Following Frederick Jackson Turner's lead, most economic historians assume the West and its people were shaped by economic determinism. This study proposes a different path. The federal government, Malone claims, opened the frontier before waves of settlers arrived by constructing a network of roads and making improvements to rivers and harbors. The book begins by analyzing federal transportation expenditures from 1800 to 1860 and then moves on to look at early federal improvement programs and their effects on determining the direction of settlement in the New West. Settlement in the New West states--Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota--accelerated after the government's projects were constructed. The tracking of internal improvement expenditures in sparsely settled regions shows the federal government had a significant role in initiating growth prior to the more widely acknowledged railroad developments after mid-century.