Locating the beginnings of city planning as early as the 1820s

Constructing the Urban Culture

American Cities and City Planning, 1800-1920

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Stanley K. Schultz

Historians, for the most part, have located the beginnings of city planning in the "White City" at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and the First National Conference on City Planning and the Problems of Congestion in 1909. Rejecting this thesis, Stanley K. Schultz argues that comprehensive city planning and thinking comprehensively about the problems of the urban environment were a product of the nineteenth century, beginning as early as the 1820s.

Confronted by the pressures of rapid population growth and technological innovation, Americans found themselves forced to think in new ways about their quality of life and the quality of the physical, social, and moral environments in which they lived. Schultz describes how assumptions about the good life that differed markedly from those of previous generations intertwined with ideological and technological factors as well as conscious decisions about urban land use to promote the growth of the modern metropolis. Americans began to employ a new social vocabulary to describe the problems of urban life and to pose solutions. Words such as "machine," "technology," "planning," and "progress" were infused with new meanings that reflected the new urban culture.

Organized along four themes, Constructing Urban Culture examines the changing intellectual perceptions of the city, the evolving legal system and creation of a new body of urban law, the problems of health and disease in cities, and the technological solutions to problems of the urban environment.


About the Author(s)

Stanley K. Schultz is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin.

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In the series

Technology and Urban Growth, edited by Blaine Brownell, Donald T. Critchlow, Mark S. Foster, Mark Rose, and Joel A. Tarr.

Technology and Urban Growth, edited by Blaine Brownell, Donald T. Critchlow, Mark S. Foster, Joel Tarr, and Mark Rose, focuses on the relationships between urban growth and change and developments in technological fields such as transport, utilities, and housing and office construction.



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