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Idle ThreatsMen and the Limits of Productivity in Nineteenth Century America$
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Andrew Lyndon Knighton

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814748909

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814748909.001.0001

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The Line of Productiveness

The Line of Productiveness

Fear at the Frontiers

Chapter:
(p.87) 3 The Line of Productiveness
Source:
Idle Threats
Author(s):

Andrew Lyndon Knighton

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814748909.003.0003

This chapter explores the threat posed to productivity by the modes of life characteristic of America's geographical and economic frontiers. Citing General William B. Hazen's characterization of the frontier as a “line of productiveness” in his 1875 pamphlet Our Barren Lands, the chapter considers the notion that frontier lands offered safe harbor to unproductivity. It also discusses Washington Irving's views about the relationship between activity and subjectivity at the frontier, the purported idleness of Native Americans on the frontier, the value of the well-kept and presentable home as a visual index of industriousness, and the frontier's reputation for fostering wage labor. Finally, it highlights the ambiguities about unproductivity that were generated at the economic, imaginary, and ideological frontiers of America.

Keywords:   productivity, William B. Hazen, productiveness, frontier lands, unproductivity, Washington Irving, idleness, Native Americans, industriousness, wage labor

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