The Info List - Walter Prescott Webb

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Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
(April 3, 1888 in Panola County, Texas
Panola County, Texas
– March 8, 1963 near Austin, Texas)[1] was an American historian noted for his groundbreaking work on the American West. As president of the Texas State Historical Association, he launched the project that produced the Handbook of Texas. He is also noted for his early criticism of the water usage patterns in the region.


1 Biography 2 Ideas

2.1 Water

3 Media 4 Works 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References

7.1 Primary sources

8 Further reading 9 External links

Biography[edit] Webb was reared on his family farm in Carthage in rural Panola County, Texas. After graduating from Ranger High School in Ranger in Eastland County, he earned a teaching certificate and taught at several Texas schools. He eventually attended the University of Texas
University of Texas
at Austin and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1915 at the age of twenty-seven. He worked as bookkeeper in San Marcos and optometrist's assistant in San Antonio, then in 1918 he was invited to join the history faculty at the University of Texas. He wrote his Master of Arts thesis on the Texas Rangers in 1920 and was encouraged to pursue his PhD. After a year of study at the University of Chicago, he returned to Austin, where he began a historical work on the West. The result of this work was The Great Plains, published in 1931, hailed as great breakthrough in the interpretation of the history of the region, and declared the outstanding contribution to American history since World War I
World War I
by the Social Science Research Council
Social Science Research Council
in 1939. He was awarded his PhD for his work on The Great Plains
Great Plains
in 1932, the year after its publication. In 1939-1946 he served as president of the Texas State Historical Association. During his tenure as president, he launched a project to produce an encyclopedia of Texas, which was subsequently published in 1952 as the Handbook of Texas. The world wide web version of the work is a popular Internet reference tool on the state. In all, Webb wrote or edited more than 20 books. One of them, The Texas Rangers (1935) was considered the definitive study of the legendary Texas Rangers and its Captain Bill McDonald. In 1958 Webb served as president of the American Historical Association.

Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
grave at Texas State Cemetery
Texas State Cemetery
in Austin, Texas

Webb's father-in-law was the Confederate States Army
Confederate States Army
veteran and Austin, Texas-based photographer William J. Oliphant
William J. Oliphant
(1845–1930).[2] Webb was killed in an automobile accident near Austin. He was interred at Texas State Cemetery
Texas State Cemetery
in Austin on the proclamation of then Governor John B. Connally, Jr.
John B. Connally, Jr.
At the time of his death he was working on a television series on American civilization under a grant from the Ford Foundation. In his honor the University of Texas
University of Texas
established the Walter Prescott Webb Chair of History and Ideas. The position is currently held by A.G. Hopkins. Webb Middle School in Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas
is also named after him.[3] Ideas[edit] Rundell (1963) has examined Webb's main books to see what inspired and prompted the writing of each, what the purpose and message of each seems to be, and Webb's emergent philosophy of history. The professional reception of these studies was also considered. The message of The Great Plains
Great Plains
(1931) is contained in its subtitle 'A Study in Institutions and Environment.' Its primary purpose was to present representative ideas about the region rather than to write its history. Webb called the settled area of Europe 'the Metropolis' and the rest of the world 'the Great Frontier', claiming that "the Great Plains environment... constitutes a geographic unity whose influences have been so powerful as to put a characteristic mark upon everything that survives within its borders", pointing to the revolver, barbed wire, and the windmill as essential to its settlement. He claims that the 98th meridian constitutes an "institutional fault", with "practically every institution that was carried across it... either broken and remade or else greatly altered". The book was hailed as one of the top contributions to Am. history since World War I
World War I
by the Social Science Research Council
Social Science Research Council
in 1939. Webb's The Texas Rangers (1935) was a pungent and learned treatment of a frontier institution. The economic domination of the North, through the tariff, Civil War pensions, and patent monopolies, and the development of the centralized economy dominated by 200 major corporations (over the South and West, which contained the largest share of natural resources) was the theme of Divided We Stand (1937). More Water for Texas (1954) popularized and vitalized a federal study of what he regarded as the most serious problem of his state. The Webb thesis focused on the fragility of the Western environment, pointing out the aridity of the territory and the dangers of an industrialized West. In 1951 Webb published The Great Frontier, proposing the Boom Hypothesis, that the new lands discovered by Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
in 1492 ran out by 1900, closing the frontier and giving the U.S. economic and ecological problems, threatening the future of individualism, capitalism, and democracy. The book caused a firestorm of controversy. O'Har (2006) shows that in his classic interdisciplinary history of the post-Civil War West, Webb develops dominant characteristics of the Great Plains
Great Plains
– treelessness, level terrain, and semiaridity – and examines effect on the lives of people from very different environments. To succeed, pioneers made radical readjustments in their way of life, eschewed traditions, and altered social institutions. Webb believed what set the Great Plains
Great Plains
apart from other regions was its individualism, innovation, democracy, and lawlessness, themes he derived from the Frontier Thesis
Frontier Thesis
of Frederick Jackson Turner. His focus is said to have missed the emergence of a national empire, and others criticize him for failing to acknowledge the roles played by women, Indians, and Mexicans.[4] Water[edit] Webb was an esteemed historian when he wrote an article in the May 1957 edition of Harper's
entitled "The American West, Perpetual Mirage". In the article, Webb criticized U.S. water policy in the West, stating that the region was "a semidesert with a desert heart", and that it was a national folly to continue to follow the current federal policy (managed through the United States Bureau of Reclamation) of attempting to convert the region into productive cropland through irrigation. Webb's criticism of federal policy was roundly rebuked at the time, but some contemporary critics of U.S. water policy regard him as prophetic in his views. Media[edit]

A one-act play by Steve Moore, Nightswim, about Roy Bedichek, J. Frank Dobie and Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
was first produced in Austin in the fall of 2004.[5] Their friendship is narrated in the book Three Friends: Roy Bedichek, J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
by William A. Owens, published in 1969.


The Great Plains: A Study in Institutions and Environment (1931) read online The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense (1935) read online Divided We Stand: The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy (1937) read online The Great Frontier (1951) read online More Water for Texas: The Problem and the Plan (Austin: U. of Texas Press, 1954) read online An Honest Preface and Other Essays (1959) read online

See also[edit]

Biography portal History portal Texas portal

J. Frank Dobie Roy Bedichek Eugene C. Barker Great Plains Frederick Jackson Turner Frontier Thesis Ernest Wallace Robert W. Mondy


^ tshaonline.org ^ William James Oliphant Biographical Sketch, Texas State Library and Archives Commission ^ Juarez, Tina. "Where Homeboys Feel at Home in School". ASCD.  ^ George O'Har, "Where The Buffalo Roam: Walter Prescott Webb's 'The Great Plains'", Technology and Culture 2006 47(1): 156–163 ^ XL Reviews 'Nightswim,' Conspirare & more – Oct. 14, 2004


Reisner, Marc (1986). Cadillac Desert. ISBN 0-14-017824-4. 

Primary sources[edit]

Webb, Walter Prescott. More Water for Texas (1954) Webb, Walter Prescott. The Great Plains: A Study in Institutions and Environment (1931)

Further reading[edit]

Collins, Michael L. (2013). "Walter Prescott Webb". In Cox, Patrick L.; Hendrickson, Kenneth E., Jr. Writing the Story of Texas. University of Texas
University of Texas
Press. ISBN 0292748752.  Frantz, Joe B. "Remembering Walter Prescott Webb," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 1988 92(1): 16–30 Gutmann, Myron P. and Christie Sample. "Land, Climate, and Settlement on the Texas Frontier," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 1995 99(2): 136–172. Updates the research of Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
by exploring the dynamics of the rural Euro-American frontiers in Texas from 1820 to 1970, with special attention to the effects of climate, geography, available natural resources, and patterns of exploitation by settlers. Hart, Stephen S. "Geological Errors in Walter Prescott Webb's 'The Great Plains'," Great Plains
Great Plains
Research 1999 9(1): 137–143 O'Har, George. "Where The Buffalo Roam: Walter Prescott Webb's 'The Great Plains'", Technology and Culture 2006 47(1): 156–163 Reinhartz, Dennis and Maizlish, Stephen E., eds. Essays on Walter Prescott Webb and the Teaching of History (1985). 101 pp. Rundell, Walter, Jr. "Walter Prescott Webb: Product of Environment," Arizona and the West 1963 5(1): 4–28 Winfrey, Dorman H. "Memories of J. Frank Dobie
J. Frank Dobie
and Walter Prescott Webb: A Personal Reflection on Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
and J. Frank Dobie," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 1988 92(1): 31–143,

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Walter Prescott Webb.

Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
from the Handbook of Texas
Handbook of Texas
Online Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
at Curlie (based on DMOZ)

v t e

Presidents of the American Historical Association


Andrew Dickson White
Andrew Dickson White
(1884-85) George Bancroft
George Bancroft
(1886) Justin Winsor
Justin Winsor
(1887) William Frederick Poole
William Frederick Poole
(1888) Charles Kendall Adams
Charles Kendall Adams
(1889) John Jay (1890) William Wirt Henry (1891) James Burrill Angell
James Burrill Angell
(1892-93) Henry Adams
Henry Adams
(1893-94) George Frisbie Hoar
George Frisbie Hoar
(1895) Richard Salter Storrs
Richard Salter Storrs
(1896) James Schouler (1897) George Park Fisher (1898) James Ford Rhodes
James Ford Rhodes
(1899) Edward Eggleston
Edward Eggleston


Charles Francis Adams Jr.
Charles Francis Adams Jr.
(1901) Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
(1902) Henry Charles Lea
Henry Charles Lea
(1903) Goldwin Smith
Goldwin Smith
(1904) John Bach McMaster
John Bach McMaster
(1905) Simeon Eben Baldwin
Simeon Eben Baldwin
(1906) J. Franklin Jameson (1907) George Burton Adams (1908) Albert Bushnell Hart
Albert Bushnell Hart
(1909) Frederick Jackson Turner (1910) William Milligan Sloane
William Milligan Sloane
(1911) Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
(1912) William Archibald Dunning (1913) Andrew C. McLaughlin
Andrew C. McLaughlin
(1914) H. Morse Stephens
H. Morse Stephens
(1915) George Lincoln Burr
George Lincoln Burr
(1916) Worthington C. Ford (1917) William Roscoe Thayer
William Roscoe Thayer
(1918-19) Edward Channing (1920) Jean Jules Jusserand
Jean Jules Jusserand
(1921) Charles Homer Haskins
Charles Homer Haskins
(1922) Edward Potts Cheyney
Edward Potts Cheyney
(1923) Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
(1924) Charles McLean Andrews
Charles McLean Andrews


Dana Carleton Munro
Dana Carleton Munro
(1926) Henry Osborn Taylor (1927) James Henry Breasted
James Henry Breasted
(1928) James Harvey Robinson
James Harvey Robinson
(1929) Evarts Boutell Greene (1930) Carl L. Becker (1931) Herbert Eugene Bolton
Herbert Eugene Bolton
(1932) Charles A. Beard
Charles A. Beard
(1933) William Dodd (1934) Michael Rostovtzeff
Michael Rostovtzeff
(1935) Charles Howard McIlwain (1936) Guy Stanton Ford (1937) Laurence M. Larson (1938) William Scott Ferguson (1939) Max Farrand
Max Farrand
(1940) James Westfall Thompson (1941) Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. (1942) Nellie Neilson (1943) William Linn Westermann
William Linn Westermann
(1944) Carlton J. H. Hayes (1945) Sidney Bradshaw Fay (1946) Thomas J. Wertenbaker
Thomas J. Wertenbaker
(1947) Kenneth Scott Latourette
Kenneth Scott Latourette
(1948) Conyers Read (1949) Samuel Eliot Morison
Samuel Eliot Morison


Robert Livingston Schuyler (1951) James G. Randall (1952) Louis R. Gottschalk (1953) Merle Curti (1954) Lynn Thorndike
Lynn Thorndike
(1955) Dexter Perkins (1956) William L. Langer (1957) Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
(1958) Allan Nevins
Allan Nevins
(1959) Bernadotte Everly Schmitt (1960) Samuel Flagg Bemis (1961) Carl Bridenbaugh (1962) Crane Brinton (1963) Julian P. Boyd (1964) Frederic C. Lane (1965) Roy Franklin Nichols (1966) Hajo Holborn (1967) John K. Fairbank (1968) C. Vann Woodward
C. Vann Woodward
(1969) Robert Roswell Palmer (1970) David M. Potter (1971) Joseph Strayer (1971) Thomas C. Cochran (1972) Lynn Townsend White Jr. (1973) Lewis Hanke (1974) Gordon Wright (1975)


Richard B. Morris (1976) Charles Gibson (1977) William J. Bouwsma (1978) John Hope Franklin (1979) David H. Pinkney (1980) Bernard Bailyn (1981) Gordon A. Craig
Gordon A. Craig
(1982) Philip D. Curtin (1983) Arthur S. Link (1984) William H. McNeill (1985) Carl Neumann Degler (1986) Natalie Zemon Davis
Natalie Zemon Davis
(1987) Akira Iriye (1988) Louis R. Harlan (1989) David Herlihy (1990) William Leuchtenburg (1991) Frederic Wakeman (1992) Louise A. Tilly (1993) Thomas C. Holt (1994) John Henry Coatsworth (1995) Caroline Bynum (1996) Joyce Appleby (1997) Joseph C. Miller (1998) Robert Darnton
Robert Darnton
(1999) Eric Foner
Eric Foner


William Roger Louis (2001) Lynn Hunt (2002) James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson
(2003) Jonathan Spence (2004) James J. Sheehan
James J. Sheehan
(2005) Linda K. Kerber (2006) Barbara Weinstein (2007) Gabrielle M. Spiegel (2008) Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
(2009) Barbara D. Metcalf (2010) Anthony Grafton
Anthony Grafton
(2011) William Cronon
William Cronon
(2012) Kenneth Pomeranz
Kenneth Pomeranz
(2013) Jan E. Goldstein (2014) Vicki L. Ruiz (2015) Patrick Manning (2016) Tyler E. Stovall (2017) Mary Beth Norton (2018)

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 76309790 LCCN: n80010487 ISNI: 0000 0001 0916 8457 GND: 120514370 SUDOC: 081061781 BNF: cb11550477w (da