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
Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles,
Other than he painted American Progress, and that he was born December
21, 1842, in Berlin, and died July 26, 1896, in Brooklyn,, little
else is known about Gast's life.
American Progress has become a seminal example of American Western
art. The painting serves as an allegory for the
Manifest Destiny and
American westward expansion. The 12.75 by 16.75 inch 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 called "Progress", and on her head is what Crofutt
calls "The Star of the Empire". Progress 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. Progress lays a
telegraph wire with one hand and carries a school book in the other.
As she moves westward, indigenous people and a herd of buffalo are
seen fleeing her and the settlers.
American Progress visually portrays the process of American westward
expansion. The figure of Progress is ushering 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.
American Progress is also an allegory of Frederick Jackson Turner's
Frontier Thesis, the American Western history framework derived from
his essay, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History".
^ Museum website entry
^ Obituary in the
Brooklyn Eagle, July 27, 1896, p. 7, c. 2
^ "American Progress". Retrieved May 1, 2017.
^ Sandweiss, Martha A. "John Gast, American Progress, 1872". Retrieved
May 1, 2017.
Essay on Spirit of the frontier by historian Martha A. Sandweiss of
Amherst College Includes high resolution version of the painting
The Library of Congress -
Works by Gast from the Department of Drawings and Prints
Entry in Goulding's New York City directory (1877), listing him as
GAST JOHN, artist & lithographer, 39 Park pl. h B'klyn
Short biography, list of references, and examples of work on
Works by Gast in the general Catalog
New approved method of zinc etching or photo-zinc-engraving (1886), by
Beyond "American Progress": The Legacy of John Gast by Samanth