The New West

Remarkable Changes in the Last Decade.

Boston Transcript

There is a new West, and one need not be a St. John in order to behold it. It is not a place of jasper walls and golden pavements, to be sure; instead, it has barbed wire fences and broad expanses of upturned black earth. It is not the iridescent creation of an ecstatic vision, but a brave reality. within ten years the old West of romance has succumbed to the inevitable logic of events. The sixshooter has given place to the plow and the reaper; the knight-errantry of the plains and mountains has been dominated by cosmopolitan men of affairs; the primeval chaos of wild woolliness has yielded to the cosmos of apt achievement. The cowboy, the bandit, the "terror," the horse thief, and all such as these have become as breathless shadows; their tale is ancient history; the literary craftsman who would now make use of the traditional border types must work with straw-stuffed lay figures or borrow his models from Eastern studios. Though you scour the country from Omaha to San Francisco, you will hardly find a living specimen of the Bret Harte style of border man. Far be it from me to deny that he once lived, and moved, and had his being, as the writers of tales have hinted; indeed, the half of his story has not yet been told. He is gone now, and with him has disappeared the line of the Western frontier—wiped away by progressive enterprise as a chalk mark is obliterated by a damp sponge. All the ingenuous lawlessness of other days has been succeeded by the subtler lawlessness of twentieth-century super-civilization.

Truly there is now no frontier, in the long accepted sense of the word. The broad trans-Mississippi territory, instead of offering a free range for the unbridled elemental passions of the human soul, is governed by the conventional rules of Anglo-Saxon decency. Everywhere you may see the signs and tokens of this change, in manners, morals, and the conduct of affairs. The old stage-coach has been relegated to the museum, and the Western plainsman has his modish English turnout or his automobile; instead of going mad with the loneliness of isolation, he talks with the world over his own long-distance telephone, following the state of the markets, the latest news concerning politics and war, and the current gossip of the club and the theatre.

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