Aggressive Regionalism: Commentary

6. The Frontier

The Frontier began in 1920 as a literary journal edited and published by students in Professor Harold G. Merriam’s creative writing courses at the State University of Montana (later the University of Montana) in Missoula.  In November 1927, however, Merriam transformed the publication into a regional literary journal designed to evoke and make accessible good regional writing.  His aims were expressed by the subtitle he added to the masthead:  “A Magazine of the Northwest” (Merriam 1962: ix).  Merriam set out his aims more fully in an inaugural editorial called “Endlessly the Covered Wagon.”  To make the reorientation even more explicit, Merriam cited with approval, on the inside front covers of the first two issues, the opinions of James Stevens and H.L. Davis as expressed Status Rerum.  Besides attempting to “gather indigenous Northwest materials” in the realm of literature, The Frontier regularly published diaries, journals, and memoirs in order to make more accessible a wide range of primary sources on regional history (see Hakola [1962] for a selection).

Because The Frontier recruited as assistant editors, contributing editors, and contributors some of the best writers in the Northwest, its fare was, by contrast to The Lariat, generally first-rate rather than second- or third-rate.  Grace Stone Coats and Frank B. Linderman, for example, were closely associated with the journal for years as editors and contributors, and it published as well works by such prominent authors as James Stevens, H. L. Davis, and Dorothy M. Johnson.  In sum, The Frontier elicited, gathered, and promoted precisely the kind of quality regional writing for which Stevens and Davis had called.  Included here as texts from The Frontier are statements about the character of Northwest literature by H. G. Merriam (“Endlessly the Covered Wagon” and “Northwest Harvest”), H. L. Davis (“Status Rerum—Allegro Ma Non Troppo”), and Floyd Dell (“The Writer’s Robust Virtues”); an essay about “The Backward States” of the West by Edmund L. Freeman; a short story by Grace Stone Coats (“Late Fruit”); and a poem by John C. Frohlicher (“End of the Season [U.S.F.S.]").

The Frontier merged in 1933 with The Midland, a literary journal that had been published in Chicago and at the University of Iowa since 1915. The Frontier and Midland continued until publication was suspended during the summer of 1939.

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