Yankee Merchants and the Making of the Urban West: The Rise and Fall of Antebellum St. Louis

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This book analyzes the rise and fall of antebellum St. Louis, the first great urban center of the trans-Mississippi West. At midcentury, St. Louis commanded the West: it was the principal western cog in the national economy and one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Using both quantitative and more traditional methods and drawing extensively on credit records, Jeffrey Adler analyzes the forces that determined the role of western cities in the national economy. He devotes particular attention to the ways in which Yankee merchants forged ties that linked St. Louis to New York and Boston markets. Northeastern businessmen merchants fueled the ascent of St. Louis and made the city a Yankee colony in the West. During the mid-1850s powerful political and cultural forces altered the sources of urban growth in the West. As a result, the economy of St. Louis collapsed. Yankee merchants stopped migrating to the city and ceased investing in local businesses. This book demonstrates that the sectional crisis abruptly transformed St. Louis's role in the national economy, redirecting the flow of capital and migrants away from St. Louis and toward a smaller western city - Chicago. By the late 1850s Chicago has supplanted its Missouri rival and become the commercial capital of the region. Thus, conflict sparked by the debate over the future of slavery remade the urban West.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Adler's book, well-researched and grounded in traditional research methods, represents a distinguished addition to the study of the urbanization process in the United States." Pacific Historical Review

"This book adds to our understanding of the process of the diffusion of urban life in antebellum America and thus makes valuable contributions to the fields of American urban, social, and economic history." American Historical Review

"Adler has produced a nicely written and clearly argued monograph that should forever dispel the idea that any real explanatory power can be attached to abstract notions of geographic 'destiny.' What happens to a place is almost always the product of controllable and historical forces: the choices made and actions undertaken by the people who create its economy, culture, and politics. Adler's sophisticated sense of the cultural and economic meanings of 'region' adds further depth and innovation to his argument; like all other discernable areas of the country, as he shows, what seems particular to the Midwest must be located within a national history of markets and capitalist development. Anyone interested in the complex interrelations of eastern finance and (then) western economic potential, the power of imagery to determine the fate of a place, and the meaning of cities in this mostly agrarian region will find much of value in Adler's fine study." The Annals of Iowa

"Jeffrey S. Adler has written a perceptive study of 'the rise and fall' of St. Louis, the first major urban center in the trans-Mississippi region...This is a well-researched and well-documented study...the book is an important addition to the works on urban development in the West." The Historian

"For those seeking a clearer picture of the history of antebellum St. Louis this work will prove both interesting and useful." Donald R. Adams, Jr., Journal of the Early Republic

"By placing the St. Louis experience within national and state crosscurrents, Adler advanced American urban historiography to a new level." J. Christopher Schnell, Missouri Historical Review

"Now Jeffrey Adler gives this familiar geography lesson a new twist by offering a national rather than narrowly regional perspective and emphasizing political rather than merely economic rivalries....represents an impressive attempt to synthesize several tenuously related historical genres, including urban history, western history, community history, migration studies, and even Civil War history." Kenneth J. Winkle, Journal of Social History

"Adler has written a gem of a book that combines a theoretical base with a richly textured interpretation of the 'rise and fall' of antebellum St. Louis as the metropolis of the West." David R. Meyer, Business History Review

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Product Details

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 "These Yankee notions will not suit Missouri" 13
3 Savagedom, destiny, and the isothermal zodiac 43
4 Yankee newcomers and prosperity 61
5 "The offspring of the East" 91
6 A border city in an age of sectionalism 110
7 Rebirth 145
Conclusion 175
Notes 178
Bibliography 250
Index 269
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