Timeline – 1889-1893 – Turner’s Benchmarks

Frederick Jackson Turner, 1902
Frederick Jackson Turner, 1902

When Frederick Jackson Turner arrived at the UW in 1889, he was returning home. A native of Portage, Wisconsin, he had studied history at the UW with William Francis Allen before heading to Johns Hopkins for graduate studies.

At the UW, he promptly introduced a new course, History of Society, that was unprecedented in its sweep, covering “primitive society and classical civilization” in the fall term and “modern civilization” in the spring. As Curti and Cartensen write, “This was an unheard-thing for a historian in the United States to be doing in 1889.” In 1891-1892, Turner introduced another new course, Economic and Social History of the United States, “the first course of its kind to be given anywhere.”

The following year—1893—Turner presented his famous paper, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,”  to the AHA’s annual meeting at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The influence of Turner’s “frontier thesis” on historical scholarship is too vast to summarize here. For an introduction to his work, see Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner (1994).

Source: UWH-1, 638.