Thursday, July 10, 2008

Books and the Frontier

In a small bookstore in a small town, I recently found this little pamphlet: The Frontier and American Culture by Ray Allen Billington (California Library Association, 1965).

Here is the concluding paragraph, which summarizes Billington’s thesis:

The pioneers did not want change; the effort of the “better sort” and the common folk alike was to replant in the West the civilization of the East. They failed, for the social environment of the new communities, with its emphasis on the practical, provided sterile soil for the flowering of traditional cultural forms. Instead the realistic value scale of the frontiersman fostered new social attitudes and new literary forms that were better tuned to the world in which they lived. These innovations were the West’s unique contribution to the nation’s burgeoning culture.

The pamphlet has been digitized by Google, but you can’t read it.