(redirected from American frontier)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


in U.S. history, the border area of settlement of Europeans and their descendants; it was vital in the conquest of the land between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The importance of the westward movement of the population and the lure of the frontier were clear even to colonial writers and early U.S. historians, but the theory that the frontier was a governing factor (if not the governing factor) in developing a distinctive U.S. civilization was not formulated until 1893, when Frederick Jackson TurnerTurner, Frederick Jackson,
1861–1932, American historian, b. Portage, Wis. He taught at the Univ. of Wisconsin from 1885 to 1910 except for a year spent in graduate study at Johns Hopkins.
..... Click the link for more information.
 presented his thesis.

Basically, Turner held that American democracy was shaped by the frontier, namely by the contest of the settler with the wilderness of the frontier. There the settler learned self-reliance, judged others by their abilities, strove to improve his or her lot, and grew distrustful of external authority and formal institutions. In short, the frontier molded an American national character that was individualistic and egalitarian. Turner's work stimulated a tremendous amount of research and writing on the history and meaning of the frontier.

There is no question that the process of peopling the West is a central theme in U.S. history, although not, perhaps, for the reasons Turner suggested. The cultivation of frontier lands provided food for the growing number of workers in Eastern cities; its mineral wealth and other natural resources aided industrialization; and the need to keep the East and West united led to a complex and efficient national system of transportation and communication. At the same time, the existence of barely settled lands helped preserve a rural tinge to America well into the 20th cent. Many studies have been devoted to the fur trade frontier, the mining frontier, the grazing frontier, and other types of frontier, but emphasis has been to a large extent on the solid achievements of the farming frontier and on the central United States.


See F. J. Turner, The Frontier in American History (1920); F. L. Paxson, History of the American Frontier (1924); W. P. Webb, The Great Plains (1931) and The Great Frontier (1952); R. A. Billington and J. B. Hedges, Westward Expansion (1949); H. N. Smith, Virgin Land (1950); L. B. Wright, Culture on the Moving Frontier (1955); R. A. Bartlett, Great Surveys of the American West (1980); R. V. Hine, Community on the American Frontier (1985); P. M. Nelson, After the West Was Won (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


[frən′tir əv ə ′set]
For a set in a topological space, all points in the closure of the set but not in its interior. Also known as boundary.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Boone, Daniel
(1734–1820) American frontiersman in coonskin cap. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 90]
Bowie, Jim
(1799–1836) frontiersman and U.S. soldier; developed large hunting knife named after him. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 95]
Bumppo, Natty
also known as Leatherstocking, a tough back-woodsman. [Am. Lit.: Deerslayer; Pathfinder]
California Joe
(Moses Embree Milner, 1829–1876) frontiersman and scout. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 424]
Virginian, The
up-and-coming cowpuncher defends his honor, espouses justice, and gains responsibility and a bride. [Am. Lit.: The Virginian in Magill I, 1072]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a. the region of a country bordering on another or a line, barrier, etc., marking such a boundary
b. (as modifier): a frontier post
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
British Atlantic, American Frontier has much to offer a wide range of readers.
Her focus, however, is on these women's experiences on and reactions to the American frontier. Miller calls A Sweet, Separate Intimacy: Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1920 "a pastiche designed to give the reader a taste of what women were thinking, feeling, and enduring in a century of transition" (7).
One of the many virtues of this book is that it includes the North American frontier and thus provides a needed comparative perspective with Latin America.
After a brief introduction, these articles, not accompanied by an index and generally limited in scope, are specifically concerned with particular works by Simms, including, for example, lengthy narratives like Richard Hurdis, The Cassique of Kiawah, The Yemassee, and Woodcraft;, tales from The Wigwam and the Cabin; and other less known shorter compositions like "How Sharp Snaffles Got His Capital and Wife."James Kibler, the editor of Selected Poems of William Gilmore Simms (1990), discusses the two versions of Simms's narrative poem "The Traveller's Rest" as Simms's contrasting responses to the American frontier, Simms becoming, as it were, a "poet-seer" envisioning "our age" (p.
Still, in the hands of a skilled and sensible historian, this new approach to the American frontier can greatly enhance understanding.
Popular novelist who wrote adventure stories about life on the American frontier and in Mexico.
During the formative years of the American frontier, citizen posses and private railroad guards provided essential law enforcement services.
Hansen pointed to the end of the American frontier, and the lack thereafter of adequate consumption and investment, as enduring problems.
Even in his European novels Cooper could not mute his lifelong contention that democracy, the American frontier, and the American character were better than European aristocracy and the lingering remains of feudalism.
By the end of the century however, the closing of the American frontier and the growth of such popular movements as the Audubon Society brought many back to the woods to see "how the pine lives and grows and spires." Nature writing flourished; and the work of such literary naturalists as John Muir, George Bird Grinnell, and John Burroughs helped to establish many of our great forest preserves.
During these years, he worked at a variety of trades, but put his energy into traveling on the American frontier, observing, painting, and writing, as he compiled the materials for his great work.

Full browser ?