The lower Mississippi Valley between 1800 and 1840, constituted an American frontier in the more classic sense.
This river frontier featured not only the more definite, linear shape that is traditionally pictured as the westering edge of civilization, but also a more clear-cut timetable of development.
Stretching roughly from the port of Natchez to the towns of St. Louis on the Mississippi River and Louisville on the Ohio, the frontier of the lower Mississippi Valley was opened fully to American penetration by 1815.
And while the backcountry districts of the southern interior quickly turned into ritual patches, the river frontier was tamed more gradually by trade and transportation.
By 1849, the forces of commerce, technology, and urbanism had closed this mercantile frontier by planting, the dominant economy and civilization of the South in towns along the river banks.
Although their colonizing efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful, the two waves of European settlers left a lasting legacy of Continental betting that diverged notably from the English-based gambling practices in the New World.
Once Americans broke through the barriers that isolated them from the lower Mississippi, novel forms of public and commercial gambling began to flow from the Crescent City up the river frontier and, eventually, throughout the young republic.
American attempts to penetrate the Franco-Spanish sphere of colonization during the late eighteenth century began fittingly with the speculations of the Yazoo land companies.
Defying the national governments of both Spain and the United States, the legislature of Georgia ‘granted’ enormous tracts of Spanish and Indian land to private American companies in 1789 and 1795, for the purpose of opening for settlement the uncharted territories adjacent to the eastern bank of the Mississippi River.
These real estate bubbles burst quickly, but they demonstrated Americans’ interest in the Southwest and foreshadowed the role that gambling would play in shaping that frontier.
The United States made more successful inroads into the great valley during the late eighteenth and early nineteen centuries.
A royal order from the king of Spain tried to entice alienated Americans into Spanish colonizing schemes in 1788, but the youthful republic had greater designs on the western territories.
In 1795, it concluded Pinckney’s Treaty with Spain, an agreement that opened New Orleans to American water-borne commerce, and made Mississippi into a major western commercial artery.
Finally, in 1803, the United States complemented its holdings along the eastern shore of the great river by buying the enormous western territory from France.
The Louisiana Purchase did not stimulate an immediate influx of settlers to the lower valley, for lands remained insecure in that remote territory.