Studies in American Fiction
The antebellum West was a hotbed of literary activism. Western presses published more than one hundred local newspapers and literary magazines from the late 1820s through the 1850s. Cities such as Vidalia, Lexington, Marietta, New Orleans, and Cincinnati were thriving literary centers, boasting numerous bookshops, libraries, theaters, and literary societies, including the Semi-Colon and Buckeye clubs of Cincinnati, where members exhibited their western pride by discussing the work of local authors while drinking beverages from buckeye bowls.1 The “West” at this time was located much closer east and south than the West we know today. It encompassed, roughly, the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Mississippi Valley region of present-day Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama. Anxious to assert a regional identity and sense of solidarity within the rapidly expanding nation, residents of this region pushed for the development of distinctly western literary culture, capable of representing, as one periodical editor put it, “the slight but perceptible shades of difference, and the visible particularities of national character, which our peculiar origin, physical circumstances, and moral condition have imposed upon us.”2
Keri Holt. “Frenchifying the Frontier: Transnational Federalism in the Early West.” Studies in American Fiction, 39.1 (Spring 2012): 1-22.