East to West
Frederick Turner Jackson, born in 1861, in Portage, Wisconsin, grew up in a time of severe social change, in a nation plagued with an identity crisis. Fascinated by the world around him, Turner chose to become a history professor, devoting his entire life to studying American culture/society while teaching at the University of Wisconsin and Harvard. Constantly having the opportunity to study and observe the development of the “American”, Turner wrote extensively, about which attributes composed and influenced American democracy, societal values, and image. He published an essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” about these topics in 1893, and presented it at the Chicago World’s Fair. In his essay, Turner’s thesis referred to as the “Frontier Thesis” explained his take on why American’s possessed such unique values compared to their European ancestors and counterparts.
The America, Turner lived in was one that was beginning to resemble a united state, fueled by: the South’s gradual recovery from Civil War/Reconstruction era policies, the North’s economic prosperity and social tolerance, and the West’s settlement and more active participation in setting a domestic agenda. Although, the country no longer warred with itself, a social unrest remained. The influx of immigrant migration, domination of unregulated capitalistic virtues, and suppressed laborers left the average American uncomfortable and confused with where they stood in economic, social and political classes. Nevertheless, Turner sought clarity and a better understanding of why and how we made the choices that we did.
While studying at Johns Hopkins for his PhD, Turner was taught by Professor Herbert Adams who firmly believed that American institutions could best be understood in terms of their European origins. Although, like many of his contemporaries, Professor Adams did not take into account American political, economic, or...