Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Turner Thesis

No, it's not Ted Turner.

If you're a student of American history, and in particular the 19th century west, then hopefully the first Turner that came to your mind was Frederick Jackson Turner, author of the thesis that changed the study of American History: "The Significance of the Frontier in American History."

Last night a young man named Timonty Tzeng emailed me and introduced himself and his blog, The Turner Thesis. Timothy is a senior at Columbia University and is focusing on Frontier History. His blog seems to be a chronicle of his observations of the West, both as a native Californian, as a student, and especially as a photographer. This dude takes great pictures. It also helps that he's a Dodgers fan.
So check out his blog - it seems to be relatively new. It's an eclectic mix of Timothy's photos, stills from the movie Chinatown, Dodger Stadium, Raymond Chandler, Frederick Remington, the recent wildfires, Clint Eastwood and of course Mr. Turner. It's different and really refreshing.
The blog is on and their format is a little different - there doesn't seem to be any way of posting comments.

It's been a really long time since I've thought of Frederick Jackson Turner; maybe it's because his name is so closely tied into my studies in college. I think of Turner and I'm reminded of term papers, burning the midnight oil doing homework and wondering what the hell this Turner guy had to do with anything of significance. The truth is, a lot. Presented in 1893, Turner argued that the shaping of our country, our viewpoints, the entire development of the American psyche if you will, was shaped by our ability to conquer the frontier.

Here's a nice passage from Turner's famous essay on the frontier, followed by some of Timothy's photos. His photos are for sale - go to The Turner Thesis to contact him if you're interested. There's other great photos on the blog besides these.

"Movement has been its dominant fact, and, unless this training has no effect upon a people, the American energy will continually demand a wider field for its exercise. But never again will such gifts of free land offer themselves. For a moment, at the Frontier, the bonds of custom are broken and unrestraint is triumphant. There is not Tabula Rasa. The stubborn American environment is there with its imperious summons to accept its conditions; the inherited ways of doing things are also there; and yet, in spite of environment, and in spite of custom, each Frontier did indeed furnish a new field of opportunity, a gate of escape from the bondage of the past; and freshness, and confidence, and scorn of older society, impatience of its restraints and its ideas, and indifference to its lessons, have accompanied the Frontier."


Ann Parker said...

Thanks for posting this ... very interesting!
Great quote from Turner, lovely photos, and I'm a long-time fan of "spaghetti westerns," so enjoyed it all.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm afraid I wasn't very familiar with Turner.


Great post and another great blog to add to the list.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I just want to say that some of these pictures are really amazing!

Laurie Powers said...

Ann, great to hear from you on the blog, as always!

Charles, don't worry. A lot of people aren't. He's better known in american studies academia.

Archavist, thanks. I figured you'd like the Clint and Monument Valley pics.

Kid, yep, they are great photos.

AND, I forgot to mention that Tim has his photos for sale - contact him via his blog.