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How Cities Won the West

Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America

Carl Abbott

Publication Year: 2010

From the Gulf of Alaska to the Mississippi River and from the binational metropolis of San Diego-Tijuana to the Prairie Province capitals of Canada, Carl Abbott explores the complex urban history of western Canada and the United States.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. v

List of Figures

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pp. vi-vii

List of Tables

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pp. viii

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pp. ix-x

This book owes its impetus to the late Martin Ridge, who button-holed me at a Western History Association meeting to suggest that I consider such a project. It owes its title to Richard Wade, who tossed it out as I was providing a brief tour of Portland, Oregon, ...

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INTRODUCTION: All Roads Lead to Fresno

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pp. 1-16

William Gilpin and William Gibson: The first was a failed politician and moderately successful land speculator of the mid–nineteenth century. The second is a popular and innovative science fiction writer whose career took off in the 1980s and was still going strong in the early years of the twenty-first century. ,,,

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1: Outposts of Empires

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pp. 17-30

Sitka, Alaska, wasn’t much of a town 200 years ago—nor is it all that impressive today with its fewer that 9,000 people—but it was the nerve center for a Russian trading territory that arced 1,200 miles from the Aleutian Islands to the Queen Charlotte Islands of present-day British Columbia. ,,,

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TRANSITIONS: Building a West of Cities, 1840–1940

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pp. 31-38

Every historian of the United States knows the symbolic meaning of the Eleventh Census of 1890, when federal officials analyzing the returns declared that it was no longer possible to define a distinct frontier line on a national map. Less notorious but equally important is the statement in the same census ,,,

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2: Across the Wide Mississippi

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pp. 39-54

The common image of William Clark is a dauntless explorer. He is the explorer in a canoe, on foot, on horseback, parleying with Indians, probing the sources of rivers, testing treacherous mountain passes, noting the changing landscape. On road signs that mark the parts of his route to the Pacific he stands next to Meriwether Lewis ,,,

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3: The First Pacific Century

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pp. 55-73

Deep in the high desert of eastern Oregon the Owyhee River flows through basalt beds and steep canyons into the Snake River. “Owyhee.” It looks like an Indian name, perhaps borrowed from the Paiutes or Shoshones or Nez Perce. Now try an experiment and speak it aloud, and a different possibility surfaces. ...

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4: Inland Empire Cities

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pp. 74-87

The later nineteenth century was the last great age of empires: In the same years that William J. Palmer was developing a vision of economic control of the central Rockies, Emperor Napoleon III of France (1852–70) was rebuilding Paris before accepting war with Prussia and surrendering the fortress of Sedan to the army of King Wilhelm, soon to be proclaimed the emperor of a united Germany. ,,,

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5: Garden Cities

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pp. 88-99

In summer 1950, my parents packed the family into the backseat of our 1941 Studebaker Champion and drove west from Knoxville, Tennessee. My recall of the trip is incomplete—I was only five—but I remember the water. We stopped one morning in Gunnison, Colorado, and there it was, running cool and bright along the sides of the streets. ,,,

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6: Smokestack Frontiers

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pp. 100-114

The Boston Saloon on D Street in Virginia City, Nevada, didn’t look much different from scores of other barrooms in the bustling mining city. It was a long narrow one-story building forty feet deep and only fifteen feet wide— just enough for a bar along one side and tables along the other where customers could drink, smoke, deal cards, ,,,

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7: Money in the Air

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pp. 115-131

In June 1915, Miss Bessie Post of Westbury, Long Island, a properly broughtup woman in her twenties, enjoyed a grand western tour that started in southern California and ended in the Canadian Rockies. Halfway through the trip, she checked into Portland’s new Multnomah Hotel ,,,

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8: Cities of Homes

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pp. 132-149

Emily French described herself as a “hard-worked woman” in the remarkable diary that she kept for the year 1890. Divorced, forty-seven years old, responsible for a son and daughter, unskilled but desperate to maintain respectability, she moved from rural Colorado to Denver in April, took a summer job as a cook and housekeeper in the mountains, ,,,

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9: Water, Power, Progress

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pp. 150-162

Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Alburquerque imagines a political contest in a city divided between a disgruntled old guard and a dynamic Hispanic incumbent popular in the neighborhoods. Frank Dominic tries to capture the mayoral election with a bold scheme to “rebrand” Albuquerque as a destination resort. ,,,

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TRANSITIONS: The Metropolitan West since 1940

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pp. 163-168

Los Angeles in the 1940s was scarcely fifty years old as a significant “American” city, yet it was already the site for elegiac nostalgia. Poet Ivor Winters crafted a long requiem for the passing of time in “On a View of Pasadena from the Hills.” ,,,

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10: Wars and Rumors of War

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pp. 169-185

Laura and Enrico Fermi arrived in the United States in 1939 as refugees from Fascist Italy. In 1938, Enrico had earned a Nobel Prize in physics. By 1942, he was leading the efforts to develop an atomic bomb and presiding over the first controlled nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago. ,,,

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11: Progress and Prejudice

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pp. 186-202

On April 10, 1962, when Johnny Podres uncorked the first Major League pitch in newly built Dodger Stadium, the game marked a new era for baseball fans.1 It also represented the closing chapter in a long struggle between two visions for Los Angeles. ,,,

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12: The Politics of Diversity

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pp. 203-218

On August 19, 1969, Riverfront for People held a picnic on a highway median strip in downtown Portland, Oregon. On a midsummer day when the mountains and coast beckoned many Portlanders, 250 adults and 100 children spread their blankets and opened their coolers and baskets on a barren strip between four lanes of busy traffic ...

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13: Reshaping the Metropolis

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pp. 219-236

Seventy years after Emily French struggled to finish her small house near the South Platte River, another Denver family moved into a new, almost finished house—but this time in the absolutely new neighborhood of Hoffman Heights in the booming suburb of Aurora. ...

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14: Transnational Urbanism

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pp. 237-255

The beginning of December 1999 was not the time to head to downtown Seattle for some holiday shopping at Nordstrom’s or an expensive dinner at the Dahlia Lounge. Bricks were flying through store windows. Police were chasing ski-masked rioters through the streets. ...

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15: The Long Arm of the Metropolitan West

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pp. 256-272

Larry McMurtry grew up in the 1940s and 1950s on a ranch near Archer City, Texas. Located miles northwest of Fort Worth, Archer City is a town of 2,000 that peaked in the 1920s and then struggled to hold its own through the second half of the twentieth century.1 ...

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CONCLUSION: Urban Frontiers

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pp. 273-290

The view across the Los Angeles Basin from a house high on the hills entranced European intellectual Simone de Beauvoir, at first enthralling her with the spectacle and then intriguing her with the city that lived beneath the light. ...


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pp. 291-320

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Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 321-334

Historians who have taken booster rhetoric as worthy of serious analysis include Carl Abbott, Boosters and Businessmen: Popular Economic Thought and Urban Growth in the Antebellum Middle West (Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 1983); David Hamer, New Towns in the New World: Images and Perceptions of the Nineteenth Century Urban Frontier (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990); ...


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pp. 335-347

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826333148
E-ISBN-10: 0826333141
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826333131
Print-ISBN-10: 0826333133

Page Count: 357
Illustrations: 49 halftones, 17 maps
Publication Year: 2010