This painting depicts what is responsible for the creation of my home. Without the westward expansion of the United States, California not become a state in the Union, no one would settle the land beneath my house, and my parents would not have met at Iowa State and fallen in love.
In this chromolithograph, Gast illustrates Columbia (an embodiment of America) leading American settlers into the untamed west, full of wildlife, opportunities, and untouched land. She is driving away Native Americans and building civilization atop their former homes. This painting is a look into more than the physical forms of expansion west, it shows the American attitude towards their conquest.
Instead of a violent incursion into another people’s land, Americans viewed it as a justified expansion of their territory. Columbia carries a schoolbook and is laying telegraph lines alongside a train, indicating that Americans believed they were educating savages and bringing a higher standard of living to barbarians.
Gast aptly named his artwork American Progress, indicating their belief that expanding the US was a natural process. None of the Americans are fighting the natives directly, rather they are pushing flee off the edge of the canvas. To Americans, their expansion was not violent, rather, it was justified. Americans believed themselves the rightful owners of the land, able to administer its possession however their desired, with no regard for the history or fragility of the land.
I abhor the idea of such an act, but I have to come to terms with the fact that it was necessary for America to be what it is today, and for me to be the person I am right now.
 Gast, John. American Progress. 1872. Chromolithograph. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.