How well do you know the U.S. territorial expansion?



By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The United States wasn't born with 50 states. After the American Revolution, America slowly but surely gathered new territory to create a much bigger country. How much do you know about America's territorial expansions?

The U.S. purchased the Alaska area from which country?

In 1867, America purchased Alaska from Russia. It didn't become an official state until 1959.


In 1836, Texas declared its independence from which country?

In 1836, Texans decided they wanted their independence from Mexico. They started a war and eventually took the land to establish the independent Republic of Texas.


Which area became the 50th state of the United States?

Hawaii is the most recent area to become a state. It received official statehood in 1959. It's the only state that's not a part of the Americas.


The Philippines is now a part of the United States.

The islands are not a part of the U.S. In the early 20th century (after winning the Philippine-American War), the U.S. claimed the Philippines for a few decades. But the Japanese invaded during World War II, and after America liberated the islands, it decided to recognize the sovereignty of the Filipino people.


During which war did the U.S. take control of Puerto Rico?

The U.S. invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Spain gave up Puerto Rico as part of the same treaty in which it relinquished the Philippines and Guam.


In 1818, the U.S. agreed to a "joint occupation" of which area?

In 1818, the U.S. agreed to a "joint occupation" of the Oregon area. It split administration with Britain.


When Texas joined the U.S., it angered which country?

Mexico's leaders wanted the Republic of Texas for themselves. They warned America that taking Texas would essentially be an act of war.


The Mexican Cession of 1848 transferred many areas from Mexico to the U.S. It did NOT include parts of which modern state?

The Mexican Cession yielded much of the Southwest to the U.S. in 1848, but Oklahoma wasn't included. It was the third-largest land acquisition in U.S. history, following the Louisiana Purchase and the Alaska Purchase.


What was "manifest destiny"?

In the 1800s, the phrase "manifest destiny" was used to describe the concept that Americans were simply destined to settle most of North America. And that's exactly what happened.


How far west did America's borders originally extend?

The original border created in 1783 extended to the Mississippi River. In the decades after the Treaty of Paris, the U.S. sought to aggressively expand its territorial holdings.


In 1803, the U.S. purchased which area?

1803 marked the famed Louisiana Purchase, which extended from Louisiana through modern-day Montana. The U.S. bought the land from France.


The Louisana Purchase included a huge swath of land that included 15 modern states. How much did America pay for the land?

U.S. President Thomas Jefferson nabbed the huge territory for a measly $15 million, which was only about three cents per acre -- or about 50 cents in today's money. Anyway you look at it, it was an incredible bargain.


The Lousiana Purchase had what affect on the size of the United States?

With one fell swoop, President Jefferson doubled the size of his young nation. Not bad for $15 million.


The Alaska Purchase added nearly 600,000 square miles to America. How much did the U.S. pay per acre?

The Americans made out like bandits. They paid just 2 cents per acre for Alaska, which would become a vital center for shipping and commerce. The area also had great strategic importance.


In 1845, the Republic of Texas wanted to join the United States.

The citizens of the Republic of Texas really did want to be a part of the U.S. It became the 28th state on December 29, 1845.


At the time of the Alaska Purchase, there were a good number of Russian citizens in Alaska. What did they do after the U.S. took control?

Some of the Russians stayed in Alaska. But most of them, leery of being under American control, returned to the Russian Empire.


Why did the U.S. want to buy far-off Alaska, anyway?

Seal skins were big business back in the 19th century. And there were countless seals in the area, making it a solid economic investment.


Most Americans supported the acquisition of Alaska.

It's a common legend that Americans thought Alaska was a waste of money. Most citizens actually supported the idea of adding Alaska to U.S. territory.


The 1853 Gadsen Purchase helped the U.S. purchase which area?

The 1853 Gadsen Purchase targeted parts of New Mexico and Arizona. The U.S. needed the land in part to finish a transcontinental railroad system.


Guam was a U.S. territory before World War II.

Guam was one of America's few holdings in the South Pacific before the war. But the Japanese swooped in and invaded the area, and its citizens weren't liberated until 1944.


America is a young country. In what year were the original borders of the United States established?

After the United States won the Revolutionary War, it signed the 1783 Treaty of Paris with Great Britain. This treaty established the country's original borders. Then, things quickly changed.


American Samoa has been an unincorporated unorganized territory since when?

American Samoa became an unincorporated unorganized territory in 1898. It is made up of five small islands (and two atolls) in the South Pacific.


How long was Hawaii a territory before it finally achieved statehood?

For 60 years, Hawaii sat in limbo as a territory. It became a territory in 1898 … but didn't receive statehood until 1959.


The U.S. gained control of the Philippines thanks to a treaty with which country?

Spain was in charge of the Philippine Islands until the Spanish-American War. America won the war and then agreed to pay Spain $20 million for the islands.


After Spain ceded the Philippine Islands to the U.S., what happened?

Spain gave up the land, but the Filipinos weren't thrilled with the arrangement. They fought back, and it was the start of the Philippine-American War.


Some areas are categorized as organized but unincorporated dependent territories, or commonweatlths. How many commonwealths does the U.S. have?

There are currently two U.S. commonwealths. They are Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas Islands.


Florida was established as a territory in 1822. How long did that status last?

Florida was only a territory for about 23 years. It became the 27th state in 1845.


Residents of the Virgin Islands can vote in U.S. presidential elections.

Virgin Islands residents are considered U.S. citizens, but they can't vote in the presidential election. They can, however, vote for a new territorial governor every four years.


The U.S. still holds numerous territories. How many territories does it have?

America currently as 16 territories. Only five of those are considered inhabited. Many of the others, such as the Midway Islands, are held for strategic purposes.


The Northern Mariana Islands are a U.S. territory. Where are they located?

The Northern Mariana Islands are a commonwealth in the South Pacific. There are fewer than 60,000 people living on the islands, which together have a land mass of around 180 square miles.


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