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Webb, Walter Prescott, 1888-1963



Historian Walter Prescott Webb (1888-1963) was born in rural Panola County, Texas, later moving with his family to a farm near Ranger, Texas. The young Webb showed an early interest in writing and appealed to magazine editor William Ellery Hinds for help. Hinds encouraged Webb, who graduated from Ranger High School and began teaching at a variety of small Texas schools. With Hinds' assistance, Webb enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin and earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1915 and married Jane Elizabeth Oliphant in 1916. He was asked to join the History Department faculty at the University of Texas in 1918, concurrently writing his master's thesis on the Texas Rangers and earning a master's degree in 1920.

After an unsuccessful attempt at doctoral work at the University of Chicago, Webb returned to Austin and wrote the seminal work The Great Plains in 1931. The book gained widespread acclaim as a new interpretation of the American West and was largely the basis for the University of Texas awarding Webb a Ph.D. in 1932. From 1939 to 1946 Webb also served as director of the Texas State Historical Association, where he expanded the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and began compiling an encyclopedia of Texas which was eventually published as the Handbook of Texas.

As a professor at the University of Texas, Webb was well-known for his books and engaging lectures, where he argued two seminal theories: the Great Plains thesis and the Great Frontier thesis. Webb asserted in his Great Plains thesis that westward expansion of Europeans across North America stalled briefly at the 98th meridian where the woodlands of the east gave way to the arid plains of the west. Not until technology adapted to the new environment were settlers able to continue the move west, with innovations such as barbed wire, the windmill, and the six-shooter revolver. In 1952 Webb published The Great Frontier to codify his theory of the same name. Webb argued that the great frontier discovered by Columbus and subsequently explored by countless adventurers and settlers provided the stimulus for the rise of wealth, capitalism, and democracy. Then as the lands were settled and the frontier disappeared (circa 1900), increasing stress on the land triggered the economic and environmental problems of the 20th century.

Webb published The Texas Rangers in 1935, Divide We Stand: The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy in 1927, More Water for Texas in 1954, and a collection of essays titled An Honest Preface and Other Essays in 1959. His wife Jane passed away in 1960 and in 1961 Webb married Terrell (Dobbs) Maverick (widow of F. Maury Maverick). Webb's life ended abruptly in an automobile accident near Austin on March 8, 1963, and he is buried at the State Cemetery in Austin.

Found in 12 Collections and/or Records:

Barbara Liggett papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.04132
Scope and Contents The Barbara Liggett papers, 1941-1957, document Liggett’s personal life and career as a Master’s student at the University of Texas. The collection contains correspondence from various publications, photographs of Liggett, Caroline Valenta, and traveling acquaintance named "Irene," materials and lecture notes from Dr. Walter Prescott Webb and Liggett, as well as materials relating to student activism within The Daily Texan, including...
Dates: 1941 - 1957

Roy Bedichek papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.00011

Roy Bedichek (1878-1959) was a naturalist, educator, writer, and director of the University (of Texas) Interscholastic League from 1914-1948. The Roy Bedichek Papers, 1897-1959, 2003, document his studies of ornithology, botany, wildlife, and conservation, history and philosophy and include literary productions, correspondence, and business records.

Dates: circa 1880-1960; 2003

Joe B. Frantz papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.00420

Manuscripts, photographs, bibliographies, and maps document the professional career and personal interests of University of Texas historian Joe B. Frantz.

Dates: 1746; 1801 - 2010

KLRU-TEMP videotape collection

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.02497

Consisting of 94 two-inch quadruplex videotapes the KLRU-TEMP Video Collection, 1961-1963, documents American historiography and historians in post-World War II America.

Dates: 1961 - 1963

Steward Alexander Miller papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.01812

Papers of Steward Alexander Miller, relating to his life in Texas.

Dates: 1843 - 1873; 1926 - 1966

William A. Owens oral history transcripts

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.02566

The William A. Owens Oral History Transcripts, 1953, contains eight transcripts of interviews and conversations conducted by William A. Owens with naturalist Roy Bedichek, historian Walter Prescott Webb, and folklorist J. Frank Dobie from July and August 1953. The interviewees discuss growing up in Texas, their careers as educators, their associations with the University of Texas at Austin, and other experiences.

Dates: 1953

Edith H. Parker papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.01818

The Edith H. Parker Papers, 1922-1984, contain personal, professional, and political correspondence, literary productions, education and employment records, photographs, other pictorial material, and a map.

Dates: 1922 - 1984

Imogene B. Rodney syllabus

Identifier: camh-arc-004674

The Imogen B. Rodney syllabus, 1938, includes a syllabus prepared by Imogene B. Rodney for an eighth grade social science course in which she used Walter Prescott Webb's The Great Plains as the basic text for a course on the development of the plains area.

Dates: 1938

Texas War Records collection

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.01613

Correspondence, legal documents, reports, resolutions, lists, lecture notes, examinations, personnel records, class rolls, memoranda, proceedings, account papers, financial papers, minutes, blueprints, indexes, narratives, literary productions, broadsides, bulletins, military manuals, posters, pamphlets, bibliography, curriculum schedules, printers plates, clippings, maps, and photographs concerning Texas' participation in World Wars I and II.

Dates: 1916 - 1919; 1940 - 1951

UT Department of History records

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.03705

The Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin currently offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in a variety of history-related fields. The records relate to the daily operations of the Department of History and consist of general and classified correspondence, administrative records, faculty teaching assignments, minutes, and other materials.

Dates: 1877 - 1996

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