near Litchfield, Connecticut on October 31, 1789. Peck's main mission for writing the guide was to help build strong communities in the new frontier.


What notable American pioneer marked out the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Range, where Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee connect?

During the nineteenth century, the Cumberland Gap was an extremely important means of access for hunters. In 1775, Daniel Boone and his crew cleared the pathway to the Kentucky River for the Transylvania Company, which accommodated frontiersmen and trade through the Appalachian Range.


What is the name of the construction material used to pave the first roads in the frontier?

John McAdam of Scotland invented the road pavement material in the 18th century. The substance is made of broken uneven greenstone or granite stones in compacted layers durable enough to sustain heavy loads.


What is the name of the historic 2,000-mile American trail that funneled new settlers into the Oregon Territory in the early to mid-nineteenth century?

The trail, also called the Oregon-California Trail, was one of several major routes traveled by pioneers who sought to settle in the western territories. Travelers first began to pass through the trail in the early 1840s.


The commercial trader William Becknell cleared this trail, which was used as a trade route between 1821 and 1880. What was the name of this important pathway?

The Santa Fe Trail spanned south from Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico and through El Paso into the Chihuahua towns of Mexico. The completion of the Santa Fe railroad in 1880 stopped usage of the trade route.


What war was prompted by the United States annexation of Texas in 1845?

The Mexican-American War started in 1846. War sympathizers in the United States Congress believed the war would increase the prospect of slavery in the Southwest region. U.S. disputes with Mexico over the Texas border and Mexican military attacks on U.S. soldiers in the disputed area also caused the war.


What was the name of the route that the Mormons took after the group was expelled from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1846?

Mormon followers departed Nauvoo, Illinois soon after a mob killed Mormon leader Joseph Smith in 1844. Omaha Indians granted the group permission to cross the Missouri River into Nebraska Territory.


Who was the second Mormon president who also served as unofficial governor of Utah Territory between 1850 and 1857?

American colonizer and religious leader Brigham Young led Mormon followers to Utah and colonized the region before establishing a government there. Young and his followers perceived the area as a new Zion, or Promised Land, for the Mormon church.


Who was the American historian who devised the term "frontier"?

Frederick Jackson Turner was born in Portage, Wisconsin. During his tenure at the University of Wisconsin, he authored several seminal works, including "The Significance of Sections in American History" and "Problems in American History."


What renowned pioneer duo conquered untrodden territory between St. Louis, Missouri and the Pacific Northwest coast during a three-year span?

American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are regarded as heroes of the American frontier. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the two-man team to survey and chart the American wilderness and carve a path to the Pacific Ocean.


What poverty-born businessman was the richest man in America near the time of his death in 1848?

John Jacob Astor was born in Waldorf, Germany on July 17, 1763. He first arrived at Baltimore, Maryland in March 1784 before purchasing furs in west New York. John Jacob Astor built his fur empire from the ground up and named it "American Fur Company." The fur industry exploded during the American expansion.


What piece of American legislation most significantly aided the spread of settlers into the West by offering them land?

Through the Homestead Act of 1862, the government greatly encouraged the migration of settlers into the West by offering 160 acres of public land to them. In return, the settlers were urged to inhabit and cultivate the awarded land.


What is the name of the frontier soldier and politician who organized a vast expedition to settle the American Southwest region?

William Becknell was a commercial trader as well as a successful pioneer. Becknell cleared the Santa Fe Trail, which greatly increased trade in the new frontier. He led an impressive expedition that included over 20 frontiersmen and many supplies.


What is the name of the epic 1872 painting by John Gast that's considered a metaphor of Manifest Destiny?

Manifest Destiny is the belief that American settlers were preordained by God to expand and conquer the land and inhabitants of the West. Journalist John L. O'Sullivan coined the term in 1845.


Which American president greatly shaped American policies and political democracy during the frontier era?

Andrew Jackson served as president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. He also served as senator and congressman prior to his presidency.


From July to August 1845, this frontier philosophy was explicated in the "United States Magazine and Democratic Review," advocating for the subjugation of the American westlands and its indigenous inhabitants. What is the name of this ideology?

The core belief of Manifest Destiny frontier doctrine is that God prescribed that the United States should take any means necessary to dominate the American West. Newspaper editor and journalist John L. O'Sullivan coined the ideology, which a great many people supported.


What 1854 legislation substantially influenced the course of American slavery into America's new territories?

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was a last-ditch effort to settle the issue of whether slavery should be allowed in the western territories. The principle of "popular sovereignty" was conjured as a result of this legislation which further fanned the flames of discord between pro-slavery and anti-slavery advocates.


What was the name of the 1830s campaign that forced nearly 100,000 indigenous people to relocate westward in order to make land available to new settlers?

The Trail of Tears was sanctioned by the U.S. government to re-appropriate land in the Southeast region of the United States. Indigenous people were herded into Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.


Which political doctrine affirmed a territory's right to self-government?

Popular sovereignty, also termed Squatter Sovereignty by dissenters, promoted the idea that settlers in federal territories should alone decide whether their territories would join the Union as free or slave states. The political principle was first evoked during the establishment of New Mexico and Utah territories in 1850.


What 1830s legislation authorized the United States president to give indigenous inhabitants unsettled prairie land in the west in exchange for more desirable land in the American Southeast region?

President Andrew Jackson fiercely promoted the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to accommodate settlers in the more desired territories. The United States resorted to violence in order to win the compliance of indigenous people who were less amenable to America's expansionist policies.


What was the name of the major 1848 American economic event that took place at Sutter's Mill in northern California which prompted an influx of new settlers in the region?

The American gold rush occurred in spurts during the American expansion. The first substantial gold discovery took place in the late 1820s in Dahlonega, Georgia, an event that precipitated the Trail of Tears campaign.


Who was the Indian chief who united the Sioux tribes to resist U.S. expansion efforts into the Great Plains?

Born around the year 1831. Sitting Bull, or Tatanka Iyotake, joined his first expansion-resistance effort at age fourteen. Sitting Bull was a valiant crusader and led the formidable Strong Heart warrior society.


Can you identify the name of the 1890 massacre which resulted in the killing of 150 to 300 indigenous people by United States soldiers?

The Wounded Knee Massacre took place on December 29, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota. Anxious U.S. soldiers, commissioned to secure confiscated land, descended upon a group of Plains Indians who had gathered to engage in a Ghost Dance, which is a spiritual ceremony of song and dance.


Which set of statutes set forth a procedure for incorporating land Northwest of the Ohio River into the Union?

The Northwest Ordinances, or Ordinances of 1784, 1785, and 1787, were several statutes that the United States Congress ratified in order to systematically admit frontier territories north of the Ohio River, south of the Great Lakes, west of Pennsylvania, and east of the Mississippi River.


What is the name of the religious movement whose revival in America during the expansionist period coincided with increased missionary activity in the western territories?

During the early 19th century, many New England Congregationalists ventured west on missionary expeditions. Congregationalists joined forces with Presbyterians to adopt a Plan of Union in 1801 for combined missionary activity in the western regions of the Americas.


What is the name of the author who chronicled her experiences as a young girl living on the western frontier during the mid- to late nineteenth century?

Laura Ingalls Wilder's series of "Little House" children's books were adopted for American television in the 1970s and 1980s. Her first book, "Little House in the Big Woods," was published in 1932.


Which author penned the novel "The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757?"

James Fenimore Cooper's 1826 book is more popularly called "The Last of the Mohicans." It's a tale about the French and Indian War, and %0D takes place during the year 1757.


Who was the landscape painter who reproduced captivating nature scenes of the new western frontier during the nineteenth century?

Frontier painter Albert Bierstadt joined several expeditions of the American western expansion. A few of Bierstadt's paintings include "Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park" (c. 1868) and "Mount Adams, Washington" (1875).


What was the name given to disparate groups of men who lived in the American wilderness trapping and selling animal pelts during the 1820s and 1830s Rocky Mountain fur trade?

Mountain men were adventurous pioneers who ventured to the North American Rocky Mountain west in search of economic prosperity as fur trappers. These groups eventually settled and cultivated much of the region.


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