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A vast area that lay between the Rockie Mountains and the Pacific ocean, what is now known as Oregon, was explored in the 16th century by both the English and Spanish who skirted the coast in search of the Northwest Passage. The United States' claim to the area was established by Robert Gray when he sailed up the Columbia River in 1792. By 1805 Lewis and Clark had reached the Oregon territory from the east. In 1811 the first permanent settlement was established, a fur trading post at Astoria, by J. J. Astor. The fur trade in this area flourished creating new interest in early claims.

Both the British government and the United States laid claim to Oregon so in 1818 the two nations agreed to joint occupation for ten years. In 1827 the agreement was renewed indefinitely. The Americans strengthened their claim by acquiring Spains rights to the Pacific Northwest through the Adams-Onis Treaty. The British, through the Hudson's Bay Company, gained control of the northern portion of Oregon. There was reluctance on both sides since neither wanted to surrender access to the Columbia River basin and the adjacent territory which would later become the state of Washington.

Until the 1840's the Oregon territory was sparsely populated. When the 49th parallel was made the international boundary all of this changed. In 1841 a small group made their way to Oregon on a two thousand mile trail called the Oregon Trail. The trail extended across the northern Great Plains and the mountains beyond, across the Rockies at the South Pass and then forked with the main northern route leading to the Willamette Valley of Oregon. This was the beginning of a mass migration and within two years 5 thousand Americans were demanding the extension of full American sovereignty over the Oregon territory.

By 1845 the United States was coming closer to armed conflict with Great Britain. Americans willingness to go to was over Oregon was expressed in slogans such as "fifty-four forty or fight." On May 21, 1846 Congress, at the request of President Polk, submitted the one years notice to the British for termination of their joint occupation agreement. The British complied and the Oregon treaty was signed giving the United States claim to Puget Sound and the strait south of Vancouver Island. This gave the United States its first deep water port on the Pacific and Oregon was established as a territory in 1848.

The arrival of the railroads to the Oregon territory in the 1800's brought about a lumbering boom and by 1859 Oregon was admitted as a state. Although conservative politically, Oregon was the first state to have initiative referendum and recall. Today Oregon is known for lumbering, fishing, agriculture, manufacturing of wood, paper and primary metals, as well as, some mining. The State Bird is the Western Meadow Lark. Oregons State Flower is the Oregon Grape and the Capitol is Salem.