By Gerald D. Nash

Publication by means of Nash, Gerald D.

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Extra resources for Creating the West: historical interpretations, 1890-1990

Sample text

The decade witnessed a waning of much of the optimism that had characterized earlier years, particularly with the disillusionment that followed in the wake of United States participation in World War I. An increased pace of industrial and technological advance further diminished the importance of agriculture in American life, in an economic as well as in a cultural sense. The closing of the doors to large numbers of immigrants by the National Origins Act of 1924 also made contemporaries more aware that they were witnessing the end of an era-an era when immigration had been a major force in the shaping of American society.

He particularly disliked the alleged frontier hostility to science and intellectual pursuits, and accused frontiersmen of being extreme evangelicals who were irrational and given to hysteria. "The depressing effect upon the free life of inquiry and criticism," Dewey wrote, "is the greater because of the element of soundness in frontier fear. Impulses of good will and social aspiration . . 31 Even some of Turner's closest associates, such as Joseph Schafer of the Wisconsin Historical Society, dampened their enthusiasm about the central role of the frontier.

And always back of the frontier, advancing, receding, crossing it this way and that, succeeding and failing, hoping and despairing, but steadily advancing in the net result has come that portion of the population which builds homes and lives in them .... We had a frontier once. It was our most priceless possession. It has not been possible to eliminate from the American West. . The frontier has been a lasting and ineradicable influence for the good of the United States. It was there we showed our fighting edge, our unconquerable resolution, our undying faith.

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