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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Empire: Manifest Destiny and Beyond
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Empire
Text 1. Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History
Text 2. Stephen Crane, The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Text 3. The Future of the Red Man
Text 4. William F. Cody and John M. Burke, Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World
Text 5. The New Frontier, Albert Beveridge and William Jennings Bryan
Text 6. Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life
Text 7. The White Man's Burden
Text 8. Mark Twain, To the Person Sitting in Darkness, The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger
Text 9. Aguinaldo's Case Against the United States
Text 10. Two Wars, Memorial Day, The Twelve-Inch Gun

Timeline: 1865-1913


Resource Menu

First Hoisting of the Stars and Stripes . . . on Cuban Soil, 1898
First Hoisting of the Stars and Stripes . . . on Cuban Soil, 1898

Topic Framing Questions
  •  How was the West incorporated into the nation?
  •  How did Americans respond to the nation's changing role in world affairs at this time?
  •  How did issues and concerns at home shape American policies and actions abroad?
  •  How did America project its power beyond its own borders?

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1.  Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," address, 1893, excerpts

In 1893 at a meeting of the American Historical Association, then only eight years old, held at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, University of Wisconsin history professor Frederick Jackson Turner articulated a theory that would dominate the interpretation of American history for half a century. Drawing upon notions of Manifest Destiny and the supposed Anglo-Saxon will to conquer, Turner argued that the American character and American institutions were definitively shaped by the recurrent necessity of having to subdue an ever-advancing western frontier. He delivered his lecture at a critical juncture in American history, for just three years earlier a report from the Superintendent of the Census had declared the United States could no longer be said to have a frontier. "[F]our centuries from the discovery of America, at the end of a hundred years of life under the Constitution," Turner proclaimed, "the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history." In reality, Turner's assertion that the frontier had closed was more metaphorical than accurate. He has been challenged on that point and many others by recent scholarship. Nonetheless, his powerful and provocative ideas will radiate in many directions and will illuminate a variety of texts in your seminar. 9 pages.

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2.  Stephen Crane, "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky," short story, McClure's Magazine, February 1898

In a sense, this story captures the moment the frontier closes in Yellow Sky, Texas. Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1871, the fourteenth child of a Methodist minister. He started to write stories at the age of eight, and by the time he was sixteen his articles were appearing in the New York Tribune. In 1890 he took up the bohemian life in New York City, supporting himself as a free-lance writer and journalist. In 1893 he published Maggie: A Girl of The Streets, and in 1895 The Red Badge of Courage established his literary reputation. That same year Crane traveled from Nebraska through Texas to Mexico as a roving correspondent. He absorbed the atmosphere of the West just as the last vestiges of turbulent frontier life were waning. The trip inspired several Western stories, including "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky."

By the time Crane wrote the story the West and its accompanying clichés had already become such staples of popular culture that he could parody them. In the story Jack Potter, Yellow Sky's sheriff, is returning by train from San Antonio with his new wife. He is uncomfortable because he feels that by getting married he has failed to live up to the expectations the town holds for its tough lawman. As the train arrives, Scratchy Wilson, Potter's long-time antagonist, is shooting up Yellow Sky in a whiskey-fueled rampage. He decides to go to Potter's house "and by bombardment induce him to come out and fight." When Potter and his bride arrive at the house, they find a furious Wilson between them and the front door. Wilson holds a pistol inches from the unarmed sheriff's chest and . . . . 13 pages.

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3.  The Future of the Red Man
- Simon Pokagon, "The Future of the Red Man," Forum, August 1897, excerpts
- Studio portraits of Native Americans, 1886-1907

Was there a place for the Indian in America? Simon Pokagon provided an answer. Pokagon (1830-99), a Potawatomi, lived in southwestern Michigan until he left to attend white-run schools, eventually studying at Oberlin College. He became a favorite of the evangelical Protestant Friends of the Indian reformers and on their behalf spoke widely on such topics as temperance, abolition, women's rights, and racial tolerance. He believed that assimilation was inevitable and suggested that, while it might be a loss for Indians, it might also be a benefit for whites. His prominence as spokesman won him the honor of speaking at the opening of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, where he was the first person to strike the fair's replica of the Liberty Bell. As much as the machinery on display, Pokagon was for fairgoers a symbol of progress, for he demonstrated how far the Indians had come in the care of Christian civilization. He was not as popular among his fellow Potawatomis, however. An elected tribal official, he had tried to divert to himself funds that a court had ordered distributed among the tribe, and he outraged his fellow Indians by secretly turning over tribal lands to a combine of Chicago attorneys. In his world's fair address he offers sharp criticism of the way white people treated Indians. He views student accomplishment at Indian schools, the success of Indian football teams, and the Native American presence at the fair itself as indications that Indians will not vanish as an enfeebled race but will survive and, indeed, even compete successfully with whites. Moreover, he suggests that "amalgamation" with Indians might enhance the physical vitality of white people.

Was "amalgamation" a real possibility? That is another way of asking how white Americans viewed Indians. The sample of studio portraits offered here provides some answers. In the years after the Civil War, Indians became popular subjects for photographers. Accompanying military and survey expeditions in the West during the 1870s, photographers were able to record Indian life before it had become completely disrupted. When the fascination with what was being lost proved strong enough to make Indian photographs commercially profitable, many photographers ventured west to capitalize upon the demand. Some brought with them portable studios in which they shot portraits for display in the East. You might consider these portraits as measures of assimilation and as reports on the status of the Indians at century's end. How assimilated are the subjects? How assimilated do they want to be? As you study them, keep in mind that a portrait is the result of a complex and subtle interaction between an artist and a subject. The artist poses the subject, but the subject also poses himself or herself. Both the artist and the subject are trying to express a vision. Those visions may coincide or clash. The portrait may be the result of cooperation or struggle. 13 pages.

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4.  William F. Cody and John M. Burke, Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World, program, 1893, excerpt

As Frederick Jackson Turner spoke on the closing of the frontier at the Columbian Exposition, across the street crowds thrilled to the horse races and shooting exhibitions of Buffalo Bill's Wild West. As Turner announced the end of the frontier, Buffalo Bill enshrined it in memory. Between 1883 and 1916 Buffalo Bill's Wild West—it was never called a show—toured this country and the world, recreating the old West from history and from the popular culture images of it already firmly lodged in the audience's imagination. The spectacle was never static; it evolved to accommodate changing tastes and current events. "[A]s early as March 1898," writes critic Joy Kasson, the Wild West included "performances about the Spanish-American War [that] appeared to mesh seamlessly with those of the Indian wars." The 1893 "Programme" illustrates this confluence between the conquest of the West and America's expanded role in the world and in so doing serves as a pivotal text for this section of the toolbox. (You can also print the cover for seminar and classroom use.) 1 page.

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5.  The New Frontier
- Albert Beveridge, "March of the Flag," address, 16 September 1898, excerpts
- William Jennings Bryan, "Will It Pay?" New York Journal, 15 January 1899, excerpts

For most of the nineteenth century the United States followed the foreign policy enunciated by George Washington: avoid entangling alliances. By the 1890s, however, two forces thrust the nation more squarely into world affairs, the European competition for colonial territory and the search for overseas markets. The need for expanded markets was clear, but many Americans wondered if the quest for markets meant that the United States had to intervene in the domestic affairs of other nations. Would the country have to acquire colonies? Adding to the impulse to look beyond our borders was the sense that the United States had reached its maturity. Even if most Americans were unfamiliar with Turner's closing-of-the-frontier thesis, they sensed that an era had passed. The frontier and the limitless possibilities it represented were no longer available. It seemed logical to direct the humanitarian, civilizing, and democratizing impulses that conquered the West to territories abroad. The opportunity came when the United States inherited the remnants of the Spanish empire as a result of the Spanish-American War. Suddenly, Americans were confronted with the question of what to do with Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Albert Beveridge, campaigning for U.S. Senator from Indiana, knew what to do—keep the new territories, incorporate them into the American system, and make them our markets. Others were not so sure. In the face of Beveridge's rousing call, William Jennings Bryan totaled up the costs of empire and asked "Will it pay?" 8 pages.

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6.  Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life," address, 10 April 1899

During this period various critics worried that American society was losing its masculine vigor. Several causes engendered this anguish: the closing of the frontier; the increasing dominance of women's taste in art, literature, and culture in general; and the conflict between domestic values and those of the marketplace. This worry is an implicit theme in Frederick Jackson Turner's essay. How will the American character—and Turner's conception of it is decidedly masculine—maintain its vitality now that the frontier, the source of that vitality, is gone? Jack London contrasts robust masculinity with cerebral intellectuality in "South of the Slot." And Simon Pokagon suggests that white men could use an infusion of hearty Indian blood. In his speech "The Strenuous Life," delivered before a Chicago men's club, Theodore Roosevelt not only addressed this worry but also explored its implications for American foreign policy—the U.S. had just signed the treaty ending the Spanish-American War, and the three-year Philippine-American War had just begun. His language is personal and psychological, his conclusions political and military. 6 pages.

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7.  "The White Man's Burden" and Responses
- Rudyard Kipling, "The White Man's Burden," poem, McClure's Magazine, February 1899
- American Missionary Assn., "The White Man's Duty," editorial, The American Missionary, July 1899
- H. T. Johnson, "The Black Man's Burden," poem, Christian Recorder, March 1899
- T. Thomas Fortune, "The White Man's Burden," editorial, New York Age, April 1899, excerpts
- Benjamin R. Tillman, Address to the U.S. Senate, 7 February 1899, excerpts

Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden" appeared in McClure's Magazine in February of 1899, within days of the beginning of the Philippine-American War and Senate ratification of the treaty ending the Spanish-American War. The poem quickly became a touchstone in the growing debate over America's role in the world. Urging steadfastness in the face of failure, forbearance in the face of slander, and generosity in the face of ingratitude, it evoked strong responses. The American Missionary Society praised it for expressing "a large and fundamental truth." Parodies linked it to such domestic issues as labor and race. Editorials by African American journalists attacked it as hypocrisy. South Carolina's Senator Tillman even managed to turn it into a warning against imperialism. Its mixture of noblesse oblige, high motives, and racial superiority will evoke strong responses even today. 9 pages.

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8.  Mark Twain
- "To the Person Sitting in Darkness," North American Review, February 1901
- "The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger," 1902

Mark Twain disliked poetry, but he did like Kipling's work. "There's something in Kipling that appeals to me," he wrote, "I guess he's just about my level." Moreover, he admitted that Kipling was a "remarkable man." "I am the other one. Between us, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest." Even though he admired Kipling, Twain did not share his enthusiasm for the white man's burden. Of Twain's anti-imperialist pieces perhaps the best known is "To the Person Sitting in Darkness," a broad indictment of German, British, Russian, and American expansionism. While praising America's efforts in Cuba, where we helped a "friendless nation" throw off oppression, he condemns the war in the Philippines. "The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger" suggests the moral ambiguity of human intention and action but leaves little doubt about Twain's verdict on the morality of imperialism. 9 pages.

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9.  "Aguinaldo's Case Against the United States. By a Filipino," North American Review, September 1899, excerpts

In addition to presenting American voices in the debate over global expansion, we include the appeal of the Filipino revolutionary leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, as published in an American magazine during the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). Soon after the U.S. declared war on Spain in April 1898, the U.S. navy attacked the Philippines and defeated the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. At first Aguinaldo, whose rebel army had been fighting the Spanish for two years, allied with the U.S. in defeating the Spanish, hoping the U.S. would support the independence of the Philippine republic that he had declared in 1898. But it soon became apparent that the U.S. intended to keep the Philippines as a colony and, in early 1899, the conflict erupted into full war between the U.S. army and Aguinaldo's army. Two years later Aguinaldo was captured. He agreed to swear allegiance to the U.S., and the war was effectively over. In July 1902 the U.S. declared an official end to the war. (In 1946 the U.S. granted independence to the Philippines.)

In September 1899, as intense jungle fighting continued in the Filipino-controlled areas, Aguinaldo published two appeals to Americans. One was a pamphlet entitled A True Narrative of the Philippine Revolution addressed "To All Civilized Nations and Especially to the Great North American Republic," in which he accuses the U.S. of manipulating the Filipino leaders into a false hope of independence. The second was this article published in the North American Review, in which he challenges Americans to consider the Philippine struggle as equivalent to the American Revolution—with the same ideals of freedom and republican government that the U.S. was violating in its foreign policy, he argues. He also warns the U.S. that it is "falling into the pit you have dug for yourselves," and that the American public—even its president—is being misled about the true course of the war. A strong piece to pair with the essays in this section by Mark Twain (a member of the short-lived Anti-Imperialist League), and to introduce students to an oft-neglected war in U.S. history. 4 pages.

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10.  Two Wars
- Memorial Day, 1898, drawing, [Chicago] Inter Ocean, [May 1898]
- The Twelve-Inch Gun, watercolor by Rufus F. Zogbaum and poem by James Barnes, in Barnes, Ships and Sailors: Being a collection of songs of the sea as sung by the men who sail it, 1898

We began with Winslow Homer's Veteran in a New Field, a painting that expressed the desire of a war-weary nation, still largely rural and agricultural, to put bloodshed behind it. We conclude with an 1898 cartoon depicting two Civil War veterans, one Union, one Confederate, draped in an American flag and standing on a pedestal labeled "Loyalty," gazing toward the scene of the nation's newest war on the island of Cuba. How did the memory of the Civil War, just 33 years in the past, affect Americans' sense of nationhood and destiny as they entered a shared war on foreign soil?

Paired with this drawing are two pieces entitled "The Twelve-Inch Gun," created for a collection of naval songs published in 1898. The first is a poem in the voice of a battleship gun, announcing its fearsome power and warning men to use it with considered awe of the consequences. The second is a painting that expresses the desire of a robust nation, now urban and industrial, to project its power upon the world. Indeed, the painting could be titled What We're Fighting For. It is all here—respectability, gentility, and civilization, plus the firepower to back them up. An excellent collection to use with students. 3 pages.

U.S. Navyfirst hoisting of the stars and stripes by the marines on Cuban soilJune 11th, 1898, 1898. Photomechanical print, color, published by the Werner Company, Akron, Ohio. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division: LC-USZC4-2678.

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