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Introduction

The colonial expansion of Europe was well under way by the middle of the sixteenth century. Representativesof European states even visited the little-known lands of Siberia and the American west as the Spanish empire began pushing north into the American southwest and Muscovite Russia stretched east into northern Asia. For the next three centuries the American frontier edged west and the Russian frontier east as traders searched for wealth and explorers searched new lands.

But who and what would they find? The earliest maps of Siberia and the West depict vast lands, empty spaces, and mystery. [Herman Moll, A New and Correct Map of the Whole World]

Russia and America sent numerous scientific expeditions to their distant frontiers, and gradually developed an accurate picture of the extent and geography of their lands. [ The Russian Discoveries, A Map of Lewis and Clark?s Trek] The lands were difficult to master, sometimes exotic, but also inspirational and inviting to a variety of peoples.

While scientific knowledge of the new lands slowly accumulated, traders streamed into Siberia and the American west in search of fur. The first Russians in Siberia extracted from and traded with the native peoples for fox, sable, beavers, marten, and squirrel pelts, all much in demand throughout Europe for hats and clothing. Although the first traders in the American west hoped to find jewels and precious metals, they were followed by more successful men in search of buffalo, beaver, and sea otter. [Map of the Trans-Mississippi Territory during the Period of the American Fur Trade, 1807-1843]

These frontiersmen also found diverse native cultures with whom they traded, interacted, and fought. [The Russian Discovery of Siberia; Discovery of the American West]

Herman Moll, A New and Correct Map of the Whole World

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Russia and America became aware that they had much in common as continental powers with great potential in their frontiers.

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Map of the Trans-Mississippi Territory .

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