Mailifest Destiny: U.S. expansion visualized as post offices


23 Responses to “Mailifest Destiny: U.S. expansion visualized as post offices”

  1. Gulliver says:

    So when the USPS goes broke is that FedExifest Destiny?

  2. Tim Hare says:

    Wonder why they didn’t continue through the 20th?

  3. bonzerinc says:


    • millie fink says:

      Yeah, Pynchon was pretty well up on this, but I was thinking more W.A.S.P. This visual looks a lot like the spread of a disease. Imagine what this expansion of “Anglo-Saxon” conquest* looks like from a Native American perspective.

      (*cf. Reginald Horsman, “Race and Manifest Destiny”)

      • Gulliver says:

        I assume you mean the five percent or so of Native Americans that survived the fallout from the Spanish conquistadors smallpox blankets and so lived long enough to see an Anglo-Saxon.

        • millie fink says:


          It wasn’t the Spanish who set up U.S. post offices. And it’s not like there were just a few scattered individual Native Americans here and there who got in the way, so to speak, of “manifest destiny”–who faced the brutal onslaught fueled by the explicit and commonsensical white supremacist ideology that helped drive westward expansion.

          • Gulliver says:

            Indeed. Too bad none of the myriad European invaders are still alive to be punished. In fact…


          • millie fink says:

            Yeah, so? What are you getting at? Is this the Arab Trader Argument, yet again?


          • Gulliver says:

            No. I was not getting at anything. But if you want a point, it is that imbalances of power between cultures, not the ethnicity of the perpetrators, leads to genocide. IMHO, addressing those power imbalances is a better strategy for creating a more just world than answering hate, anger and dehumanization with more of the same. I believe that someday human beings will look back on ours and previous era’s obsession with superficial hereditary characteristics as an anachronism. I envy them.

          • millie fink says:

            I very much suggest to you Horsman’s book. Pointing out what he and I have about the largely forgotten racist underpinnings of “Manifest Destiny” is not the same thing as hating a group of people, nor is it the same as attributing the egregious actions done under the banner of their supposed inherent racial qualities (something THEY have believed in, not me) to their supposed inherent racial qualities and resultant tendencies.

            It’s about ideology, not “essentialism,” and it’s about remembering what that ideology was, and especially, what it still is; a very similar sense of “American exceptionalism” still causes Americans to care more, for instance, about the deaths of a few of their own soldiers than about the deaths of many thousands more brown people at the hands of their own soldiers.

          • Gulliver says:

            On my next library visit, I shall do that. I does look interesting, and I am somewhat of a history buff. Particularly early American history, which is why I am well aware of that stark racism was the widely accepted status quo contributing to some of the darkest chapters in history.

            I did not mean to imply you were hating, and I’m sorry if I gave that impression. But I do think that racism and other forms of bigotry arise from viewing “W.A.S.P.s” and other pigeonholed groups as diseases.

          • millie fink says:

            Okay cool, and I do hope you find and enjoy the book.

            But I do think that racism and other forms of bigotry arise from viewing “W.A.S.P.s” and other pigeonholed groups as diseases.

            I was referencing, and trying to imagine, how the video above would look from a Native American perspective. It must be awfully difficult NOT to think badly of people who are doing to yours what self-declared Anglo-Saxons did (and in a sense still do) to Native Americans.

          • Gulliver says:

            It must be awfully difficult NOT to think badly of people who are doing
            to yours what self-declared Anglo-Saxons did (and in a sense still do)
            to Native Americans.

            I imagine you’re correct. Seeing invaders as persons rather than a race would not be easy, nor would acknowledging that not everyone who shares the invaders’ characteristics is evil. If it were easy for human beings to see each other as peers, history would probably read quite differently.

          • public bizmail says:

            “imbalances of power between cultures, not the ethnicity of the perpetrators, leads to genocide”


            Genocide is a human failing; it is not specific to any given culture. The more honest we are about this fact of human nature, the more likely we are to prevent future evil.

            “Manifest Destiny” was, amongst other things, an intentional, sanctioned,  multi-generational genocide.   Any honest historical discussion must acknowledge this fact.

            However, given how the Aztecs treated their neighbors — and the Sioux treated the Crow — I am certain the outcome would have been largely the same if the he North Americans had had ocean-going vessels, steel, and disease resistance while  Europeans were using bronze-age age tools.   The well-equipped group would have dehumanized the out-group and violently seized resources.

  4. GuyInMilwaukee says:

    Nice work. But it sure would be interesting to see the map decline at the beginning of this century.

  5. Bevatron Repairman says:

    One neat thing is the immediate explosion of post offices in California right at 1849 and, within that, how many more you see in the Gold Country than in the Bay Area for the next few years.

  6. Just read a very interesting book a few weeks ago called The First Great Triumph, which chronicles (from a somewhat right-wing perspective) the rise of American Imperialism. Teddy Roosevelt is central to the book, of course, and Howard Zimmerman, the author points out that his career-making book on the opening of the American West, was about the territory east of the Mississippi. In other words, until quite late in the 19th century, the American view of themselves and Manifest Destiny was amazingly contained. The animation shows that, with the mississippi clearly a major delineation point in a way it no longer is. Cool post.

  7. @gulliver – you’re a couple of centuries off.  The 1 documented incident of small-pox infested blanket giving was an american military man, & took place in the mid 18th century.  The small-pox epidemics that devistated first-nation populations took place in at least 4 waves in the middle of the 19th century (which corresponds pretty well to the expansion of European Americans through the Indian territories.

  8. paul beard says:

    Postal systems and highways are necessary for commerce and throughout history have made clear what nation controlled what piece of land: nice way to visualize how this nation expanded its control over the landmass. So when the USPS goes away (when  we forget that universal postal delivery is important) and the road network is turned over to private operators, will the US be a country or just a conglomeration of delivery zones and on/off ramps with toll gates? 

  9. Nadreck says:

    Cool.  Now let’s see one for “Pax McDonalds” on a global scale!  BTW – the Post Office predates the nation by several years and Manifest Destiny by quite a bit!

    • penguinchris says:

      Indeed, visualizing McDonalds expansion on a global scale would be quite interesting (though probably not as nuanced as this).

  10. Jon Sowden says:

    There’s a nice “Telegraph Road” curve going on in Nebraska.

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