American Progress

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
American Progress
American Progress (John Gast painting).jpg
ArtistJohn Gast
Year1872 (1872)
MediumOil on canvas
SubjectManifest destiny
Dimensions11 1/2 in x 15 3/4 in. (29.2 cm x 40 cm)
LocationAutry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, California
OwnerAutry Museum of the American West
WebsiteExhibit website

American Progress is an 1872 painting by John Gast, a Prussian-born painter, printer, and lithographer who lived and worked most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. American Progress, an allegory of Manifest Destiny, was widely disseminated in chromolithographic prints. It is now held by the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California.[1]


American Progress has become a seminal example of American Western art. The painting serves as an allegory for Manifest Destiny and American westward expansion. The 11.50 by 15.75 inches (29.2 cm × 40.0 cm) painting was commissioned in 1872 by George Crofutt, a publisher of American Western travel guides, and has been frequently reproduced. The woman in the center is Columbia, the personification of the United States, and on her head is what Crofutt calls "The Star of the Empire." Columbia moves from the light-skied east to the dark and treacherous West, leading white settlers who follow her either on foot or by stagecoach, horseback, Conestoga wagon, wagon train, or riding steam trains.[2] Progress lays a telegraph wire with one hand and carries a school book in the other. Additionally, seen on the right, are white farmers that have already settled in the Midwest. As Lady Columbia moves westward, indigenous people and a herd of buffalo are seen fleeing her and the settlers.[3]

American Progress visually portrays the process of American westward expansion. The figure of Columbia is ushering in an era of modernization, development, and advancement to the West, which in the painting is portrayed as a dark and savage place, especially when compared to the eastern side of the painting. But, with the ushering in of these developments, the indigenous people living in the West and their way of life is cast out.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Museum website entry
  2. ^ "American Progress". Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  3. ^ Sandweiss, Martha A. "John Gast, American Progress, 1872". Retrieved May 1, 2017.

External links[edit]