The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 483
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played a major role in influencing the character and growth of the na-
tion. Down through the years, dozens of students have probed, analyzed,
and gauged this hypothesis, and many agree that the frontier stage was
indeed a period of heroic contests between man and nature, when tra-
ditional cultural and political institutions were permanently altered
and a unique society emerged. In America's Frontier Culture, Ray Allen
Billington, the premier interpreter of Turner's ideas, presents three
valuable essays which explicate the essence, dimensions, and pervading
influence of the American frontier experience. Originally given as ad-
dresses to learned groups, these essays not only provide a convenient in-
troduction to Turner's views, but also critical insight into the persis-
tence of the frontier tradition as an image of America and as an inspira-
tion to the peoples of the world.
Each of Billington's essays is a polished gem. The first (delivered as a
Harmsworth inaugural lecture at Oxford in 1954) is entitled "The
American Frontiersman." Stressing the role of the environment in mod-
ifying cultural traits, Billington focuses on the life of the mountain
man, a half-civilized, half-savage pioneer who "mined" the Rockies for
beaver, adopted Indian habits, and left an indelible impression on the
winning of the West. Here Billington is at his best in describing in cap-
tivating prose the physical courage, wilderness skills, food habits, speech
patterns, and mental attitudes of this colorful group. The second essay
(originally the Edith Coulter Lecture before the California Library
Association in 1964) carries the title, "The Frontier and American Cul-
ture." Shifting from the primitive West to the settler West, the author
in an insightful discussion assesses the influence of the frontier on the
cultural baggage of westering Americans, concluding that ". . . 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" (p. 73). The last essay (opening plen-
ary address before the Fourteenth International Congress of the Histor-
ical Sciences, 1975) is attractively labeled "Cowboys, Indians, and the
Land of Promise." Billington here turns to portrayals of the American
West created by early image makers and describes the continuing im-
pact of these images on the mind of the Old World.
Students of the American frontier will welcome these essays. Concise-
ly introduced by W. Turrentine Jackson, recent president of the West-
ern History Association, the volume is tastefully designed and packaged.
It is the third publication in a series, "Essays on the American West
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/539/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.