Making San Francisco American: Cultural Frontiers in the Urban West, 1846-1906

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Overview

The San Francisco that rose from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire was a city of rigid social stratification—a city determined to contain its diverse and disorderly rough-and-tumble past some sixty years after its acquisition by the United States.

Barbara Berglund vividly describes San Francisco's rapid evolution from Mexican outpost to crown jewel of America's western empire, taking readers back to an earlier and more chaotic time when class definitions and social conventions were much more fluid. Berglund argues that the city's rapid rise from a multicultural boomtown to a racially and socially stratified metropolis reflected the careful efforts of a nascent elite to order its inhabitants through political and cultural means.

Berglund analyzes the cultural spaces that showcased the contests that would determine the social order and who defined it. The book's central chapters provide snapshots of the micro-workings of power on five key cultural frontiers: restaurants, hotels, and boardinghouses; places of amusement, ranging from the brothels of the Barbary Coast to the Pacific Museum of Anatomy and Science; Chinatown's tourist terrain; the Mechanics' Institute's annual fairs; and the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition—the first such expo held west of Chicago and an image-building opportunity for the city's elites.

By focusing on the role of cultural frontiers in the urban west, Berglund offers a new take on western history that explores the role of market-driven cultural institutions, demonstrating that the market was as important as the state in structuring power relationships in nineteenth-century imperial America. She shows that control over meanings ascribed to race, class, and gender—especially those generated in the city's cultural spaces—was critical to the incorporation of San Francisco into the fabric of the American nation.

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
Should inspire readers to ask more questions about national identity; and this inspiration is welcome indeed.
Choice
This book is deeply researched, richly illustrated, and superbly written. A model work, possibly a classic. Highly recommended.
H-Net Reviews
Will prove a valuable addition to any scholar of urban development.
Journal of American History
A very readable work that forcefully presents an interesting array of developments from nineteenth-century San Francisco history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700617227
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 1/12/2010
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 445,463
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Berglund is assistant professor of history at the University of South Florida.
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Table of Contents


Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xv
Introduction: Ordering the Disorderly City: Nation-Making on Cultural Ground     1
Living in the City: Everyday Cultures of Restaurants, Hotels, and Boardinghouses     16
Playing in the City: Vicious and Virtuous Amusement     58
Making Race in the City: Chinatown's Tourist Terrain     95
Celebrating the City: Labor, Progress, and the Promenade at the Mechanics' Institute Fairs     137
Imagining the City: The California Midwinter International Exposition     171
Conclusion: Creating an American Place: Cultural Ordering's Broader Implications     218
Notes     227
Bibliography     269
Index     285
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