The American Urban Reader: History and Theory, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

The American Urban Reader

History and Theory, 2nd Edition

Edited by Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Steven H. Corey


952 pages | 30 B/W Illus.

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The American Urban Reader, Second Edition, brings together the most exciting and cutting-edge work on the history of urban forms and ways of life in the evolution of the United States, from pre-colonial Native American Indian cities, colonial European settlements, and western expansion to rapidly expanding metropolitan regions, the growth of suburbs, and post-industrial cities.

Each chapter is arranged chronologically and thematically around scholarly essays from historians, social scientists, and journalists, that are supplemented by relevant primary documents which offer more nuanced perspectives and convey the diversity and interdisciplinary nature of the study of the urban condition. Building upon the success of the First Edition, and responding to increasingly polarized national discourse in the era of the Donald Trump’s presidency, The American Urban Reader Second Edition highlights both the historical urban/rural divide and the complexity and deeply woven salience of race and ethnic relations in American history.

Lisa Krissoff Boehm and Steven H. Corey, who together hold forty-five years of classroom experience in urban studies and history, and have selected a range of work that is dynamically written and carefully edited to be accessible to students and appropriate for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of how American cities have developed.


This wonderful collection offers readers an opportunity to explore the deep interdisciplinary nature of urban history through topics ranging from migrants and immigrants to the environment and transportation. The essays, like cities themselves, unfold in layers: there are documents offering insight in cities, classic essays on urban history and studies, as well as the latest scholarship. While providing a wide-ranging introduction to cities, the volume also encourages thoughtful consideration of gender, race and class across American history.

-Ann Keating, Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges Professor of History, North Central College, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Chicago.

An outstanding single-volume reader, incorporating a richly diverse array of primary and secondary sources from the pre-Colombian period to the present. The second edition further enriches the content of the first with inclusion of the newest scholarship and primary-source materials you won’t find anywhere else. Carefully curated and thoughtfully introduced, this is an essential resource for anyone wanting to better understand America’s urban past.

Margaret O’Mara, Howard & Frances Keller Professor of History, University of Washington, author of Cities of Knowledge.

As the planet’s population moves into growing megacities, a more just and sustainable future depends upon understanding the social, environmental, and political complexities of human settlement. The essays and documents in the second edition of The American Urban Reader provide valuable historical perspectives on contemporary problems of cities in the United States. This volume will generate productive classroom discussion about the roots of the systems we rely upon, as well as the inequities that divide us.

–Carl A. Zimring, Professor of Sustainability Studies, Pratt Institute, author of Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States.

Table of Contents


Part One

Place Matters:

Definitions and Perspectives

Editors’ Introduction to Part One


1.1 Steven H. Corey and Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Examining America’s Urban Landscape: From Social Reform to Social History, and Back (2010, 2018)

1.2 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., The City in American Civilization (1949)

1.3 Herbert Gans, Urbanism and Suburbanism as Ways of Life: A Reevaluation of Definitions (1962, 1991)

1.4. William Frey, Melting Pot Cities and Suburbs (2015)


1.1 John H. Griscom, The Sanitary Condition of the Laboring

Population of New York (1845)

1.2 Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, Hull-House, A Social Settlement (1894)

1.3 W.E.B. DuBois, The Environment of the Negro (1898)


1.1 Senator Tillman’s Allegorical Cow (1896)

1.2 Ernest W. Burgess, Urban Areas (1925)

Part Two

Pre-Columbian and European Foundations

Editors’ Introduction to Part Two


2.1 Lisa Krissoff Boehm and Steven Corey, Pre-Colonial and Seventeenth-Century

Native American Settlements (2015)

2.2 David J. Weber, Frontier and Frontier People Transformed (1992)

2.3 Emma Hart, "To Plant in Towns": Charles Towne at the Founding of Carolina (2010)


2.1 The ‘Lost’ Native American City of Etzanoa (1602)

2.2 Henry Marie Brackenridge, Envisioning Great American Indian Cities (1813)

2.3 John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity (1630)

2.4 Benjamin Bullivant, Philadelphia in 1697

2.5 An Act for Establishing Ports and Towns (1705)

Part Three

From British to American Cities

Editors’ Introduction to Part Three

3.1 Pauline Maier, Boston and New York in the Eighteenth Century (1981)

3.2 Benjamin Carp, The Forgotten City (2007)

3.3 Richard Wade, Urban Life in Western America, 1790-1830 (1958)


3.1. Conspiracy… For Burning the City of New-York. . . (1744)

3.2.   T.D. Judah, A Practical Plan for the Rebuilding of the Pacific Railroad (1857)

3.3 Horace Greeley, Letter to R.L. Sanderson, November 15, 1871.


3.1 John McKinnon, City of Savannah, Georgia (circa 1800)

3.2 Paul Revere, "A View of Part of the Town of Boston, in New-England and Brittish Ships of War: Landing their Troops! 1768."

3.3 Tom Willcockson, Packet Boat on the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

3.4 Bernhard Dandorf, "View of New Orleans Taken from the Lower Cotton Press". Circa 1850s."

3.5 Joseph Smith, Plat of Zion, 1833

Part Four

Ways of City Life, 1820s-1920s

Editors’ Introduction to Part Four


4.1 Christine Stansell, Women in the Neighborhoods (1986)

4.2 Timothy Gilfoyle, The "Guns" of Gotham (2006)

4.3 Ronald T. Takaki, Ethnic Islands (1989)

4.4 George Chauncey, Urban Culture and the Policing of the "City of Bachelors" (1994)

4.5 Clifton Hood, A Dynamic Businessman's Aristocracy: The 1890s (2017)


4.1 Vesey Slave Revolt, Charleston, South Carolina (1822)

4.2 Tredegar and Armory Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia (1847)

4.3 Debates on Chinese Immigration (1876)

4.4 Jacob Riis, The Mixed Crowd (1890)

4.5 Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)

4.6 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, New York City (1911)

4.7 John Hope Franklin and Scott Ellsworth, Tulsa Race Riots, 1921

4.8 Ku Klux Klan Initiation, Worcester, Massachusetts (1924)


4.1 "The Pocket Book Dropper," The National Police Gazette May 27, 1848.

Part Five

From Party Bosses to Federalism:

The Evolution of Urban Government

Editors’ Introduction to Part Five


5.1 Jessica Troustine, Challenging the Machine-Reform Dichotomy: Two Threats to Urban Democracy (2009)

5.2 Lizbeth Cohen, Workers Make a New Deal (1990, 2008)

5.3 Nicolas Lemann, Washington, D.C. (1991)


5.1 William Tweed’s Confession (1878)

5.2 Lincoln Steffens, Philadelphia: Corrupted and Contented (1903)

5.3 Lyndon Baines Johnson, "The Great Society" University of Michigan (1964)

5.4 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Negro Family and the Case for National Action (1965)

5.5 President Arrives in Alabama, Briefed on Hurricane Katrina (2005)

5.6 Will Wilkinson, "Why Does Trump Demonize Cities? Washington Post March 17, 2017


5.1 "A Correct Map of New York Central Park, 1865."

5.2 Post-Katrina New Orleans Neighborhoods, 2006, 2007. Photograph by Steven H. Corey.

Part Six

The Urban Environment

Editors’ Introduction to Part Six


6.1 John T. Cumbler, From Milling to Manufacturing: From Villages to Mill Towns (2001)

6.2 Dominic Pacyga, Spectacle (2015)

6.3 Martin Melosi and Joseph Pratt, Houston: The Energy Metropolis (2007)

6.4 David Naguib Pellow and Lisa Sun-Hee Park, The Emergence of Silicon Valley: High-Tech Development and Ecocide, 1950-2001 (2002)

6.5 Andrew Needham, The Valley of the Sun (2014)


6.1. Lyndon B. Johnson, Special Message to the Congress on Conservation and

Restoration of Natural Beauty (1965)

6.2 United Church of Christ, Toxic Waste and Race in the United States (1987)

6.3 Michigan Civil Rights Commission, The Flint Water Crisis: Systematic Racism Through

the Eyes of Flint. Report of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (2017)


6.1 "Bridge Over the Monongahela River, Pittsburgh, Penn." From Ballou’s Pictorial,

February 21, 1857. 

6.2 "Encroachment of Nuisances upon Populous Up-town Districts," New York, 1865.

6.3 "Demolished and Titled By the Earthquake, Homes on Howard Street at 17th, 1906.

(544-7961) Kelly and Chadwick." San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

6.4 "Smog, Salt Lake City, Utah, November 11, 1950." 

Part Seven

Traversing and Transforming Urban Space:

Transportation & Planning

Editors’ Introduction to Part Seven


7.1 Sam Bass Warner, Jr., From Walking City to the Implementation of the

Street Railways (1962)

7.2 Marta Gutman, The Landscape of Charity in California: First Imprints in San Francisco


7.3 Clifton Hood, The Subway and the City (1993)

7.4 Robert Fogelson, Wishful Thinking: Downtown and the Automobile Revolution (2001)

7.5 D. Bradford Hunt, Planning a Social Disaster (2009)


7.1 National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956)

7.2 Walter D. Moody, Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago (1913)

7.3 A Selection from The Housing Act of 1949

7.4 Toni Randolph, Southdale Mall, Edina Minnesota (2006)

7.5 Jane Jacobs, The Use of Sidewalks: Assimilating Children (1961)

7.6 Congress for the New Urbanism, Charter of the New Urbanism (1996)


Transportation Revolution Photo Essay 

7.1 "Clic-Clack De Omnibus," Street Scene, 1835.

7.2 "Whitehall, South and Staten Island Ferries and Revenue Barge 

Office, New York." Circa 1850s-1860s.

7.3 Trolley Wayfinder, "Bird’s Eye View of Trolley Routes in New England," New England Street Railway Club, 1907.

7.4 Horsecar, New York City, 1908. 

7.5 Norfolk, Virginia, Granby Street, c. 1915. 

7.6 Trolley Car, Hyde Street Hill, San Francisco, c. 1970s. 

7.7 Creeping Sickness. American City. April 1929.

Explorations in Urban Planning & Design

7.8 Ebenezer Howard, Garden-City Diagram, Garden Cities of To-Morrow (1902)

7.9 Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs, "A Perspective View of Part of the Model Town of Radburn, New Jersey."

7.10 Celebration, Florida, 2008. Photograph by Lisa Krissoff Boehm

7.11 The New York Highline Photograph by Lisa Krissoff Boehm

Part Eight

Urban Migrations, Race, and Social Mobility

Editors’ Introduction to Part Nine


8.1 Arnold Hirsch, The Second Ghetto and the Dynamics of Neighborhood (1983, 1998)

8.2 Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Making a Way out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration (2009)

8.3 Chad Berry, The Great White Migration, 1945-1960 (2000)

8.4 Robert Self, White Noose (2003)

8.5 Emily E. Straus, Separate But Unequal (2014)


8.1 Zoot Suit Riots (1943)

8.2 Sloan Wilson, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955)

8.3 Alverrine Parker, Memories of the Second Great Migration (2002)

8.4 Harriette Arnow, The Dollmaker (1954)


8.1 "Map 1. Percentage of black population, in census tracts, city of Chicago, 1940.

8.2 "Map 3. Percentage of black population, in census tracts, city of Chicago, 1960. 

Part Nine

Race and Borderlands in the Post-War Metropolis

Editors’ Introduction to Part Nine


9.1 Thomas J. Sugrue, Class, Status and Residence: The Changing Geography

of Black Detroit (1996)

9.2 NBD Connolly, Bargaining and Hoping (2014)

9.3 Monica Perales, Making a Border City (2010)

9.4 A.K. Sandoval-Strausz, Latino Landscapes: Postwar Cities and the Transnational

Origins of a New Urban America (2014)


9.1 Watts Riots (1965)

9.2 Adam Fortunate Eagle, Urban Indians (1964-1969)

9.3 Oakland Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Ten Point Plan

Oakland Black Panthers (1966)

9.4 President George H. W. Bush,

Address to the Nation on the Civil Disturbances in Los Angeles, California (1992)


9.1"Map 7.1(a). Black Population in Detroit, 1940. 1 Dot = 200."

9.2"Map 7.1 (d). Black Population in Detroit, 1970. 1 Dot = 200."

Part Ten

Postindustrial Cities

Editors’ Introduction to Part Ten


10.1 Hal Rothman, Inventing Las Vegas (2003)

10.2 Aaron Shkudka, Artist Organizations, Political Advocacy, and the Creation

of a Residential SoHo (2016)

10.3 Chloe Taft, The Postindustrial Factory (2016)

10.4 Todd Clear and Natasha A. Frost, The Punishment Imperative (2014)


10.1 Patrick Sisson, "How a ‘reverse Great Migration’ is reshaping U.S. cities" Curbed (2018)

10.2 Investigation of Ferguson Police Department (2015)


10.1 A First Responder Looks at 9-11. Photograph by Andrew Boss.

References and Suggested Bibliography

Copyright Information


About the Editors

Lisa Krissoff Boehm is Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Bridgewater State University. She is the author of Popular Culture and the Enduring Myth of Chicago and Making a Way out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration.

Steven H. Corey is Dean of the School Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Columbia College Chicago. He has written for Environmental Ethics, PS: Political Science and Politics, Journal of Urban History and was research curatorfor Garbage! The History and Politics of Trash in New York City.

About the Series

Routledge Readers in History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / General
HISTORY / Social History