The Metropolitan Frontier: Cities in the Modern American West

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When the American West represented the country's frontier, many of its cities may have seemed little more than trading centers to serve the outlying populace. Now the nation's most open and empty region is also its most heavily urbanized, with 80 percent of Westerners living in its metropolitan areas. The process of urbanization that had already transformed the United States from a rural to an urban society between 1815 and 1930 has continued most clearly and completely in the modern West, where growth since 1940—spurred by mobilization for World War II—has constituted a distinct era in which Western cities have become national and even international pacesetters. The Metropolitan Frontier places this last half-century of Western history in its urban context, making it the first comprehensive overview of urban growth in the region. Integrating the urban experience of all nineteen Western states, Carl Abbott ranges for evidence from Honolulu to Houston and from Fargo to Fairbanks to show how Western cities organize the region's vast spaces and connect them to the even larger sphere of the world economy. His survey moves from economic change to social and political response, examining the initial boom of the 1940s, the process of change in the following decades, and the ultimate impact of Western cities on their environments, on the Western regional character, and on national identity. Today, a steadily decreasing number of Western workers are engaged in rural industries, but Western cities continue to grow. As ecological and social crises begin to affect those cities, Abbott's study will prove required reading for historians, geographers, sociologists, urban planners, and all citizens concerned with America's future.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Named Best Book in North American Urban History by the Urban History Association""The leading overview of the subject. . .Abbott deftly organizes his sprawling topic into ten especially well-written chapters. [The book] is a tour-de-force of interdisciplinary social science and makes a major contribution to fields as diverse as regional history, urban geography, and public policymaking." —Choice"Perhaps more than anything else, this book is about connections and networks. . . .[It] allows us to understand how the numerous cities of North America fit together and into what kind of whole. In this respect, it is in a class by itself." —Western Historical Quarterly"Abbott has done a thorough job. . . . The cities of the American West are seen through a kaleidoscope of cultural, political, historical images." —Library Journal"An ambitious attempt to describe one of the most significant trends in contemporary American society. The author, an urban historian with a strong knowledge of the subject matter, takes the reader on an engaging and informative journey filled with demographic facts and archival information about the western region." —Contemporary Sociology
Library Journal
From Bugsy Siegel's opening the Flamingo in Las Vegas in the 1920s to the development of San Francisco after the 1939 fair, Abbott (urban studies & planning, Portland State Univ.) has done a thorough job of researching and recounting the history and sociological evolution of cities in the American West. Photographs of cities and people help synthesize the reader's understanding of time and place. The cities of the American West are seen through a kaleidoscope of cultural, political, and historical images. However, the reader is at times made dizzy as the text moves backward and forward in time before the material can be digested. Recommended for academic libraries and policy planners.-- Keven Whalen, Montville Lib., N.J.
Abbott (urban studies, Portland State U.) ranges from Honolulu to Houston, and Fargo to Fairbanks to show how the cities in the western US organize the vast spaces and connect them to the larger world economy. Going back to the boom of the 1940s, he traces how economic change has been reflected in social and political responses, and their impact on the environment and on regional and national identity. Paper edition (unseen), $25. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816515707
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1995
  • Series: Modern American West Series
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl Abbott is the author of eight previous books, including The New Urban America: Growth and Politics in Sunbelt Cities. He is a professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Pt. 1 Growth and Politics in the Wartime Generation
1 War and the Westward Tilt, 1940-1950 3
2 The Politics of Growth 31
Pt. 2 Growth and Politics in the Postwar Generation
3 From Regional Cities to National Cities, 1950-1990 53
4 Gateways to the World 79
5 The Politics of Diversity 99
Pt. 3 Cities and the Shaping of the Modern West
6 Multicentered Cities 123
7 Cities and Country 149
8 Cities and Nation 173
Afterword 191
Notes 201
Bibliographical Essay 211
Index 229
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