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Culture of the West

The Western Migration in America was made by trailblazers. From the early voyageurs and mountain men who traveled the Missouri, Ohio, Platte, Columbia and other rivers in search of beaver pelts to the pioneers in covered wagons, to the gold-hungry miners – the lure to move West was irresistible.


Tens of thousands of men and women from all socio-economic groups, races, nationalities, and from a multitude of cultures knew that their destiny was beyond the Alleghenies and far from the confines of "civilized" societies.

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The Pioneer Spirit Continues

Throughout the waves of migration, there is a thread of commonality in almost all individuals who came west. It is the yearning for discovery, to find what lies beyond the hills and across the plains.


For many it is the chance to improve their lives and find independence and success in a new land. The earliest 

pioneers came on foot, on horseback on flatboats and canoes, and on steam trains. Later, they came in automobiles and airplanes –  but they all yearned for a new life's adventure.

Today, Westerners continue to be pioneers. Sometimes Westerners are outrageously innovative – from the aerospace industry to the high tech achievements in Silicon Valley. For others, the West has nurtured their individual creativity in a culture where stretching the boundaries in fields of art, film, architecture and design is encouraged and rewarded.

Innovators and Dreamers

The West continues to be the proving ground for everything new. Trend-setting

mid-century  modern designs of Charles and Ray Eames sprang from the couple's studio in Venice, California. Counter-culture hippies founded a movement in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district. Space age atomic "Googie" architecture took root in the West and where else but in Hollywood would the world of make-believe become a multi-billion dollar industry?

Illuminating the Legacy of the West


At the Grace Dee May Museum, our unique collections share the legends and lore of the West. We invite you to explore our exhibits as you take a Virtual Tour on our website or by visiting our galleries at the historic Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.

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Searching for a New Destiny in a New Land

It is a daunting task to head into the wilderness. Yet, waves of pioneers bravely trekked across the American continent willing to take risks to find their destiny.


The lure of land, of gold and silver, of freedom, and most of all – of adventure overruled commonsense and the 

contentment of playing it safe. Be they native-born Americans or immigrants from countries around the world, the opportunity in the West was stronger than any dangers to be found out on the western trails.

The Homestead Act

From the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in the early 1820's, pioneers continued moving west taking routes on the Oregon and Mormon Trails. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any man or women over the age of 21 to claim a parcel of land up to 160 acres for just the cost of the filing fee. As a result, nearly 300 million acres of land were transferred from government ownership to become private property of settlers willing to clear the land, build a home, plow a field and maintain livestock on family farms.




The Pacific Railroad Act

Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862. Following the end of the Civil War, the "Big Four", investors Charles Crockett, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Collis P. Huntington, completed their dream of establishing the first Transcontinental Railroad, the Central Pacific, in 1869. The railroad enticed even more people to pack up their bags and move west.

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