The End of the Frontier and the Start of a New Era Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

We open The Emergence of Modern America with a look at two notable documents from the late 1880s and early 1890s. The first document describes the famous–and tragic–“land rush” that opened up Oklahoma Territory to white settlers on a first-come-first-serve basis. Although, technically, the American Indian tribes that earlier had been relocated to the region retained large tracks of land, realistically they became a powerless minority overnight. Initially, whites were to inhabit only the so-called unassigned areas. But the even set the stage for widespread white settlement and control of the region. The document presented here provides an eye-witness account of the land rush and of the settlers as they seek to “stake a claim” and start a new life.

We open The Emergence of Modern America with a look at two notable documents from the late 1880s and early 1890s. The first document describes the famous–and tragic–“land rush” that opened up Oklahoma Territory to white settlers on a first-come-first-serve basis. Although, technically, the American Indian tribes that earlier had been relocated to the region retained large tracks of land, realistically they became a powerless minority overnight. Initially, whites were to inhabit only the so-called unassigned areas. But the even set the stage for widespread white settlement and control of the region. The document presented here provides an eye-witness account of the land rush and of the settlers as they seek to “stake a claim” and start a new life.

The second document here offers a statement of “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” In this landmark 1893 essay, historian Frederick Jackson Turner argues that the end of the historical development of the American nation has arrived and that that development has been marked above all by the steady westward shift of the frontier lands. What began at the Appalachians moved out to the Mississippi River and on to the Great Plains and the Pacific Ocean. By the closing years of the nineteenth century, Turner maintained, the western frontier was no more. And yet, he felt, it was the frontier and frontier life, more than anything else, that had shaped American national character. Turner’s famous “frontier thesis” left a lasting impression on American thought.

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