Just Arrived! Prospects of Greatness: The Rise of Midwestern Cities during the Gilded Age

Lawrence H. Larsen & Barbara J. Cottrell

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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.

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Description

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.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Chapter 1: The Role of the Great Cities

Chapter 2: The Development of New Cities

Chapter 3: Urbanization and Industry

Chapter 4: The Characteristics of the Population

Chapter 5: The Shape of Basic Institutions

Chapter 6: The Quest for Urban Amenities

Chapter 7: Urbanization and Culture

Epilogue

Works Cited

About the Authors

Index

Authors

Lawrence H. Larsen is a professor of history emeritus of American history at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, where he taught for thirty-six years. He holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has received various awards for his many academic books and articles. He was author or co-author of seventeen books, including Federal Justice in Western Missouri: The Judges, the Cases, the Times, The Rise of the Urban South, and The Urban West at the End of the Frontier (author) and Pendergast! and A History of Missouri (co-author).

Barbara J. Cottrell is retired from the National Archives–Central Plains Region in Kansas City, where she was a historian. She received a BA from Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin. She and Larry co-authored Steamboats West: The 1859 American Fur Company Missouri River Expedition, and Upstream Metropolis: An Urban Biography of Omaha and Council Bluffs.

Reviews

This path-breaking study splendidly describes the massive shift from an essentially rural, agrarian society to a predominantly urban, industrial one, which was more transformative and far-reaching  in the Middle West than in any other part of the United States. Covering all aspects of economic development, population characteristics, basic institutions, municipal government, urban amenities, and urban culture, this broad-ranging study will be an essential reference for students of regional and American history and readers of all ages.
—John Miller, South Dakota State University; author of Small-Town Dreams: Stories of Midwestern Boys Who Shaped America

This monograph successfully provides for the reader an extremely lucid and analytical examination of the urbanization process in the Midwest during the Gilded Age. Sixty-three cities, led by Chicago, organized the section into a well-coordinated agrarian and industrial complex.  Transportation was the key characteristic of this sectional development, and the evolving maturity of railroad technology, financing, and organization made this possible.  This well-conceived study explains the dynamics of the national economy on the eve of the twentieth century.
—Patrick McClear, professor emeritus of American history, Missouri Western State University