During the first half of the 19th century, the United States grew from a nation confined to the Atlantic seaboard to a country on the verge of becoming a global power. One factor prompting this growth was the United States’ growing intellectual, economic, and strategic interests in the Pacific Ocean. These growing interests were fueled by the material contained in governmental reports produced by entities such as the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838–1842). This article examines U.S. government documents on the South Pacific ocean prior to the Civil War, how such documents contributed to the creation of the Smithsonian Institution, and how such documents enhanced American understanding of this region and helped contribute to expanded U.S. involvement in the South Pacific during the latter half of the 19th as well as the 20th century.


U.S. government publications, South Pacific, U.S. Exploring Expedition, U.S. Navy history, Government-sponsored explorations

Published in:

Journal of Government Information (1352-0237) 30 (2004) 727–750

Date of this Version

October 2004