In this "postmetropolitan" age, with most cities in the United States still grappling with the infrastructural, economic, and social problems of the postindustrial, postfordist transition, it is well worth considering what those cities were like before mass industrialization; before, that is, the creative destruction, immigration, wealth, and poverty that industry brought to the city. Those cities of the United States' relatively new republic were primarily mercantile in nature, and their wealth was garnered from the ships that plied our shores, taking away the grains, hides, timber, cotton, and other natural resources that the United States was supplying to the world, and bringing back goods of all kinds to be consumed. Compared to industrial cities, these mercantile cities were relatively small in area and in population; on the eve of the Civil War, the largest city-New York-contained just over 800,000 people. Ship...

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