Frederick Jackson Turner and the Question of American Exceptionalism

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During the 1890’s, the quest began for a ‘New History’ in the United States that would challenge the patient application of the “scientific” method. The 1890 census report had officially stated that the complete settlement of America’s western frontier marked the end of Manifest Destiny. Westward expansion had been an integral aspect of the American identity and its citizen were left wondering what would continue to propel the United States into a rapidly modernizing world. Progressive historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote less and influenced his own generation more than any important historian. In his works, Turner spelled out his version of a New History in the modern spirit. Although his writings were few and limited, Turner …show more content…
As factories began to spring up across the northern and Midwestern countryside, cities grew up around them. By 1900, one in every five Americans was a city dweller, and nearly seven million inhabited just three great cities: New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. (Henretta, 523) Former soldiers and immigrants flocked to the cities in search of jobs, wealth, and new opportunities. Fueled by urbanization and immigration, the process of nineteenth century American industrialization relied upon poverty and a declining sense of intrinsic value for its success. Nevertheless, America, while rapidly losing its rural roots during the late nineteenth century, was moving further away from Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a yeoman society.
Prior to industrialization, America relied on an agrarian society and hand-made crafts. Artisans mostly made goods for nearby markets in relatively small quantities. The main unit of production was the family who typically owned all of the tools needed for production. In pre-industrial American society, craftsmen worked the hours they pleased, with everyone working at their own pace. Before industrialization, the work place was, for most Americans, an intimate setting. Artisans apprenticed pupils in discrete tasks with little, if any supervision. Most work in pre-industrial America was done in a face-to-face setting in which a general merchant would sell the artisan the raw materials needed to make the product then market the finished

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