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The Frontier Idea after the Railroad Arrives


This 1899 issue of Wonderland pays homage to the recent past with a covered wagon, to the bounty of the land with fruits and wheat, to the beauty of the scenery with a mountain peak, and to the railroad locomotive that has transformed the land.


The Pacific Northwest was connected with the rest of the United States by railroad in the 1880s: the Northern Pacific across Montana and North Dakota to Minneapolis and St. Paul; the Union Pacific route through southern Idaho and Wyoming to Omaha; the Southern Pacific to San Francisco and east. So by 1890, the region was effectively connected with the rest of the nation by rapid communications and transportation: the "real" frontier period was over.

The arrival of the railroads signaled the end of some aspects of the frontier: the covered wagon was replaced by the steamcars, the log cabin and the sod house were abandoned for a home of milled lumber with a brick chimney, the Indians were relegated to reservations. Westerners were almost immediately proud of their frontier heritage, a heritage of only a few years, and railroad and promotional literature is quick to use those frontier symbols, at the same time emphasizing the modernity and sophistication of Pacific Coast towns and cities.