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 Looting of the Old Town of Battleford

During the 1880s communities in Canada's western prairies rebelled against a plan to extend a transcontinental railroad through their territory. Descendants of American Indians and French settlers,…

Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw, the Prophet

Inman, Henry, 1801-1846
Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, led a major religious movement among Indians in the Midwest between 1805 and 1813. His brother Tecumseh led a parallel political effort to unify Indians in resistance…

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…

Carte des cinq Grands Lacs du Canada

Bellin, Jacques Nicolas, 1703-1772
Created 150 years after the Champlain map (image #269), this map shows that French map-makers had gathered much more information about the interior of North America. By modern standards, however, the…

Cover to International Socialist Review, February 1916

A worker pauses for his mid-day meal. Gazing beyond an industrial landscape he focuses on a domed building symbolizing the seat of government. Published by Charles H. Kerr Co. from 1900 to 1918, …

Industry on the Chicago River

United States Army Corps of Engineers
Sail- and steam-powered ships share the waters the busy port on the Chicago River. The riverfront is dominated by grain elevators and warehouses, and the air appears choked with coal smoke. Quarried…

Seven Days of the Life of a Soldier

Thompson, Alexander Ramsay, 1793-1837
Manuscript account by Major Alexander Thompson of a canoe journey from Green Bay to Mackinac Island, between June 1 and June 23, 1831. Accompanied by William Holiday, proprietor of an American Fur…

Items for Passengers Going Across the Continent

A page from the guidebook "How to Go West" details the prices for passengers and freight traveling across North America in the early 1870s. Sleeping cars were reserved for 1st class passengers only. …
Four more random images