Frederick Jackson Turner was born, and received his earliest education, in Portage, Wisconsin. Located along the Wisconsin River at the edge of the 1861 frontier, and named for the portage route for many years used by local American Indians, Portage was an ideal place for the training of a future frontier historian. His father was a journalist, a political figure, and something of a local historian. As a young man, Turner attended the University of Wisconsin, where Professor William Francis Allen had an influence on him. He received his A.B. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1884. After a few years of interest in journalism and elocution, Turner returned to historical studies, taking an M.A. at Wisconsin in 1888. He began working on manuscripts at the Wisconsin State Historical Society, and from that work came his doctoral dissertation, “The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin,” accepted at The Johns Hopkins University for his Ph.D. in 1890. Among the history professors at Johns Hopkins who influenced Turner were Herbert Baxter Adams, whose scholarship Turner admired but whose frontier theories Turner rejected, and a future U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson, whose ideas influenced the development of Turner’s frontier thesis.
Turner was a member of the history staff at his alma mater, Wisconsin, from 1889 to 1910, although he had opportunities during that time to move to posts at other universities. He became a...
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