Planning for this project began in the early spring of 1989 and may be neatly divided into two three-year periods: 1989–92 and 1992–95. All the names that appear below, including the shade of Frederick Jackson Turner, deserve my personal thanks for aiding me during this six-year trek. Initially, I had hoped to create a series of essays that would allow a new set of historians to comment on important topics that now shape our interpretation of the American West. I wanted these writings to demonstrate some of the “new significances” in western history that have arisen in the hundred years since Frederick Jackson Turner's seminal statement on “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” My plans included publication of these essays in the Western Historical Quarterly.
On 1 July 1989, with the retirement of my good friend and mentor Charles S. Peterson, I became the editor of the WHQ, the journal of the Western History Association. In 1984, Chas had appointed me his associate editor. He later gave me the designation of coeditor. Chas encouraged my efforts in creating this series and helped focus my thinking. Anne M. Butler took over my responsibilities as associate, and later co-, editor. Like Chas, Anne provided valuable advice on what topics to consider and which scholars to invite.
Before long, I felt that the selected authors might benefit greatly if we could all gather at a conference where early drafts of the articles could be read and improvements suggested. Plans for the conference soon began to anticipate a much bigger event. Utah State University's Mountain West Center for Regional Studies wanted to organize a national research conference in recognition of the centennial of Turner's frontier thesis. The center's director, F. Ross Peterson, suggested that we make a joint proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities for some funding. We received generous support from the NEH, as well as additional funds from Utah States Vice-President for Research, the university's Conference and Institute Division, the Department of History, and the Mountain West (p.vi) Center. Shannon Hoskins, the center's associate director, oversaw many important details in our planning.
The conference took place from 29 July through 1 August 1992 on the campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Over thirty graduate students from history programs across the United States received financial support to attend, as did numerous public school and community college teachers. Many others paid their own way to far northern Utah for our four-day gathering. An average of more than two hundred people attended each of the sessions. KUSU-FM, Utah Public Radio, recorded all the meetings. Lee Austin, the station's news director, then produced a series of five one-hour programs for regional broadcast.
Many people helped with the conference. What can be only a partial list must include special recognition to Utah State's Vice-President for Research, Bartell Jensen, now retired, as well as to Sherry L. Smith, Mikiso Hane, Carol A. OʼConnor, Robert Parson, Richard White, Virginia Scharff, Zeese Papanikolas, Peggy Pascoe, Leonard Arrington, Kerry Soper, Carolyn Fullmer, Kimball Fife, Ian Craig Breaden, Bradley J. Birzer, David S. Trask, Gunther Peck, Päivi Hoikkala, Renée M. Sentilles, John Andrew Hardcastle, Hope Benedict, Scott Hughes, Brian Cannon, Alicia Rodriquez, Laura Santigian, and Kathryn Morse.
At the conference two individuals presented formal comments on each of the major essays. Allan G. Bogue graciously agreed to deliver our keynote address. By the time the commentators had become part of our project, I realized that we could produce a book that would contain the essays, the commentaries, and Al Bogue's address. All the participants agreed that the conference had allowed us to hear only preliminary drafts of what would later be published. The second three-year period, 1992–95, was a time of rewriting and rethinking for most of our contributors.
Bogue's keynote address and the seven major essays did appear in the Western Historical Quarterly. Nonetheless, each author has been permitted to make adjustments for publication in this book. The introduction, chapter 9, and all the commentaries are in print for the first time. The staff of the Western Historical Quarterly deserves my grateful thanks for preparing the main essays for publication. Barbara L. Stewart dealt with vital correspondence, whereas Jane A. Reilly and Ona Siporin oversaw production and copyediting. A group of student editorial assistants aided our production. They included Andrew M. Honker, John A. Hardcastle, Stephen K. Amerman, Kelly W. May, A. J. Taylor, Grant Martin, James W. Feldman, Jared Farmer, John W. Heaton, Eric Walz, Kevin D. Hatfield, Esther Hansen, and Tamara Martinez.
Once a book became the obvious goal, Sheldon Meyer of Oxford (p.vii) University Press provided much encouragement. We were fortunate to have Sheldon's support. He is a peerless editor for important books in American history, and his attention to new writing on the American West is very welcomed. In addition, Sheldon sought out helpful readings of our collection by Peggy Pascoe and Sarah Deutsch. Peggy's report to the press provided important fresh ideas about our book's organization. D. Teddy Diggs copyedited our volume for the press. Andrew Albanese provided valuable editorial aid. Deborah C. Gessaman created uniform text files and a standard word-processing format. Jane A. Reilly and Sabine Barcatta compiled and edited the index. Dean Brian L. Pitcher of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Utah State helped cover the cost of illustrations for this book.
Finally, I must express my sincere gratitude to the twenty-three scholars who contributed their writings to this project. They each applied their special gifts and precious time to a shared effort at re-envisioning the history of the American West. Because of their efforts, my six-year journey has been a wonderful collaboration. But our intellectual travels are not over. New generations of scholars will keep re-envisioning western history. With these future writers in mind, all of us who contributed to this book have agreed to place its royalty income into an account that will support graduate editorial assistants at the Western Historical Quarterly.
Logan, Utah Clyde A. Milner II
March 1996 (p.viii)