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Old 04-04-2009, 05:42 AM
 
Location: Chicago
6,360 posts, read 7,410,253 times
Reputation: 5770

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drover View Post
Nobody ever said Chicago's rise was "automatic," so I don't know why you keep bringing it up. Obviously there's a little more to it than "build it and they will come." Obviously, the city would not be what it was if they just built the canal and said, "OK, we're done here, let's all go home." At this point I have to wonder if you're being deliberately obtuse.

And you still didn't answer my question: In an era where transportation and communications were not nearly as diffuse and decentralized as they are today, where and how do you think all the various commercial, manufacturing, shipping, etc., activities would have taken place? IMO the only other contender would have been St. Louis, but it didn't have the advantage of being right on the Great Lakes and the subsequent ability to easily access the entire Great Lakes region from Minnesota and Ontario to Montreal and Quebec, and eventually the Atlantic, and all of the natural resources available there, particularly lumber. That's a huge advantage St. Louis didn't have.

As for the Chicago fire, it may have given the city a "fresh start" but its population trajectory was already on a very steep upward slope before the fire.
I tend to agree with you that if one location was going to be the end all of be all in the Midwest, it would have been Chicago and, yes, due to the east/west US geography, transportation would not only lead the way for Chicago and make it the middle man, but that power of transportation was probably destined to be more important than in any other region of the nation.

My point though still remains the same: even with those advantages, there was nothing automatic about Chicago having dominance of its region that, IMHO, is unmatched by any US city in its region (including New York). For example, for all its lead in transcontinental transportation, Chicago was less centralized than other cities in a nation that even in the late 19th century was centered far further east than we are. Cleveland, for example, might have been an ideal location for the manufacturing center for the US, its proximity to eastern markets far closer than Chicago's.

And leadership in a region comes more than just from economics. I can't dismiss DC from the picture just because its role was governmental because that is a legitimate role for a city and if our capital had been in the midwest, Chicago's dominance of the region would have been far less. If the Washington Post had been a midwestern newspaper, its influence in the region would have easily rivaled the Chicago Tribune. As I noted before, I see Chicago's regional dominance greater than New York's in some respects. And that comes, in good part, not so much from Chicago, but from other midwestern cities being able to turn themselves into stronger places of influence. In the northeast, along with NY and DC, Boston holds considerable power. Its educational infrastructure makes it a city to contend with. So does its urban attractiveness in a San Francisco type of way make it a major draw for those who seek an urban lifestyle. Philadelphia, a mere 90 miles away from NYC, can't be dismissed either. And out west, both LA and SF were able to generate plenty of power on their own: San Francisco from its rise as "The City" out west after the Gold Rush and LA's aggressive nature that grabbed water, built a huge port out of open water, thrieved on aircraft construction, oil, and the image building successes of Hollywood assured its prominance. In that region, neither LA or SF had the ability to leave the other in the dust.

Drover, I agree with you that this should be about discussion rather than the personal, but it is hard to discuss with somebody who takes an adversarial approach with me. I'm not trying to make any arguments (and definitely not to win one) here that I am right and you are wrong. Your opinions and spin are as worthy as mine. I my eyes, you have nothing to "prove" here and i take your viewpoint on how transportation itself was enough to assure Chicago's hierarchial role in the Midwest seriously and with merit. And I hardly see myself as someone who has "the answers" more than others. I'm just trying to let you know my point of view. There is no contest here on my part....your contributions and insight on this thread have been excellent and thought provoking and have my respect.
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Old 04-04-2009, 07:50 AM
 
Location: Chicago
38,704 posts, read 93,767,295 times
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Once again, nobody said Chicago's rise was automatic so I just can't for the life of me figure out why you keep tossing that out. Can we agree now and for all time that Chicago's rise was not "automatic?"

Why Chicago as opposed to Cleveland? Well, Cleveland was a major manufacturing center, maybe even more so than Chicago at least for a little while. For decades it was the 5th or 6th largest city in the country, its population at one time nearly reaching one million. But it bears remembering that part of being a processing and manufacturing center involves not just the ability to get the final products to market, but to get the raw materials to the place of processing and manufacture. There again, Chicago's well-developed transportation network and central access -- not necessarily to major markets but to raw materials -- was an advantage. In particular, think "bituminous coal." If the Cuyahoga River were connected to the inland river waterways or could have been so with some relatively simple civil engineering, then Cleveland might well be today's Chicago.

Boston and Philadelphia aren't to be "dismissed" but they simply don't hold a candle to NYC for regional prominence. For all their strengths when judging them on their own merits, they are still the Milwaukee and St. Louis of the East Coast thanks to NYC. And I never said government function was not "legitimate." That's not why I said DC doesn't compete with NYC. It doesn't compete because DC is a near-totally one-dimensional city whose growth is tied to that of government (though at the rate government is growing DC may become another Tokyo in no time) whereas NYC's economic diversity and sheer size dwarf DC. That said, yes, DC would certainly take away some of Chicago's prominence if it were located where, say, Indianapolis is simply because Chicago isn't so massive as to overshadow all but its political prominence the way NYC does. But that's not where the capital was located, so that means Chicago has the region's "mega-city" spotlight all to itself.
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Old 04-04-2009, 09:07 AM
 
Location: Chicago
6,360 posts, read 7,410,253 times
Reputation: 5770
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drover View Post
Once again, nobody said Chicago's rise was automatic so I just can't for the life of me figure out why you keep tossing that out. Can we agree now and for all time that Chicago's rise was not "automatic?"

Why Chicago as opposed to Cleveland? Well, Cleveland was a major manufacturing center, maybe even more so than Chicago at least for a little while. For decades it was the 5th or 6th largest city in the country, its population at one time nearly reaching one million. But it bears remembering that part of being a processing and manufacturing center involves not just the ability to get the final products to market, but to get the raw materials to the place of processing and manufacture. There again, Chicago's well-developed transportation network and central access -- not necessarily to major markets but to raw materials -- was an advantage. In particular, think "bituminous coal." If the Cuyahoga River were connected to the inland river waterways or could have been so with some relatively simple civil engineering, then Cleveland might well be today's Chicago.



Boston and Philadelphia today aren't to be "dismissed" but they simply don't hold a candle to NYC for regional prominence. For all their strengths when judging them on their own merits, they are still the Milwaukee and St. Louis of the East Coast thanks to NYC. And I never said government function was not "legitimate." That's not why I said DC doesn't compete with NYC. It doesn't compete because DC is a near-totally one-dimensional city whose growth is tied to that of government (though at the rate government is growing DC may become another Tokyo in no time) whereas NYC's economic diversity and sheer size dwarf DC. That said, yes, DC would certainly take away some of Chicago's prominence if it were located where, say, Indianapolis is simply because Chicago isn't so massive as to overshadow all but its political prominence the way NYC does. But that's not where the capital was located, so that means Chicago has the region's "mega-city" spotlight all to itself.
Chicago's rise was not automatic. I agree with you fully.Nothing was automatic there but it did possess the best spot in the west to tie together the Great Lakes and the Miss R system. Without the backing of NYC and its interests in the Erie Canal, Chicago might not have risen at all. New York's rise over Philly and Boston came from its ability to easily breach the Appalachian barrier and connect to the west, something that Boston's too far east location and Philly's inability to find a rive pathway through the mountains prevented. New York banked on Chicago and made it its parter out west and caused much of our rise.
it goes without saying that neither Boston nor Philadelphia match up with NYC. We may well be having two different conversations here. The point that I was trying to raise was based that other regions of the US tend to have more than one true power base when compared to the Midwest and Chicago.

I'm not trying to knock midwestern cities. I like them very much. And they certainly are not about rust belt doom and gloom. Minneapolis is progressive and forward looking. Indy and Columbus carved niches for themselves in the last half century. Historical St. Louis is a gem, if a gem in the rough. And nobody is going to keep Detroit with all its greatness down forever; it may be the best type of laboratory for a new American economy.

Still, if I look at other regions, I do NYC in a region with a powerful DC and a major player in Boston. And LA shares plenty of power with SF & the Bay Area. The South, as I noted I believe, has no real power center, but Atl, Miami, Dallas, and Houston generate all of urban electricity and New Orleans holds that historic sway. I still am of the opinion that Chicago holds more of a differential between cities in its region than exist in others. But that's my opinion.

At this point, Drover, I'm willing to say we both approach this differently and just accept the differences or assumed differences on it and be done with it. Frankly I think we agree on far more here than you think we do. I personally can't find anything you said that is hard for me to accept. As noted, your points are as valid as mine and are well thought out.

Last edited by edsg25; 04-04-2009 at 09:15 AM..
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Old 04-04-2009, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Chicago
6,360 posts, read 7,410,253 times
Reputation: 5770
Just wanted to add one more thing on that "inevitability" issue on cities.

No city, as noted, is assured greatness based on its location. That said, I believe there are certain places where geography demands a city be built and gives it some strong natural advantages:

New York: sheltered harbor and access to the interior of America that no other colonial city had. Geography gave the city a huge edge over others on the seaboard

Pittsburgh: The starting point of the Ohio needed a major city to begin that first real push westward in the new nation era

Chicago: linking the Great Lakes and Miss River systems, Chicago was the essential link between New York to the east and New Orleans to the south

New Orleans: Jefferson rightfully identified its location as the crucial for our nation's survival. The Louisiana Purchase was an after thought unexpectedly offered up by Napolean; Nola was the prize that Jefferson put his efforts into obtaining.

San Francisco: nothing on the west coast or even the nation can compete with the harbor that SF Bay provides. That this location is the only real break in the Coast Range that connects the Pacific with the Central Valley only added to its geographic advantage.

None of those cities was assured greatness, but Mother Nature must definitely be credited with an assist.
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