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The Frontier in American Culture

The Frontier in American Culture

RICHARD WHITE
PATRICIA NELSON LIMERICK
EDITED BY JAMES R. GROSSMAN
Copyright Date: 1994
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pndfc
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  • Book Info
    The Frontier in American Culture
    Book Description:

    Log cabins and wagon trains, cowboys and Indians, Buffalo Bill and General Custer. These and other frontier images pervade our lives, from fiction to films to advertising, where they attach themselves to products from pancake syrup to cologne, blue jeans to banks. Richard White and Patricia Limerick join their inimitable talents to explore our national preoccupation with this uniquely American image. Richard White examines the two most enduring stories of the frontier, both told in Chicago in 1893, the year of the Columbian Exposition. One was Frederick Jackson Turner's remarkably influential lecture, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History"; the other took place in William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's flamboyant extravaganza, "The Wild West." Turner recounted the peaceful settlement of an empty continent, a tale that placed Indians at the margins. Cody's story put Indians-and bloody battles-at center stage, and culminated with the Battle of the Little Bighorn, popularly known as "Custer's Last Stand." Seemingly contradictory, these two stories together reveal a complicated national identity. Patricia Limerick shows how the stories took on a life of their own in the twentieth century and were then reshaped by additional voices-those of Indians, Mexicans, African-Americans, and others, whose versions revisit the question of what it means to be an American. Generously illustrated, engagingly written, and peopled with such unforgettable characters as Sitting Bull, Captain Jack Crawford, and Annie Oakley,The Frontier in American Culturereminds us that despite the divisions and denials the western movement sparked, the image of the frontier unites us in surprising ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91532-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-5)
    JAMES R. GROSSMAN

    Cowboys‚ Indians‚ log cabins‚ wagon trains. These and other images associated with stories about the frontier maintain a constant presence in our lives. Innumerable products are marketed according to assumptions that symbols of the frontier are deeply embedded in Americans’ notions of who we are and what we want to be. “Somewhere along the line everybody wants to be a cowboy‚” intones the narrator of a radio advertisement for pickup trucks. Mounted in the fall of 1994 at the Newberry Library‚ “The Frontier in American Culture” explores our national preoccupation with frontier images‚ metaphors‚ stories‚ and reenactments.

    In 1893 the...

  5. FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER AND BUFFALO BILL
    (pp. 7-65)
    RICHARD WHITE

    Americans have never had much use for history‚ but we do like anniversaries. In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner‚ who would become the most eminent historian of his generation‚ was in Chicago to deliver an academic paper at the historical congress convened in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition. The occasion for the exposition was a slightly belated celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Western Hemisphere. The paper Turner presented was “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.”¹

    Although public anniversaries often have educational pretensions‚ they are primarily popular entertainments; it is the combination of the...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. THE ADVENTURES OF THE FRONTIER IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
    (pp. 67-102)
    PATRICIA NELSON LIMERICK

    The year 1988 signified the fortieth anniversary of humanity’s escape from zippers and buttons. In May of that year a journal of science and technology called Discover published an article commemorating this occasion. “Velcro‚” the headline read: “The Final Frontier.”

    To the specialist in Western American history, this is a title to ponder. In what sense might Velcro constitute a frontier? In his 1893 essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History‚” Frederick Jackson Turner left hls central term curiously befogged: The word “frontier‚” he said‚ “is an elastic one‚ and for our purposes does not need sharp definition.”...

  8. Checklist of Materials Exhibited
    (pp. 103-116)