Why the Western Remains ‘One of Our Most Powerful Cinematic Inventions’

From The Searchers to The Power of the Dog, Troubled Protagonists Offer an American Vision of Death and Defeat

Robert Warshow, a tall, wry, chain-smoking New Yorker and an editor at Commentary magazine in the early 1950s, was obsessed with movies, comic books, and other forms of popular culture and treated them as serious subjects for intellectual discourse. He dropped dead of a heart attack in 1955 at age 37, but before he did, he wrote “The Westerner,” a groundbreaking essay that forever changed the way we think about cowboy movies.

Warshow’s core insight: the Western hero was not a solitary yet indomitable figure but rather a tainted and failed …

How a Public Railroad Saved Alaska | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How a Public Railroad Saved Alaska

Long Before Statehood, the Progressive Era Made the Last Frontier Possible

Alaska officially became a state in 1959, but its modern origins occurred in the two decades that followed the discovery of gold in the Klondike in 1896.

At the turn …

The Real Heroes of the Overland Trail Were the Oxen | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Oxen Were the Unheralded Heroes of America’s Overland Trails

Over Long Journeys, Westward Migrants Came to Love the ‘Noble’ Animals They Depended on

Between 1840 and 1869, approximately 300,000 people crossed the United States on their way to settle in Oregon, find gold in California, or practice religion as they desired in …

Why “Real Men” Wear Davy Crockett Caps

Even as White Frontiersmen Battled Native Americans, They Adopted Their Symbols of Masculinity

In recent years, fashion leaders have provoked criticism for incorporating Native American imagery in their designs. In 2011, Urban Outfitters introduced a line of Navajo-themed clothing and accessories that included …

The Myth of Untouched Wilderness That Gave Rise to Modern Miami

Indians, Slaves, and Spanish Missionaries Settled the Area, but Marketers and Entrepreneurs Erased Their Legacy

Miami is widely known as the “Magic City.” It earned its nickname in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, shortly after the arrival of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad …