Making History in Central North America

Based on the world-renowned collections of the Newberry Library in Chicago, “Frontier to Heartland” offers access to historical primary sources, scholarly perspectives on the past, and resources to help you use the site.


Essays with a point of view

In words and pictures Perspectives explain how central North America came to be known as a "frontier" and then a "heartland." You can trace the history of the region over 400 years, consider the cultural power of images, or learn how to read historic maps.


Thematic collections of images

Galleries are a quick way to view a range of themes in Frontier to Heartland.  Each gallery presents eight related images and links to the image collection.

Browse Archive

The March of Destiny

The scene depicts "Pioneer Heroes" in a caravan heading westward. An inset in the upper left portrays migrants crossing the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky, while an inset in the bottom right…

Annie Oakley

Fox, Richard, K.
The sharpshooter Annie Oakley (1860-1926) was born Phoebe Ann Moses to a poor Ohio farming family. To feed and support her family she learned to trap and shoot, and later performed shooting tricks on…

J. W. Noseworthy and his class at the Hollinger Mine

A group of immigrant miners learns English in a “Frontier College” classroom. During the early 20th century, Canadian mining, timber, and railroad companies recruited thousands of young men from…

Nauvoe, Illinois

Lewis, Henry, 1819-1904
Mormons fleeing persecution in New York State and then Missouri settled in Nauvoo after 1832, building it up to one of the largest cities in Illinois by the mid-1840s. In 1846 other Illinois residents…

Views of the Big Blue, South of Seward, Nebraska

Appearing in a guide for potential settlers, "How to Go West," these images of rolling prairie in eastern Nebraska suggest both prosperous farms and open land for newcomers. Railroads crossing the…

Lumber docks, Chicago River

United States Army Corps of Engineers
Children watch the photographer as a tugboat pulls a ship through the Chicago River. To the left workers unload lumber from a ship.

Chicago lakefront, ca. 1893

United States Army Corps of Engineers
Illinois Central train tracks run north along the shore to a terminal on the south side of the Chicago River. Forty years earlier the tracks had been built out over the water, following a right of…

Cover of “Wild West Galop for Piano”

D. Emerson
William Cody's Wild West Shows inspired this piece of piano music from the late 1880s.
Four more random images