This provided a glue that held the otherwise insane circumstances of frontier life together, but it was a brittle, fragile glue.
McGuffey readers, civic nationalism and the proposition nation are just a few of the synthetic components of this glue. The original McGuffey readers were meant to educate young children in Scottish Presbyterian Christian faith, but this was rapidly subverted to promote a more generic and secular “civic nationalism” that remains the backbone of the eternal minority party, the Republicans. Those readers, with their essentially national, limited but accessibly standardized curriculum also presaged the beginnings of credentialism and what progressives eventually snagged and remolded into “meritocracy”.
There’s also the fact that no matter how primitive the living conditions, frontier people were always reliant on what was sometimes very cutting edge and what was also pretty expensive technology to live out there at all. The money-sink rail system, the agricultural machines, even the coal burnt out on the prairie. This is SCALE, a shorthand for expansionism, complexity, atomization and how they lead to scaled-up human institutions that overscale themselves into anti-human traps.
Traditions formed, such as they were, were consumerist with a gloss of patriotism.