Many of the Cumberland Road's original stone arch bridges, like this one near Grantsville, Maryland, still survive. The Cumberland Road, later nicknamed the National Road, helped make westward expansion of the United States possible by providing infrastructure from the East Coast to the frontiers of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.
Photograph by Clifton R. Adams, National Geographic

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  • On March 29, 1803, Congress authorized construction of the Cumberland Road. The Cumberland Road, later called the National Road, originally stretched from Cumberland, Maryland, to Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia).
    The Cumberland Road became a “gateway to the West” that made westward expansion of the United States possible. Starting in 1811, thousands of pioneers took the Cumberland Road to the frontiers of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
    Today, millions of travelers still navigate the Cumberland Road—it forms the eastern part of U.S. Highway 40, which stretches from Utah to New Jersey.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    authorize Verb

    to allow or give authority to.

    Congress Noun

    legislative branch of the government, responsible for making laws. The U.S. Congress has two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

    construct Verb

    to build or erect.

    expansion Noun

    process of enlarging.

    frontier Noun

    largely unpopulated area that is slowly being opened up for settlement.

    navigate Verb

    to plan and direct the course of a journey.

    pioneer Noun

    person who is among the first to do something.