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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2002
PBS miniseries to show life on the frontier

April 19, 2002

NEW YORK — A new reality series that will show what life was like on the American frontier has connections to Mississippi writer Linda Peavy, who has co-authored a number of historical studies of life on the frontier.

After surviving a competitive selection process, a rigorous training program and a dangerous overland wagon trip, three contemporary American families faced 19th-century life in the Montana wilderness for Frontier House, a six-part “hands-on history” series slated to premiere Monday, April 29, 2002 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).

Chosen from over 5,000 applications, the Glenn family of Tennessee, the Clune family of California and the Brooks family of Massachusetts headed west in May and resided there until early October, living as 1880s homesteaders, with only the tools and technology of the period at their disposal.

Throughout their historic adventure, the cameras of Frontier House rolled, revealing the families’ trials, triumphs, simple pleasures, and daily rigors.

“From the early days of The 1900 House, we wanted to take on the stereotypes and myths of the American West,” said executive producer Beth Hoppe. “Every step of the way the production team, the participants and the experts have enthusiastically embraced our concept, and Frontier House explores the reality of everyday life in 1883 at a level of detail that exceeded even my expectations. The story of our families’ experience is at once dramatic, entertaining and educational.”

The drama of this unique experience — which included a June snowstorm, unanticipated weight loss among the families, encounters with bears, and a family sneaking modern cosmetics into their 1883 experience — has also been captured on the series’ companion Web site, now online at and The interactive site features audio and video excerpts from the homesteaders’ adventures, production journal entries, interactive presentations, and historical essays — all of which give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the project.

The Web site will be continuously updated before and throughout the series’ broadcast, allowing viewers to get to know the families, up close and personal, through reflections from their personal diaries. All will offer more insight about these modern homesteaders and the challenges of pioneer life.

Additionally, a companion book to the series, also entitled Frontier House, authored by series producer Simon Shaw with Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith, is being published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, the publishing operation of Viacom Inc. Peavy and Smith served as chief historical consultants for the project.

“We're thrilled to offer such a realistic and multi-faceted look at the past. Through the Web site, the series and the book, viewers will be able to vicariously share in a remarkable experience, and literally be able to see history come to life,” said Shaw.

Frontier House is a co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York and Wall To Wall in association with Channel 4 (U.K.). Thirteen’s Beth Hoppe and Wall To Wall’s Alex Graham are executive producers. Simon Shaw, series producer of The 1900 House, again serves in that capacity for this new series.

Funding for Frontier House is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of the role of technology in society. Corporate support is made possible by Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc. and Georgia-Pacific. Funding is also provided by Public Television Viewers and PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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