These nineteen slides offer students an opportunity to experience visually the ways the West and its image has shaped our culture and identity as Americans.
Frontier images in contemporary American products. The frontier lives on today in our language, politics, entertainment, clothing and food. Frontier images in American sports. One of the most common uses of western images is sports teams nicknames. Empty continent. Frederick Jackson Turner described the peaceful occupation of an empty continent. Source: "Westward the Way." Lithograph by Frances Palmer at the Chicago Historical Society. Successive frontiers. Turner wrote that westward movement created a series of frontiers. Here Boone leads settlers to Kentucky, Turner's first frontier. Source: "Daniel Boone leading settlers through the Cumberland Gap." Painting by George Caleb Bingham at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. Wagon Train. Turner used familiar symbols to tell a frontier story. Source: "Emigration to the Western Country." Drawing from Our Country by B.J. Lossing. Log cabin. Built by a lone pioneer from the surrounding wilderness, the cabin was always an important symbol in U.S. history. Source: Illustration from Voyage Dans L'Amerique Septentrionale by Victor Collot Family Farm. This drawing of the Goddard family farm is typical of 19th century atlases in the Midwest. Source: Drawing from the History of Ionia and Montclair Counties Michigan. African-Americans on the frontier. This is an American frontier story Turner did not tell. Source: "View of Chicago in 1779 showing the cabin of Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable (colored), the first permanent settler." Original tintype from A.T. Andreas' History of Chicago. Frontier cities. Cities, like individuals, celebrated their stories of progress from primitive frontier origins to commercial importance. Source: Photograph of rally at 47th and Ashland during 1904 Chicago meatpackers's strike. Buffalo Bill Cody's story of conquest. Buffalo Bill told a different story -- one of violent conquest -- in his "Wild West" entertainment. Indians played key roles, but the white Indian figher was always the hero who came to the rescue. He never initiated the attack. Source: 100 Posters of Buffalo Bill's Wild West by Jack Rennert. White victims. Cody succeeded because he used familiar images to tell his story. This drawing is typical of stories of white victims which appeared in the 19th century and were reenacted in Cody's show. Source: "Massacre of Baldwin's Family." Frontpiece from Narrative of the Massacre, by Savages, of the Wife and Children of Thomas Baldwin, 1835. Custer's Last Stand. This is the most famous story of white victims, one which Buffalo Bill reenacted in his "Wild West." Source: "Custer's Last Stand." Anheiser-Busch Brewing Company bar sign, 1896.
Indian battle scene. This is a Lakota Indian painting of the Battle of Little Big Horn. Source: Sioux Indian painting of Battle of Little Big Horn.
Indian stories. Sitting Bull and other Indians who fought against Custer at Little Big Horn later joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West. Source: Postcard of Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull. Cowboys. The cowboy was the last symbolic figure to emerge from the West. Although a horseman like the Mexican vaquero or the Plains Indian, he was associated with white settlement and his "story" was included in Cody's show with those of the Indian fighter and Custer. The cowboy eventually became the hero of countless dime novels, movies, and TV shows. Source: Cover illustration from Western Life and How I Became a Broncobuster by Bob Grantham Quickfall. Changing image of the Indian. These are turn-of-the-century portraits of Rain-in-the-Face, a Lakota Indian reputed to have killed Custer, and Geronimo, a famous Apache chief. In the United States today, many people consider it a "badge of honor" to have a Native American ancestor. Source: Oil paintings by Elbridge Ayer Burbank, 1898. Women of the West. Cody and popular culture turned women of the West, like Annie Oakley, into cowgirls. Lady Stetson is one current image using the same theme. Source: "Annie Oakley, The Peerless Wing and Rifle Shot," 100 Posters of Buffalo Bill's Wild West; Lady Stetson advertisement. Claiming an American identity. Chicago Mayor Harold Washington wears his cowboy hat and this Thai-American boy wears his cavalry uniform to assert their American identities. "The West is Dead My Friend...But the writers hold the seed and what they saw will live and grow again to those who read," wrote artist Charlie Russell in 1917. Cody and Turner believed that the frontier was significant in forming an American character. They feared that it was ending. Source: Drawing and verse by Charles Russell (1861-1925). Original at the C.S. Russell Museum.