Tracking Growth in the U.S.

Tracking Growth in the U.S.

Late 19th century rails linked sea to shining sea.


5 - 12


Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History

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The United States’ first transcontinental railroad was completed in November 1869. Nicknamed the “Overland Route,” it linked the sprawling, sparsely populated American West with the bustling and closely connected urban areas in the Midwest and East Coast.

Over the next 20 years, railroad construction boomed, influencing the economic and cultural growth of the United States.

Instructional Ideas 

Consult National Geography Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information.

  • Discuss different representations of geographic data: maps, charts, graphs, globes, models, etc.
  • Discuss different types of maps: thematic, topographic, satellite, street or highway, etc.
  • Discuss questions 1-3 in the Questions tab.


Consult National Geography Standard 17: How to apply geography to interpret the past.

  • Discuss the geographic context of the U.S. in the late 1800s.
  • What social and economic changes was the nation undergoing? For example:
  1. recovery from the Civil War (Reconstruction)
  2. growth of big business (the Gilded Age)
  3. greater social mobility for the African American population
  4. new waves of immigration
  • Discuss questions 4-9 in the Questions tab.
Media Credits

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National Geographic Society
Sean P. O'Connor
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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