In the mid-nineteenth century, the north central United States was producing crops and livestock that fed much of the country, and most people in the region lived on farms or in small towns. The region had only a few larger cities, which were located on the region’s web of rivers and provided transportation hubs. Within a few decades, a network of sixty-three cities with populations of at least ten thousand had developed in the area now known as the American Midwest.
In this pioneering study, Larsen and Cottrell use census records, city and local histories, and government reports to illuminate the rise of the urban Midwest during the Gilded Age, speeded by the expansion of railroads and contests for supremacy, and shaped by industry and city promoters. Larsen and Cottrell show how all of these elements worked together to determine the characteristics of the cities that today dominate the urban Midwest.