In late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century American writing, the "West," which comprised the territory between the Appalachian mountains and the Mississippi River, was a ubiquitous topic. Yet this writing is often overlooked in studies of the American West, which reach past this region to the Far Western frontier, and in analyses of whites and Native Americans, which typically focus on moments of contact.
Tracing historic events in the early westward movement, The First West: Writing from the American Frontier 1776-1860 brings together a unique and extensive range of writers and texts. Many of the texts produced in and about this "first West" have not been reprinted until now. The book's selections include government documents and treaties, land-promotion schemes, white depictions of natives, native accounts of whites, easterners describing westerners, westerners describing easterners, and literary texts. Several selections concern contact and conquest, while others focus on community building in the wake of westward-moving white settlement. The volume includes literary and nonliterary writing from such well-known figures as Thomas Jefferson, William Bartram, Margaret Fuller, Black Hawk, Caroline Kirkland, Thomas Bangs Thorpe, and Abraham Lincoln. It also features writing from lesser-known individuals including William Warren, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Rebecca Burlend, Daniel Drake, Eliza Farnham, and Gideon Lincecum. Demonstrating a strikingly vital interracial, interregional, and intercultural dialogue, The First West illustrates the continuing diversification of American cultural history. An exceptional text for courses in American literature and history, it challenges students' ideas about the American frontier, the West, and the processes of contact, settlement, community, and class.