In 1850 St. Louis was the commercial capital of the West. By 1860, however, Chicago had supplanted St. Louis and became the great metropolis of the region. This book explains the rapid ascent and the abrupt collapse of the Missouri city. It devotes particular attention to the ways in which northeastern merchants fueled the rise of St. Louis. But unlike most studies of nineteenth-century cities, the book analyzes the influence of national politics on urbanization. It examines the process through which the sectional crisis transformed the role of Yankee merchants in St. Louis's development and thus triggered the fall of the first great city of the trans-Mississippi West.
"Adler's book, well-researched and grounded in traditional research methods, represents a distinguished addition to the study of the urbanization process in the United States." Pacific Historical Review "This book adds to our understanding of the process of the diffusion of urban life in antebellum America and thus makes valuable contributions to the fields of American urban, social, and economic history." American Historical Review "Adler has produced a nicely written and clearly argued monograph that should forever dispel the idea that any real explanatory power can be attached to abstract notions of geographic 'destiny.' What happens to a place is almost always the product of controllable and historical forces: the choices made and actions undertaken by the people who create its economy, culture, and politics. Adler's sophisticated sense of the cultural and economic meanings of 'region' adds further depth and innovation to his argument; like all other discernable areas of the country, as he shows, what seems particular to the Midwest must be located within a national history of markets and capitalist development. Anyone interested in the complex interrelations of eastern finance and (then) western economic potential, the power of imagery to determine the fate of a place, and the meaning of cities in this mostly agrarian region will find much of value in Adler's fine study." The Annals of Iowa "Jeffrey S. Adler has written a perceptive study of 'the rise and fall' of St. Louis, the first major urban center in the trans-Mississippi region...This is a well-researched and well-documented study...the book is an important addition to the works on urban development in the West." The Historian "For those seeking a clearer picture of the history of antebellum St. Louis this work will prove both interesting and useful." Donald R. Adams, Jr., Journal of the Early Republic "By placing the St. Louis experience within national and state crosscurrents, Adler advanced American urban historiography to a new level." J. Christopher Schnell, Missouri Historical Review "Now Jeffrey Adler gives this familiar geography lesson a new twist by offering a national rather than narrowly regional perspective and emphasizing political rather than merely economic rivalries...represents an impressive attempt to synthesize several tenuously related historical genres, including urban history, western history, community history, migration studies, and even Civil War history." Kenneth J. Winkle, Journal of Social History "Adler has written a gem of a book that combines a theoretical base with a richly textured interpretation of the 'rise and fall' of antebellum St. Louis as the metropolis of the West." David R. Meyer, Business History Review