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The Rise of the Urban South

The Rise of the Urban South

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Rise of the Urban South
    Book Description:

    Operating under an outmoded system of urban development and faced by the vicissitudes of the Civil War and Reconstruction, southerners in the nineteenth century built a network of cities that met the needs of their society. In this pioneering exploration of that intricate story, Lawrence H. Larsen shows that in the antebellum period, southern entrepreneurs built cities in layers to facilitate the movement of cotton. First came the colonial cities, followed by those of the piedmont, the New West, the Gulf Coast, and the interior. By the Civil War, cotton could move by a combination of road, rail, and river through a network of cities -- for example, from Jackson to Memphis to New Orleans to Europe.

    In the Gilded Age, building on past practices, the South continued to make urban gains. Men like Henry Grady of Atlanta and Henry Watterson of Louisville used broader regional objectives to promote their own cities. Grady successfully sold Atlanta, one of the most southern of cities demographically, as a city with a northern outlook; Watterson tied Louisville to national goals in railroad building. The New South movement did not succeed in bringing the region to parity with the rest of the nation, yet the South continued to rise along older lines. By 1900, far from being a failure in terms of the general course of American development, the South had created an urban system suited to its needs, while avoiding the promotional frenzy that characterized the building of cities in the North.

    Based upon federal and local sources, this book will become the standard work on nineteenth-century southern urbanization, a subject too long unexplored.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6368-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 A Wider Field Both for Virtue and Vice
    (pp. 1-17)

    In 1980 enthusiastic promoters predicted a magnificent future for the urban South. Census statistics indicated that many southern towns had grown significantly in population through a time when numerous old industrial centers in the North had experienced marked declines. Publicists claiming that a new age of racial harmony and enterprise had dawned below the Mason and Dixon line portrayed Dixie’s cities as good places in which to live and invest money. At long last, buttressed by a network of metropolises, the South would assume its rightful place in America. Even the use of the term “South” was passé in some...

  6. 2 A Victory of Plenty
    (pp. 18-29)

    Part of the antebellum urban South died on 15 November 1864 as General William T. Sherman watched his troops burn Atlanta. A military band serenaded him with “Miserere” fromIl Trovatore.¹ Rebirth came a few days after the start of the brutal March to the Sea. Atlantans returned to their stricken city and started to rebuild. “From defeat and utter poverty were to be wrought victory and plenty,” an emotional Henry Grady wrote. He told how people used the roofing of destroyed buildings to make five hundred shanties and described the revival of the downtown. “Four posts,” he said, “were...

  7. 3 Cogs in the Great Machine
    (pp. 30-59)

    In the North, the Lost Cause, sacred to generations of southerners, was a subject of mockery. Southerners’ lack of contrition hardened northern attitudes toward the region. Following Reconstruction, the spirit of reconciliation engendered by the “reunion” was threatened by northern politicians, who played on the emotions of their constituents by attacking everything about the Confederacy. The “bloody shirt” prevented the South from rejoining the United States on equal terms. The continuation of feelings of hostility made it all the more difficult for the men of the New South creed to carry out their dreams.¹

    Few northern whites admitted that they...

  8. 4 Railroads Are Talismanic Winds
    (pp. 60-83)

    In the first half of the nineteenth century, students of an emerging American empire envisioned the South as part of a smoothly operating national transportation network. A favorite postulate was that unalterable “natural laws of commerce” shaped the character and level of commercial activity. Experts concluded that the United States had two distinct economic systems, each dictated by geography, with the consequence that commerce tended to move along North and South lines. The Allegheny Mountains served as a natural barrier between the two divisions. On the eastern side of the mountains, one system embraced the entire Atlantic coast and adjoining...

  9. 5 Joy Brightens Her Face
    (pp. 84-115)

    In 1887 M. B. Hillyard wrote a promotional book intended to impress potential northern investors with the opportunities available in the South. Through the selective use of economic and statistical data, he delineated what he considered the region’s distinctive and salient characteristics. Central to his analysis was the contention that the New South philosophy had gained such widespread acceptance that it had fundamentally changed the way white southerners thought about themselves and their section. “To the writer, no aspect of Southern progress is so marked and cheering as the hopeful, erect, self-assertive industrial spirit of the South,” he explained. “No...

  10. 6 Fearless in Discharge of Their Duties
    (pp. 116-141)

    Spokesmen of the New South creed ignored the housekeeping side of city building. Who, after all, could get excited about street surfaces when the paramount task was to provide the philosophical foundations for a South of cities? But someone had to fill the potholes and make decisions concerning public safety or a city could not function. In their newspapers, the New South editors urged the improvement of local services, commenting vigorously on conditions they felt needed attention and taking sides on questions of public concern. Without codifying their actions, the men of the New South used their pages to further...

  11. 7 The Promise of Her Great Destiny
    (pp. 142-164)

    Throughout the 1880s southern urban promoters sought to convey the impression that their section was progressing. A Birmingham resident, catching what he considered the spirit of events, wrote, “Why, men would come in at four o’clock in the morning and begin making trades; before breakfast. Property changed hands four and five times a day . . . Men went crazy two hours after getting here ... A brand-new sensation was born every day.” This exaggerated description, characteristic of claims made all across America about the wonders occurring in cities in the Gilded Age, contained more than a grain of truth....

  12. Notes
    (pp. 165-191)
  13. Essay on Sources
    (pp. 192-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-220)