Opinions on American frontier

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"Wild West" redirects here. For other uses, see Wild West (disambiguation).
For cultural influences and their development, see Western (genre).

The American frontier comprises the geography, history, folklore, and cultural expression of life in the forward wave of American westward expansion that began with English colonial settlements in the early 17th century and ended with the admission of the last mainland territories as states in 1912. The folklore mostly concerns the 19th century, especially west of the Mississippi River. Enormous popular attention in the media focuses on the Western United States in the second half of the nineteenth century, a period sometimes called the Old West, or the Wild West, frequently exaggerating the romance and violence of the period.

As defined by Hine and Faragher, "frontier history tells the story of the creation and defense of communities, the use of the land, the development of markets, and the formation of states." They explain, "It is a tale of conquest, but also one of survival, persistence, and the merging of peoples and cultures that gave birth and continuing life to America." Through treaties with foreign nations and native tribes; political compromise; military conquest; establishment of law and order; the building of farms, ranches, and towns; the marking of trails and digging of mines; and the pulling in of great migrations of foreigners, the United States expanded from coast to coast, fulfilling the dreams of Manifest Destiny. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner in his "Frontier Thesis" (1893) theorized that the frontier was a process that transformed Europeans into a new people, the Americans, whose values focused on equality, democracy, and optimism, as well as individualism, self-reliance, and even violence. Thus, Turner's Frontier Thesis proclaimed the westward frontier as the defining process of American history.

As the American frontier passed into history, the myths of the West in fiction and film took firm hold in the imagination of Americans and foreigners alike. America is exceptional in choosing its iconic self-image. David Murdoch has said: "No other nation has taken a time and place from its past and produced a construct of the imagination equal to America's creation of the West."

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