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

Death of Custer

Siegel, Cooper & Co.
Decades after Custer's death, Pawnee Bill (Gordon W. Lillie), like Buffalo Bill, found commercial success in reenacting a stylized vision of frontier victimization.

Boy separating cream at the Rader Farm, Knoxville, Illinois

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company
Children of farm families were expected to help out with farm work from a young age. Here one of the sons of the farmer Scott Rader uses a machine to separate cream from raw milk. Behind him sits a…

Towards the Dawn!

Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation
A family walks an uphill road toward a rising sun symbolizing the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF).  The Great Depression of the 1930s hit farmers and rural communities particularly hard. …

Carte copiée sur celle qui a été tracée par le sauvage Ochagache et autres

Margry. Pierre
The map shown here was traced in a French archive in 1846 from an original map drawn in the 1730s by Auchagah (Ochagache), a Cree Indian, at the request of a French army officer stationed at a fort…

Grand Palace, Decatur, Illinois

Higbie, Tobias
The Heartland Community Church in Decatur, Illinois, operates the Grand Palace as a banquet hall. The architecture and advertising of the facility evoke both frontier themes and the notion of…

Step High, Stoop Low, Leave Your Dignity Outside: Entrance to the Dill Pickle Club, 18 Tooker Alley

Among Chicago's most unusual contributions to the culture of modern urban life was the Dill Pickle Club, located at 18 Tooker Alley just east of Bughouse Square. Operating as a coffeehouse, art…

Railroad employee reading strike news, Burlington, Iowa

Strikes and government intervention were in the headlines in 1948 as American workers and their unions exerted newly won power to win higher wages. Although this photograph was taken as part of an…

Indian shooting fish

Eastman, Seth, 1808-1875
A Native American man crouches at the bank of a river. He holds a bow and arrow and aims at the water.
Four more random images