Position

AHA President, 1910

Institution

Harvard University

From the American Historical Review 37:4 (July 1932)

Frederick Jackson Turner (November 14, 1861–March 14, 1932), professor emeritus of Harvard University, died in Pasadena, California, on March 14, at the age of 70. He was one of America’s outstanding historians. His work, more particularly his first brilliant essay on the Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893), made necessary the rewriting of the history of the United States. He contributed to American scholarship the concepts of the frontier and the section, and he turned the thoughts of American historical students from an earlier emphasis on political and constitutional history to the causes and process of westward migration, the occupation of the various geographic provinces of the United States, and the result of the formation of sections upon American life. His literary product, which was distinguished by remarkable insight, by profound and exact scholarship, and by a literary presentation that ranks it with the masterpieces of American historical prose was in volume not large. His most significant works were his collected essays, entitled The Frontier in American History (1920), The Rise of the New West (1906) in the American Nation series, and a manuscript, left near completion, which is soon to be published, entitled The United States, 1830–1850: the Nation and its Sections. As a teacher, no less than as a writer, his influence was far-reaching. He taught his students at the University of Wisconsin and afterward at Harvard, the mode as well as the products of his thought, the multiple hypothesis of history, the tentativeness of historical conclusions, and the necessity of integrating historical with other social sciences. His mode of correlating political with geographic, economic, and social forces by map representation was one of his special teaching contributions. To his students he brought also the stimulus of a magnetic personality. His extraordinary influence in these respects is attested by the impressive list of books and articles dedicated to him, among them, in 1910 a volume of essays by his former students prepared especially in his honor. He was in that year president of the American Historical Association.—Frederick Merk, Harvard University

A short memoir on Frederick Jackson Turner at the Huntington Library, by Dr. Max Farrand, is soon to appear in Huntington Library Bulletin, no. 3. From it the following paragraphs are taken:

“His students can best appreciate the significance of the announcement that Professor Turner presented to the Huntington Library not only his reference books but all of his notes as well. The notes are the accumulations of his years of study and are varied and voluminous beyond belief. The average person would get little from them, for they are heterogeneous and seemingly unorganized. But Turner’s students will know how to use them and will find them valuable and full of suggestion.

“He was so interested in what others were doing that he would devote a great deal of time to discussing their problems or to writing in reply to requests for criticism and advice. This was in its way a continuation of his teaching, and constitutes a part of his great contribution. His letters contain many important bits of interpretation, many flashes of insight and inspiration, that will lose the wider influence they might have unless gathered in one place and made available. The bulk of his correspondence has been deposited in the Huntington Library. His own copies of many letters are there, and other letters are being sought, especially those written in his own hand. These will be accessible to those who are competent to use them in the interests of scholarship and, when combined with his notes, the reprinting of his essays, and the publication of his larger work, will serve to carry on the influence of an original, keen, exploring mind.”

 

Bibliography

Outline studies in the history of the Northwest, prepared by Frederick J. Turner. Chicago: C.H. Kerr, 1888.

A half century of American politics, 1789-1840. Madison, Tracy, Gibbs & co., printers, 1894.

The significance of the frontier in American history, by Frederick Jackson Turner (From Proceedings of the forty-first annual meeting of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin) Madison, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1894. The frontier in American history / Frederick Jackson Turner. New York : Dover Publications, 1996.

The West as a field for historical study. Madison, State historical society of Wisconsin, 1897

The policy of France towards the Mississippi Valley in the period of Washington and Adams. New York, 1905.

The colonization of the West, 1820-1830. New York, 1906.

Rise of the new West, 1819-1829, by Frederick Jackson Turner. New York and London: Harper & brothers, 1906; Reprint, Gloucester, Mass., P. Smith, 1961.

Is sectionalism in America dying away? By Professor Frederick J. Turner. Chicago: Printed at the University of Chicago Press, 1908.

Guide to the study of American history; Rev. and augm. ed. Boston, Ginn & company, 1912.

The frontier in American history, by Frederick Jackson Turner. New York, H. Holt and Company, 1920.

The United States, 1830-1850; the nation and its sections, by Frederick Jackson Turner; with an introduction by Avery Craven. New York, H. Holt and company [1935]

The historical world of Frederick Jackson Turner, with selections from his correspondence. Narrative by Wilbur R. Jacobs. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1968.

History, frontier, and section: three essays, by Frederick Jackson Turner; introduction by Martin Ridge. 1st ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993.

Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner: “The significance of the frontier in American history”, and other essays, with commentary by John Mack Faragher. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.