Category Archives: Bibliography

Mobs, Monuments, and Charm: A Baltimore Bibliography

Despite being one of the nation’s oldest cities, some might argue Baltimore crested in the popular mind during the early twenty-first century. Musically, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon and Beach House emerged to rave reviews. Tori Amos and Sisqo also hail from Charm City, as Complex magazine noted: “‘Caught A Lite Sneeze’ and ‘The Thong Song’ were indirectly or maybe directly influenced by this fair city on the Chesapeake.”  Today, Future Island serves as the standard bearer for the local indie rock sound. In film, John Waters and Barry Levinson carry the torch.

Baltimore has been a key character in new media as well. The first season of the podcast Serial (2014) traversed metropolitan Baltimore. Journalist and podcast founder Sarah Koenig waded into true crime territory exploring the facts of a 2010 case in which Adnan Syed had been convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.  It both led to a boom in true crime podcasts and proved to be the rising tide that lifted all boats, raising the visibility of podcasts more generally in what is sometimes referred to as the “serial effect”.

Of course, one is compelled to make the obligatory reference to The Wire. Set in Baltimore and featuring several Charm City natives in its cast, the show spoke to the metropolis’s specificity while also encapsulating the struggles of many American cities. In retrospect, the oft-maligned and nefariously underrated second season presciently documented the collapse of the white working class; it appears to have been a canary in the pop culture coal mine signaling the coming populism. The HBO production has become the standard by which to gauge narrative depth and serves as a constant reminder to burgeoning writers to remain humble, a point Johns Hopkins historian and UHA Board Member N.D.B. Connolly made at #UHA2018.

Yet, to emphasize only the last fifty years ignores the contributions of other creative Baltimoreans. The cantankerous reporter, columnist, and literary tastemaker H.L. Menken issued proclamations about democracy and American culture from his perch in Charm City. In 1920, aggrieved by the dueling presidential campaigns of Warren G. Harding (R) and James M. Cox (D) Mencken quipped: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Frederick Douglass toiled away in Baltimore appreciating the city for what few shards of opportunity it offered enslaved peoples. “A city slave is almost a free citizen, in Baltimore, compared with a slave on Col. Lloyd’s plantation,” he wrote years later as he ascended in prominence as a leading abolitionist, civil rights leader, and newspaper editor.

Taking one long stride even further, Edgar Allen Poe wrote his stories of suspense, intrigue and horror as a resident of the city. The modern day football team derives its name from arguably his most famous work, “The Raven.”

Mural in Baltimore, Maryland
Mural in Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, September 29, 2008, Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress

The city’s founders probably never envisioned Poe’s creativity, Douglass’ determination, or The Wire’s almost Dickensian narrative power emerging from the small settlement they inadvertently birthed. Judging by the new political history of the city by Matt Crenson, no one had planned for Baltimore, period. The city “just happened.” After its 1729 charter that declared it “Baltimore Town,” it descended into “chronic political turmoil.” [1]

Roiling politics aside, it gradually grew, though Crenson writes it “was no boom town.”  The grain industry eventually took off. Annexation added more land than people, but colonists eventually migrated to the city. Between 1730 and 1770 the number of merchants in the city grew by 150 percent; in 1750, 5,000 people resided in the city, making it one of the fastest growing cities in all of the colonies. [2] It would be the first “major city” incorporated after the American Revolution and to also establish a municipal government outside of British colonial authority. [3]

 

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Washington Monument, Baltimore, William Henry Jackson, c. 1902, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The War of 1812 brought America the “Star Spangled Banner” by way of Baltimore. “The citizen soldiers of Baltimore repulsed the British and their triumph was recorded in a ballad that would become the national anthem,” historian Mary P. Ryan writes. However, the war also created the opportunity for two of the city’s more famous public memorials: The Battle and the Washington Monuments. Each emerged as an expression of political ideology and tumult from the period, the city emerging as one of the “first and most fervent locations of aggressively popular and partisan politics” Ryan points out.  The memorials operated as a testament to the city’s place in American history as it transformed in the burgeoning national consciousness from “mob town” to “the monumental city.” “Baltimore’s place in patriotic lore is memorialized not just in the strains of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ but in stone as well.” [4]

A vigorous public sphere, “a hive of free labor and merchant capitalism” and with a port location just beyond the Mason Dixon line, Baltimore became a destination for escaped and free blacks. Even before emancipation, the city’s population of free blacks outnumbered enslaved persons. Its mercantile and entrepreneurial economy put it at odds with the largely rural state. [5] “It is worthy of remark,” noted British journalist James Silk Buckingham in 1838, “that in all our intercourse with the people of Baltimore, and we were continually out in society, we heard less about slaves and slavery than in any town we had yet visited.” In contrast, in other border towns such as St. Louis and Alton, violence often visited the homes and offices of abolitionists. [6]

Slavery in Baltimore was fluid. Enslaved people enjoyed greater freedom in the city than their plantation counterparts.  Masters hired out enslaved people to manufacturers and shipyards, and despite juxtaposing this work against plantation life, Douglass recognized that even in Baltimore being a slave was an ambivalent existence. “I endured all the evils of being a slave,” remembered Douglass, who labored in Fell’s Point, “and yet suffered all the care and anxiety of a responsible freedman.” [7]

After the war, African Americans flocked to the city. Between 1860 and 1880, 25,000 black migrants settled within city boundaries, doubling the city’s number of black residents who now made up 16 percent of Baltimore’s overall population. [8]

They arrived to a late nineteenth-century city in flux, transformed in the wake of emancipation and under the thumb of industrialization. The city’s tax base failed to adequately expand to fund urban improvements. Owners and renters refused increases in tax assessments leading to only a five percent gain in real per capital municipal expenditures from 1870-1895.  Being a city of neighborhoods, 300 by one account, merchants and local residents sought to “forge strong political organizations outside the normal institutions of politics,” as Joseph Arnold wrote in 1979. As a result, residents witnessed the rise of neighborhood associations as counterweights to city hall. Emerging in the 1880s, by 1900 30 such associations canvassed nearly the entire city and several suburbs. [9]

At the turn of the century, Baltimore’s population exceeded 500,0000.  At the ward or neighborhood level, the city contained multitudes, but at the block level segregation defined lived experience. “The rich lived on the widest best paved streets, the middling families on the side streets, and the lower classes in the alleys and courts,” Arnold wrote.  Urban facilities and services, despite block level segregation, were by standards of the day, “fairly evenly distributed.” Neighborhood associations sought to exert power over distribution of resources, city finances, and other such matters. “Almost all the associations were established by men who believed their areas had been shortchanged by the municipal [or] by the county government.” [10]

Though not initially involved in segregation, by the early twentieth century associations advocated the exclusion of African Americans from white communities. Association leaders trafficked in the typical racist rhetoric of the day making references to “negro invasion,” expressing fear for “white womanhood”, and lamenting lower property values. Typical of the tenor of this discourse, one Harlem Improvement Association meeting attendee stated, “Negroes are but 400 years from savagery.” The association’s members hailing from a tenuous middle class; its officers identifying as clerks, businessmen, and artisans; its board of governors constructed similarly, consisting of a needlework artist, a paper bag manufacturer, a doctor, and a clothing wholesaler. “[P]recisely the white people most invested in segregation,” writes Gretchen Boger. [11]

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Baltimore from the Emerson Tower, between 1910-1920, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

While many associations stressed the protection of their investments and social standing, others asserted a loss of political power. Maryland whites had spent a decade trying, unsuccessfully, to disenfranchise black voters before abandoning the cause. This failure probably fed larger anxieties as greater numbers of African Americans moved to the city.  The leaders of one such association agreed that it went beyond housing. “The three men felt that African Americans were slowly wresting control of white politics from white males,” writes Dennis Halpin. In reality, African Americans largely lived bunched into the seventeenth ward (Northwest Baltimore).

Considering the tone of the debate, white fears about increasing political impotence (despite evidence to the contrary), and base racism, conflict unsurprisingly followed as black families, already enduring substandard and overcrowded apartments and homes, looked for better housing. [12]

Progressives hoping to eliminate the threat of street level violence and protect middle class interests related to segregation passed the West Ordinance, a law shaped in part by the influence of neighborhood associations who over the years had built political power and experience. Middle class white Baltimoreans also played a critical role in the law’s development, in part by serving as the aggressive front lines against integration in the steed of their wealthier counterparts. “The preeminence of a middling stratum of white residents in Baltimore’s residential segregation battle was telling,” notes Boger. “Many of the proponents of the West Ordinance represented a tier of whites with a tenuous hold on middle-class reputation—a petty bourgeoisie—who often had moved to the neighborhoods in question just ahead of African Americans.” They sought to protect their social and economic reputations.

City planners and elites evidenced little participation in the ordinance.  Elites and reformers were more than happy to allow their middle class counterparts to serve as “the frontline attack” against integration. [13]

The ordinance, which became the nation’s first residential ordinance in the country when it was signed into law December 19, 1910, critically cited the city’s right to deploy “police power” for “preserving order and securing property and persons from violence, danger and destruction.” This use of “police power” in the West Ordinance “cemented the contention that African Americans—not the angry whites who attacked black families—caused disorder and violence by their very presence,” argues Halpin. The ordinance transformed the police into “foot soldiers in the fight against integration” with black Baltimoreans as the “threat to the social order.” [14]

Whereas the pre-industrial city and its boundaries changed slowly, in turn-of-the-century Baltimore change was swift. The ordinance attempted to address this by banning white residents from moving into majority black neighborhoods and blacks from doing the same in majority white communities—a non-partisan solution deployed in a very prejudicial way. African Americans rejected the idea that segregation protected both races. The Afro American Ledger called the ordinance “anti-American.”

At the time, Baltimore had the highest rates of home ownership among nearly 75 southern cities. Such status escaped most black residents however as the city ranked 72 in African American homeownership. From 1900 to 1920, the city’s black population expanded by over 30,000 yet only 100 black families added their names to the list of Baltimore homeowners during the same period so the housing crunch in black communities proved particularly acute. [15]

The law’s implementation caused far more headaches than anticipated. The ordinance stifled black dreams of homeownership in new communities, but it also hurt white residents. The law boxed in white families living in already mixed neighborhoods; it limited their ability to sell their homes while also undermining attempts at renting out properties. “Proponents of the ordinance sought to solidify their social status at the expense of not only black Baltimoreans but of other whites as well,” asserts Boger. [16]

Believing residential segregation to be a critical piece of the larger battle for equality, the ordinances drew the ire of the city’s African American community. “Physical slavery has been abolished, but its subtler forms are still here.  Disenfranchisement, ‘jim crowism’ and segregation are but subtler forms of race slavery,” said Warner T. McGuinn civil rights activist and attorney at a meeting in 1913. Black Baltimoreans boycotted merchants who refused to break with the law. Churches organized protest rallies and collected money for a legal challenge. The Baltimore branch of NAACP solicited funds toward the same end as legal challenges were mounted. [17]

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Group portrait of NAACP Baltimore Branch members, between 1940 and 1950, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Ironically, the municipal courts declared the original statue invalid weeks after it became law. New ordinances were quickly drafted to replace it. Written by a narrow, racist set of interests, it demonstrated the weakness of the segregationist argument. The West Ordinance did not force any family to move, it ceded land in the city to areas already occupied by African Americans, and generally just sought to control who lived next door. Its supporters hoped “to freeze the racial make up of Baltimore’s residential blocks just as they were in September 1910.” By 1913, the ordinance had been suspended which enabled black Baltimoreans to open up additional neighborhoods for settlement. [18]

In 1917, the Supreme Court ruled in Buchanan v. Warley against state laws imposing segregation. The Kentucky law under dispute in the Supreme Court case had been written based on the Baltimore ordinance. Even in Baltimore the West Ordinance cast a powerful spell over the city’s spatial development. By legalizing segregation, the municipal government legitimized segregationists and their like-minded neighborhood associations and enabled the discourse of declining property values, without evidence, that would be repeated so many times it became institutionalized in the architecture of the real estate industry and the government’s redlining policies. [19]

The second episode of The Wire’s third season, “All Due Respect,” opens with local project resident and Barksdale soldier, Preston “Bodie” Broadus (J.D. Williams), relating a recent conversation he had with two apparent tourists who got lost looking for the Edgar Allen Poe house. Bodie relates, “He’s like, ‘Young man, you know where the Poe House is?’ I’m like, ‘Unc, you kidding? Look around, take your pick.’” When the older couple circled back and asked again, Bodie repeated his incredulity: “Shit, you back already? First of the month, yo. I’m like, ‘I don’t know no Edward Allan Poe.’ The man look at me all sad and shit, like I let him down.”

To be fair, one could unpack a lot in that quote, hence the resigned but admittedly awed reference to the show earlier. The reality is that while Poe’s Baltimore residence still stands, it does so amidst a very different community, one created by a world opened up by the West Ordinance.

As always, this overview is just a starting point—as is the bibliography below. We welcome suggestions in the comments. Moreover, based on correspondence with our contributors and others working on Baltimore, it sounds as if urban historians might be in store for a “golden age” of historical interpretations of Charm City as several new publication are forthcoming. We’d like to thank Seth Rockman, Paige Glotzler, Dennis Halprin, and Sara Patenaude for their help with the bibliography.

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Hampden neighborhood, Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Baltimore Bibliography

Arnold, Joseph L. “The Neighborhood and City Hall: The Origin of Neighborhood Associations in Baltimore, 1880-1911.” Journal of Urban History 6.1 (1979): 3-30.

Baum, Howell S. Brown in Baltimore: School Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Belfoure, Charles and Hayward, Mary Ellen. The Baltimore Rowhouse. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.

Boger, Gretchen E. “The Meaning of Neighborhood in the Modern City: Baltimore’s Residential Segregation Ordinances, 1910-1913.” The Journal of Urban History. 35.2 (January 2009): 236-258.

Brugger, Robert J. Maryland: A Middle Temperament: 1634-1980. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

Collier-Thomas, Bettye. “A Nineteenth Century Black Operated Shipyard, 1866-1884: Reflections Upon its Inception and Ownership.” The Journal of Negro History. Volume LIX, No. 1 (Jan 1974): 1-12.

Crenson, Matthew. Baltimore: A Political History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.

Crooks, James B. Politics and Progress: The Rise of Urban Progressivism in Baltimore. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1968.

Davis, Josh. From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.

Doster, Dennis. “‘This Independent Fight We are Making is Local’: The Election of 1920 and Electoral Politics in Black Baltimore.” Journal of Urban History 44.2 (2018): 134-152.

Durr, Kenneth D. Behind the Backlash: White Working-Class Politics in Baltimore, 1940-1980. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Elfenbein, Jessica I.  The Making of a Modern City: Philanthropy, Civic Culture, and the Baltimore YMCA. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2001.

Elfenbein, Jessica, Thomas Hollowak, and Elizabeth Nix, eds. Baltimore ’68: Riots and Rebirth in an American City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

Elfenbein, Jessica, John H. Breihan, and Thomas L. Hollowak eds. From Mobtown to Charm City: Papers From The Baltimore History Conference. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2005.

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Hampden neighborhood Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Farrar, Haywood. The Baltimore Afro-American, 1892-1950.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Fee, Elizabeth, Linda Shopes, and Linda Zeidman, eds. The Baltimore Book: New Views on Local History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.

Fields, Barbara Jeanne. Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.

Foreman, P. Gabrielle. Activist Sentiments: Reading Black Women in the Nineteenth Century. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009

Fuke, Richard Paul. Imperfect Equality: African Americans and the Confines of White Racial Attitudes in Post-Emancipation Maryland. New York: Fordham University Press, 1999.

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Street level yarn bomb in Hampden, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Gardner, Bettye. “Ante-Bellum Black Education in Baltimore.” Maryland Historical Magazine 71.3 (Fall, 1976): 360-366.

Glotzer, Paige. “Exclusion in Arcadia: How Suburban Developers Circulated Ideas about Discrimination, 1890-1950.” Journal of Urban History 41.3 (2015): 479-494.

Gomez, Marisela. Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America. Lexington Books, 2015.

Graham, Leroy. Baltimore: The Nineteenth Century Black Capital. New York: The University Press of America, 1982.

Halpin, Dennis P. “‘The Struggle for Land and Liberty’: Segregation, Violence, and African American Resistance in Baltimore, 1898-1918.” Journal of Urban History 44.4 (2018): 691-712.

Harris, Jennifer. “Black Canadian Contexts: The Case of Amelia E. Johnson.” African American Review 49.3 (Fall 2016): 24-259.

Hemphill, Katie M. “‘Drive to the Commission of this Crime’: Women and Infanticide in Baltimore, 1835-1860.” Journal of the Early Republic 32.3 (Fall 2012): 437-461.

Kargon, Jeremy. “A Symbolic Landscape for Suburbia: Baltimore Chizuk Amuno’s ‘Hebrew Culture Garden.’” Journal of Urban History 40.4 (2014): 762-791.

King, P. Nicole. “Preserving Places, Making Spaces in Baltimore: Seeing the Connections of Research, Teaching and Service as Justice.” Journal of Urban History 40.3 (2014): 425-449.

Malka, Adam. The Men of Mobtown: Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Morrow, Diane Batts. Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Orser, Edward. Blockbusting in Baltimore: The Edmonson Village Story. University of Kentucky Press, 1997.

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See-Saw ahead?, Hampden neighborhood, Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Orser, Edward. “Secondhand Suburbs: Black Pioneers in Baltimore’s Edmondson Village, 1955-1980.” Journal of Urban History 16.3 (1990): 227-262.

Phillips, Christopher. Freedom’s Port: The African-American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

Pietilla, Antero. Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City. Ivan R. Dee, 2010.

Power, Garrett. “Apartheid Baltimore Style: The Residential Segregation Ordinances of 1910-1913.” Maryland Law Review 42 (1983): 248-349.

Roberts, Samuel K. Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease and Health Effects of Segregation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Rockman, Seth. Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Ryan, Mary P. “Democracy Rising: The Monuments of Baltimore, 1809-1842.” Journal of Urban History 36.2 (2010): 127-150.

Schley, David. “Tracks in the Streets: Railroads, Infrastructure, and Urban Space in Baltimore, 1828-1840.” Journal of Urban History 39.6 (2013): 1062-1084.

Shufelt, Gordon H. “Jim Crow Among Strangers: The Growth of Baltimore’s Little Italy and Maryland’s Disfranchisement Campaigns.” The Journal of American Ethnic History 19(4): 49-78.

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Street scene, Hampden neighborhood, Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Smith, C. Fraser. Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Thomas, Bettye C. “A Nineteenth Century Black Operated Shipyard, 1866-1884: Reflections Upon its Inception and Ownership.” The Journal of Negro History Volume LIX, Number 1 (January 1974): 1-12.

Williams, Rhonda Y. The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles Against Urban Inequality. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Digital resources: 

Explore Baltimore Heritage. Baltimore Heritage, Inc. https://explore.baltimoreheritage.org

Baltimore Uprising 2015 Archive Project. Maryland Historical Society.

https://baltimoreuprising2015.org/

[1] Matt Crenson, Baltimore: A Political History, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2017), 9-16.

[2] Crenson, Baltimore, 15-17.

[3] Mary P. Ryan, “Democracy Rising: The Monuments of Baltimore,” Journal of Urban History 36.2 (2010): 129.

[4] Ryan, “Democracy Rising,” 128, 143.

[5] Ryan, “Democracy Rising”, 129.

[6] Crenson, Baltimore: A Political History, 161.

[7] Crenson, Baltimore, 164.

[8] Dennis Halpin, “‘The Struggle for Land and Liberty’: Segregation, Violence, and African American Resistance in Baltimore, 1898 -1918,” Journal of Urban History 44.4 (2018): 692-693.

[9] Joseph L. Arnold, “The Neighborhood and City Hall: The Origin of Neighborhood Associations in Baltimore, 1880-1911,” Journal of Urban History 6.1 (1979): 6.

[10] Arnold, “The Neighborhood and City Hall”, 7, 14.

[11] Gretchen Boger, “The Meaning of Neighborhood in the Modern City: Baltimore’s Residential Segregation Ordinances, 1910-1913”, Journal of Urban History 35.2 (January 2009): 244.

[12] Halpin, “‘The Struggle for Land and Liberty,’” 695.

[13] Boger, “The Meaning of Neighborhood in the Modern City,” 237-238.

[14] Halpin, 697.

[15] Boger, 248.

[16] Ibid., 246.

[17] Halpin, 702, 706-707.

[18] Boger, “239.

[19] Ibid., 707.

Featured image (at top): Row houses, Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, November 1, 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Race, Immigration, and Culture in Buenos Aires: A Bibliography of the Argentine Capital

When South Americans first laid eyes on British immigrants playing the game that they called football (and residents of the United States came to call soccer), they were, historian David Goldblatt writes, “genuinely bemused.” A Brazilian observer described a scrum of English men hoofing “something that looks like a bull’s bladder” about as “a bunch of maniacs” who seemed to simultaneously be filled with “great satisfaction” and “sorrow when this kind of yellowish bladder enters a rectangle formed by wooden posts.”[1]

Porteños, as Buenos Aires residents are known, initially shared similar impressions. Argentine journalist Juan José de Soiza Reilly recalled his father’s reaction to similar scenes of towheaded British boys knocking a ball around in Buenos Aires: “Crazy people … Crazy English.”

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Argentina mundial 78 : o campeonato num pais prisao = The world’s Argentina 78 : the championship of an imprisoned country, Juventude Socialista (Brazil), 1978, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Yet, by the late twentieth century, Diego Maradona— undeniably an international soccer legend—nearly single-handedly defeated the British in one of the most famous games ever at the 1986 World Cup as the Argentine national team steamed toward their second World Cup championship. Argentina’s first World Cup triumph occurred in 1978 when the team hosted and bested a supremely talented Dutch side at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires; the despotic military junta running Argentina at the time deployed the tournament and the national team’s victory as a symbol of its steady hand at the helm even as it imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands of political dissidents. Eventually, Argentina returned to a more democratic path, even if troubled by political scandal and economic depressions. Today Lionel Messi, arguably the world’s greatest football player, continues this tradition as Argentina prepares for this summer’s Copa Mundial in Russia. Obviously the sport has come to occupy a central place in the Argentine identity, and Buenos Aires played a critical role in such developments.

First introduced by British workers in the 1860s, the emergence of football in Argentina in the 1880s provides a useful window and inflection point regarding the longer history of the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires. Soccer’s place in Argentina was secured by larger economic and political forces, namely immigration, a growing international economy, and industrialization; its burgeoning popularity in the late nineteenth century is emblematic of shifts in Buenos Aires’ own economic, political, and social history.

Early Buenos Aires

Founded under orders of the Spanish crown by Pedro de Mendoza in 1536, Buenos Aires would remain a sleepy port town for two centuries. However, due to its location at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, geography ensured that the city would play a large economic role in the region. By the late sixteenth century, the city had developed an economy based on the trade of contraband, largely with the city of Potosí. As historian Eul-Soo Pang noted in a 1983 review essay for the Journal of Urban History, such “illicit commercial intercourse gave rise to other economic activities in the River Plate region and was still functioning in 1860.” Agricultural products also flowed down from Las Pampas to the city. From “food stuffs to manufactured goods,” by the late 1700s the dependency on contraband as a trading asset expanded; Buenos Aires slowly displaced Lima, Peru as a popular entrepôt in this regard. Chosen as the seat of the viceroy of the Rio de la Plata, which included modern day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uraguay, in 1776, Buenos Aires’s economic and political power only grew. By the 1790s, the port city handled sixty ships annually and had emerged as an important South American trading post.[2]

With the decimation of indigenous groups by disease and colonial conquest, Buenos Aires needed workers. As a result, Colonial Spain introduced slavery to the city beginning in 1587. While many would be sent elsewhere, such as Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, numerous other enslaved people remained in city. When Buenos Aires emerged as the “commercial and political center of the Platine region,” it experienced a “rapid population growth,” notes historian Lyman Johnson. Greater number of bureaucrats, along with an expanded military and naval presence, increased demand for “goods and services” and thereby attracted laborers to the city and lead to an even larger dependence on enslaved people for unskilled labor. Over time Buenos Aires’ enslaved population also competed with European immigrant craftsmen.

During the viceregal period, black and mulatto enslaved people made up roughly one third of the urban population and were deeply integrated into the Buenos Aires economy. “Only at the highest levels of the urban occupational hierarchy were [blacks] and mulattos effectively excluded from full participation in the colonial period,” Johnson argues.[3] Between 1776 and 1810, 1,482 manumissions were recorded by notaries in the city; approximately sixty percent of these had been purchased by the individual freed person or his or her family, thereby creating a substantial free black and mulatto population.

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Map of northwestern South America including Lima and Buenos Aires, Francisco Requena, 1796, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

Near the end of the eighteenth century, African descendants of enslaved people occupied a critical place in “the guild system and other levels of corporate identity.” This established in Buenos Aires a racially and ethnically mixed public sphere. “Port cities such as Buenos Aires,” writes historian Erika Edwards, “had a unique milieu in which slaves, free people of color, whites, sailors, artisans, and merchants interacted on a daily basis.”[4]

In a burst of Argentine nationalism, Buenos Aires declared its independence from Spain in 1810. Six years later the provinces followed, and Buenos Aires was named capital of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata. The British, who had trade interests in the region, soon rushed in to secure their investments; some 55 British mercantile houses operated in Buenos Aires by 1820. The British conducted two unsuccessful invasions of Buenos Aires in 1806 and 1807, but some observers in Britain, in this case the BBC, maintain these failed military adventures sparked an increased sense of nationalism among Argentines, and specifically, porteños.

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Print shows a coastline at Buenos Aires with a distant view of the city; also shows a sailboat unloading cargo onto a horse-drawn cart just off shore, print by Jules Daufresne, c. 1841, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Regardless the validity of such arguments, Britons maintained an enduring economic force. Still, in the early years of independence foreign commercial interests, though influential, did not yet dominate the Argentine economy. Great numbers of Northern Spanish merchants who had settled in Argentina established strong commercial ties within Latin America and Europe. Indeed, Buenos Aires would eventually be home to “the third largest urban concentration of Spaniards other than Madrid and Barcelona,” notes Anton Rosenthal. Many settled in downtown Buenos Aires.[5]

The British invasion did lead to a loosening of slavery. Many enslaved people had fought valiantly against the British, and so in 1813 the Free Womb Act was passed to grant freedom to children born to enslaved mothers. Later the 1853 Constitution of Argentina abolished slavery, but it was not until 1861 when Buenos Aires formally joined the Confederation that the institution was fully eliminated. Despite rapid economic and demographic growth, the city’s black population shrunk from 15,000 Afro-Argentines out of a population of 63,000 in 1838 to 8,000 out of a total population of 433,000 in 1887.[6]

During the 1820s, the economy diversified and the demand for raw materials due to the spread of industrialization made for a healthy business in exports. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Buenos Aires’ merchant class, many with connections to Northern Spain, wielded political and economic clout. Wholesalers in particular dominated and stood as equals with “high colonial bureaucrats, military officers, and judges.”[7]

However, in the second of half of the century, the rise of the wheat and cattle industries shifted economic dominance to land owners. Under Spanish rule, the economy of Buenos Aires funneled mineral extraction to the Crown; with independence, the city provided grain and meat from the Argentine interior to Europe.[8] One need not shed many tears for the once dominant merchant class, because as historian Susan Soclow points out, “The sons of eighteenth century comerciantes became the estanciero-merchants of the nineteenth century.”[9] In 1862, the Bank of London and River Plate opened in the city; within a year, British merchant houses accounted for over 1/3 of the nearly 74 individual and partnered firms of eight nations working in Buenos Aires.[10] British merchants dominated by deploying the skills they developed as colonial businessmen and officials while also exploiting the nation’s naval power, thereby furthering Anglo roots in Buenos Aires.

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Buenos Aires. Plaza Constitution, c. 1890-1910, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

British capital helped to shape the city’s standing nationally. The Baring Brothers invested heavily in the Argentine central railway; they funded both the Great Southern and the Central rail lines. As the hub of the two east-west lines, and because no north-south lines were constructed during the 1800s, Buenos Aires secured its status as the commercial and bureaucratic capital of Argentina. In 1880, when Buenos Aires was formally named the capital of Argentina, British influence in the national economy seemed legion. “It almost seems that the English have the preference in everything pertaining to the business and business interests of the country,” the U.S. consul wrote to Washington, “they are in everything, except politics, as intimately as though it were a British colony.”[11]

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Immigrants being transported on horse-drawn wagon, Buenos Aires, Argentina, between 1890 and 1923, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

By 1880, 40,000 Britons lived in Buenos Aires and in addition to capital and trade they brought something else.[12] “[S]occer became an export as typically British as Manchester cloth, railroads, loans from Barings, or the doctrine of free trade,” writes Eduardo Gallendo. “It arrived on the feet of sailors who played by the dikes of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, while Her Majesty’s ships unloaded blankets, boots, and flour, and took on wool, hides, and wheat to make more blankets, boots, and flour on the other side of the world.”

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Argentine goalkeeper Miguel Rugilo and Harold Hassall, of England, in a dramatic moment during the England-Argentina International Soccer game at Wembley Stadium, London, 1951, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Under the influence of “football evangelist” and Scottish schoolteacher Alexander Watson Hutton, football became ensconced in elite English and Argentine schools all over the city. In the first decade of the twentieth century two of the nation’s leading football clubs opened, River Plate (1901) and Boca Juniors (1905), both established by “immigrants in and around the docks of Buenos Aires,” writes Goldblatt.[13] Sport, like carnival, enabled immigrants to claim a sense of place in the new nation, particularly as the city boomed with a more decentralized version of industrialization consisting of family-run workshops and factories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.[14]

Having eliminated indigenous peoples and discriminated against its shrinking black population, Argentine leaders and writers advocated for European immigration. “Argentina, like the United States, is a settler-colonial country,” points out historian James Shrader in an email to The Metropole. Argentine leaders wanted to think of themselves as bringing civilization to a benighted land occupied by inferior races “so its pro-immigration policy was meant as a means to populate an imagined empty land and civilize the front, expropriating it from barbarous unproductive peoples.” Historians like Laura Podalsky, Shrader notes, have made compelling arguments that the image of Buenos Aires as the Paris of South America was very much an “ideological project” meant to convey modernity and civilization.

Ultimately, the new arrivals competed with the diminishing Afro-Argentine population for both work and housing. From 1880 to 1914, Argentina absorbed four million European immigrants with roughly 60 percent settling in Buenos Aires. Nearly two million of the four million new arrivals from Europe hailed from Italy. In addition, from 1936 to 1947, one million Argentines migrated to cities as industrialization continued a pace. By 1947, 3 million people lived in the nation’s capital.[15] Unlike many U.S. cities, ethnic enclaves and ghettos never took shape in a systematic way, though mutual aid societies, immigrant associations and similar institutions played a key role in the lives of newly arrived porteños.

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Buenos Aires. Plaza Victoria I, between 1890 -1910, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Of course, culture in the Argentine capital unfolded in numerous ways besides football, and like sport, other avenues of cultural expression intersected with issues of class and immigration. For example, in 1896 Buenos Aires established a thriving electric street car system. Across Latin America, the streetcar embodied modernity, lent cities a European flavor, and served as an arbiter of respectability. Even dockworkers dressed up when taking the streetcar to work, only to change into “grubby overalls” once arriving at their place of employment. The streetcar, to paraphrase the American poet Walt Whitman, contained multitudes. “The trolley provided a mobile balcony from which passengers could observe changes in urban fashion and street behavior, the array of consumer goods displayed in shop windows, and the increasingly frequent strikes generated by the imposition of industrial work regimens,” writes Rosenthal. For many, the streetcar operated as a “mobile salon,” enabling residents to traverse the city while reading the newspaper and observing daily life. One Buenos Aires magazine suggested that the inability of pedestrians to deal with trolleys paralleled the struggle to adapt to modern times: “[m]etaphorically speaking, being run over and crushed by a streetcar means to be incapable of keeping up with modernity.”

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Buenos Aires, between 1909 and 1919, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Then again, for all the trappings of modernity, plenty of observers believed the streetcar represented something far from civilized; in Buenos Aires critics labeled the trolleys “cockroaches.” Overcrowded conditions created chaos, leading another magazine to ask, “Why do we travel on the Trolley?” Foreign ownership of the system did not endear the trolley to many residents, either. Based in London, the Anglo-Argentine Tramway Company dominated not only Buenos Aires, but much of Latin America. “The manufacture and control of the new technology by foreign companies established a distance and a dependency which Latin American cities wrestled with for decades,” Rosenthal points out. Indeed, streetcar workers could exploit this ambivalence in labor disputes. They expressed solidarity with other laborers by depicting trolleys as conveyors of “ruthless exploitation and dehumanization.”[16]

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Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires, between 1908 and 1919, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

While the streetcar gained prominence as a mode of transportation, symbol of modernity, and a site of public gathering, another Buenos Aires tradition faded from public view. Once a “popular unrestrained street celebration during the colonial era” writes historian Kristen McCleary, in the early twentieth century carnival became increasingly commercialized and regulated. If electric streetcars symbolized civilization, to its critics carnival suggested barbarism. After all, Buenos Aires was meant to be the “Paris of South America”; city planners even tried to replicate the wide-open avenues of Haussmann’s French capital. Public officials argued that carnival threatened to “unleash urban disorder” and undermined public hygiene and safety while also interfering with the city’s economy. Between 1880 and 1910, police surveillance and municipal regulation of the event increased markedly.

The celebration of carnival and other religiously affiliated festivals had originally been promoted because Spanish and Portuguese slave owners saw it as a means to acculturate persons of African descent into the society’s dominant mores. While slavery might not have played as large a role in Argentina as compared with Brazil, it clearly exerted a significant influence on Buenos Aires. Even with declining numbers, during the second half of the nineteenth century, Afro-Argentines enjoyed a very vocal public sphere including some 15 weekly newspapers.[17] Religious celebrations more generally “provided a social space in which local African traditions could also be incorporated, resulting in a syncretic mixture of African and Christian rituals,” writes McCleary. Though she notes that periodic repression of Afro-Argentine practices did also occur during the first half of the eighteenth century, the festival routinely featured African cultural expressions. However, as immigration expanded, the black population diminished, and the nation’s desire to depict itself as European deepened, “continental” figures and themes wove themselves into the event, whereas previously it had functioned more as synergetic expression of African and European culture. Over time, the state more generally and systematically repressed African cultural expressions; their diminishing presence in carnival serves as just one example. Such developments worked to erase blackness in the Buenos Aires public sphere.

Much as with football, the influx of European immigrants helped to further this shift. For European newcomers, carnival offered a similar opportunity to immigrants and the rising middle and upper classes—a space in which to make “manifest and [consolidate] their social status.” However, municipal regulations hamstrung public festivities and carnival increasing took place in interior spaces such as theaters and social clubs. The ever-growing commercial nature of the celebrations represented the larger turn toward the consumerist aspects of leisure.[18]

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Calle Maritimo, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina, between 1930 and 1950, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Post-World War II Buenos Aires: From Streetcars and Carnival to the Home

Much as with concerns about carnival, municipal leaders, socialists, and the Catholic Church began to focus on housing articulating concerns about hygiene, morality, and political radicalism. European immigration had contributed to a crisis in housing. In response, the passage of the Irigoyan Law of 1905 enabled the city government to build public housing. These early efforts delivered very modest numbers of single-family homes. The creation of the National Commission of Low Cost Houses (CNCB) in 1915 expanded efforts; the CNCB constructed, both single family homes and multifamily units, the former for sale, the latter for rent. The two most prominent housing forms prior to such reforms, were multi room homes known as casa chorizos and large tenement like structures referred to as conventillos. Through the 1920s and 1930s, these efforts amounted to modest numbers of completed homes and units, just under 1,100 over the course of 30 years, however, during the 1940s housing construction came to be seen not only as a means to create new homes but also as a tool for job creation. The “california style” of single family homes emerged as the favored mode of housing construction.[19]

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Photograph shows men standing at a counter and drinking coffee in a Buenos Aires, Argentina, coffee shop, as a young man pours coffee into a demi-tasse cup, 1955, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Following World War II, a greater acceptance of government intervention arose such that when Juan Peron assumed power from 1946 -1955, his populist message managed to channel contradictory political impulses and ideologies. On the one hand, the Peronist government built single families homes that promoted homeownership and conservative Catholic values, which were seen as upholding traditional, gender roles, the nuclear family and the sanctity of marriage. On the other, the Peronist administration also erected worker’s neighborhoods that adhered to the Central European workers’ model “constructed on open pavilions” notes historian Rosa Aboy, with each block inhabited by different families sharing access, hallways, and the outside areas with the idea of emphasizing social equality and interaction between classes. For the former see communities like 1° de Marzo and Juan Peron; for the latter, Las Perales serves as one example.

Modernist architects, many having worked for the Municipal Office of Architecture or having collaborated with Le Corbusier on his urban plan for the city, designed the new communities and housing as part of the administration. In many of the neighborhoods designed according to the European model, residents mostly rented though in 1948 legislation passed that enabled for the purchase of individual units by renters over a 30 year period. Whichever design prevailed, these newer homes featured better infrastructure with running water, sanitation systems, gas connections and hot water in both bathrooms and kitchens; a clear improvement over earlier public housing efforts. “When we moved here it was a palace to us,” noted one resident of Las Perales years later. In total, from 1946-1955, eight new communities arose consisting of over 5,000 new houses.[20]

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Argentina ’78 : sede mundial de la tortura y la violacion de los derechos humanos : su repudio puede salvar una vida = world’s site of torture and violation of human rights : to condemn it may save a life, poster, 1978, Prints and Photographs Division

Post-Peron Argentina

A 1955 military coup would oust Peron, an ironic turn of events considering Peron’s own rise to power had been aided by similar events. He would return to power in the early 1970s before dying in office in 1974, succeeded by a brutal military dictatorship. Some historians have argued that Peron himself had contributed to the authoritarian regime that followed him but so too did internal divisions within Argentina. An expert on Cold War era Argentina, Shrader agrees. Such arguments miss “a fundamental point–rather than being an historical aberration,” he argues. “Peron was very much a continuation of an authoritarian trend that cut across political ideologies and parties, and stretched back to the founding of the country itself in the nineteenth century.  Authoritariranism was not the sole domain of ‘caudillos,’ but also liberal thinkers and statesmen, like Domingo Sarmiento, Juan Alberdi, and Bartolome Mitre.”

If anything, notes Shrader both Peron and the junta sought to divide Argentines into rival camps. The military dictatorship rose to power on the fault line of a society struggling with violence of both right wing paramilitaries and left wing communist guerillas. “If anything, one could look at the ways in which Peronism and the Junta divided the population into Argentines and non-Argentines (the latter seen as traitors because of their political affiliation), but the roots of that go back too,” he asserts.

Argentina would host the 1978 World Cup, a moment in time now seen to be “the apogee of both its power and cruelty,” writes journalist Wright Thompson. The dictatorship tortured and murdered thousands of Argentines. During the June 25, 1978 final, political prisoners could hear fans celebrating the nation’s victory in their cells. Some 30,000 people disappeared – referred to as los desaparecidos—“the disappeared” – during what has become known as “The Dirty War.”

For many Argentines, the ’78 competition provided “a measure of psychic relief to a population that had created the dictatorship with its fear.” However, in the decades that have passed, many Argentines choose to remember the 1986 championship, rather than its 1978 victory. Rumors persist that the junta, with the aid of regime supporter Henry Kissinger, arranged to fix the match with Peru. Peru allowed six goals against Argentina, as the fourth goal hit the back of the net, a bomb exploded at the home of a government official who had been critical of expenditures toward the competition. At a thirtieth anniversary celebration, that also doubled as a memorial to all those who perished under the military junta, held at Estadio Monumental in 2008, “wide swaths of empty seats swallowing groups of people” predominated; only 19 players of the 22 from the 1978 roster attended. For survivors, the 1978 World Cup and every one after, dredges up nothing but pain. “Survivors live in a city of scars,” noted Thompson.

Yet, some historians question Wright’s argument. “While the dictatorship is now in disrepute, human rights isn’t the real reason,”  Shrader suggested.  “1986 is celebrated more because of Maradona.  Pure and simple.” Maradona gave Argentina its “own Pele” and he ascended to popularity “when the country’s democracy was fragile, divisions lingered, and wounds were still very much fresh.”

The 1982 Falkland Islands controversy with Britain helped to bring an end to the junta’s rule. The combination of a failing economy, an ill advised attempt to wrest the Falkand and Marina Islands from Britain, and U.S. pressure for the regime to stand down (after supporting it for years) conspired to pry them from power. A more democratic government followed. While things have not been easy for the South American power or porteños, conditions improved.

Even with political drama and economic instability, Buenos Aires, has always and will always be a dynamic, compelling city. “No matter how soap-opera-like its politics, or exaggerated its inflation, Argentina’s capital never loses its charm,” New York Times travel writer Nell McShane Wulfhart reflected in 2015. Between its ever evolving restaurants and art spaces, “its century-old cafes and gorgeous tree-lined streets”, and “gimmicky yet ineffably cool speakeasies”, the city exudes a chic, cosmopolitan sensibility. When La Albiceleste, or in English, the white and sky blue as the national team is sometimes referred, take to the fields in Russia, porteños will occupy these same restaurants and speakeasies as they dream of the 2018 World Cup ending in joy so that they might spill into the night street and celebrate in one of South America’s greatest cities.

As always, the bibliography provided below is only our cursory attempt to sketch out a reading list for interested readers. Regrettably, it does not include Spanish language histories. We hope that you’ll make your own suggestions in the comments or tweet at us @UrbanHistoryA. The editors would like to extend special thanks to Anton Rosenthal, Daniel Alex Richter, and especially, Kristen McCleary for their help with organizing our May Metropolis of the Month and its bibliography.

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Opera House, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1956, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Bibliography

—–. Business Imperialism 1840-1930: An Inquiry on British Experience in Latin America. Ed. D.C.M. Platt. (Claredon Press, 1977).

—–. Memories of Buenos Aires: Signs of State Terrorism in Argentina. Ed. Max Page.  (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013).

Rosa Aboy. “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires.” Journal of Urban History 33.3 (March 2007): 495-518.

Jeremy Adelman. Republic of Capital: Buenos Aires and the Legal Transformation of the Atlantic World. (Stanford University Press, 1999).

George Reid Andrew. “Race Versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1850-1900.” Journal of Latin American Studies 11.1 (May 1979): 19-39.

Javier Auyero. Poor People’s Politics: Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita. (Duke University Press, 2001).

Adriana Bergero. Intersecting Tango: Cultural Geographies of Buenos Aires, 1900-1930. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008).

Jonathan C. Brown. A Socioeconomic History of Argentina, 1776-1860. (Cambridge University Press, 1979).

Lila Caimari. While the City Sleeps: A History of Pistoleros, Policemen and the Crime Beat in Buenos Aires before Perón. (University of California Press, 2016).

Marcela Cerrutti and Alejandro Grimson. “Neoliberal Reforms and Protest in Buenos Aires” in Neoliberalism, Interrupted. Eds. Mark Goodale and Nancy Postero. (Stanford University Press, 2013).

Christine Ehrick. Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950. (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

David William Foster. Buenos Aires: Perspectives on the City and Cultural Production. (University Press of Florida, 1998).

Adrián Gorelik. “A Metropolis in the Pampas: Buenos Aires 1890-1940.” In Cruelty and Utopia: Cities and Landscapes in Latin America. Ed. Jean-Francois Lejeune.  (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006)

Donna Guy. Sex and Danger in Buenos Aires. (University of Nebraska Press, 1990).

Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. (Stanford University Press, 2003)

Gabriela Ippolito-O’Donnell. The Right to the City: Popular Contention in Contemporary Buenos Aires. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011).

Daniel James. Doña Maria’s Story: Life, History, Memory, and Political Identity. (Duke University Press, 2000).

Lyman L. Johnson. “Manumission in Buenos Aires, 1776-1810.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 59.2 (May 1979): 258-279.

Lyman L. Johnson. Workshop of Revolution: Plebian Buenos Aires and the Atlantic World, 1776-1810. (Duke University Press, 2011).

Lyman L. Johnson and Zephyr Frank. “Cities and Wealth in the South Atlantic: Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro before 1860.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 48.3 (July 2006): 634-668.

Temma Kaplan. Taking Back the Streets: Women, Youth, and Direct Democracy. (University of California Press, 2004).

Kristen McCleary. “Mass, Popular, and Elite Culture? The Spanish Zarzuela in Buenos Aires, 1890-1900.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture Vol. 21 (2002): 1-27.

Kristen McCleary. “Papás, malevos, and patotas: ‘Character’izing Masculinity on the Stages and in the Audiences of Buenos Aires, 1880-1920.” In Muy Machos: Modern Argentine Masculinities. Ed. Carolina Rocha (London: Intellect Books), 2013

Kristen McCleary, “Ethnic identity and elite idyll: a comparison of carnival in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay, 1900-1920.” Social Identities 16.4 (July 2010): 497 – 517.

Jessica Stites More and Daniel Alex Richter. “Immigrant Cosmopolitanism: The Political Culture of Argentine Early Sound Cinema of the 1930s.” In Latin America and Caribbean Studies 9.1 (2014): 65-88.

Jose. C. Moya. Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1930. (University of California Press, 2001).

Laura Podalsky. Specular City: Transforming Culture, Consumption and Space in Buenos Aires, 1955-1973. (Temple University Press, 2004).

Vera Blinn Reber. British Mercantile Houses in Buenos Aires 1810-1880. (Harvard University Press, 1979.

Anton Rosenthal. “The Streetcar in the Urban Imaginary of Latin America.” Journal of Urban History 42.1: 162-179.

Charles Sargent. The Spatial Evolution of Buenos Aires: 1870-1930. (Arizona State University Center for Latin Studies, 1974).

Beatriz Sarlo. “Cultural Landscapes: Buenos Aires from Integration to Fracture.” In Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age. Ed. Andreas Huyssen. (Duke University Press, 2008).

Jason Scobie. Buenos Aires: From Plaza to Suburb, 1870-1910. (Oxford University Press, 1971).

Susan M. Socolow. The Merchants of Buenos Aires 1778-1810: Family and Commerce. (Cambridge University Press, 1978).

James Scorer. City in Common: Culture and Community in Buenos Aires. (SUNY Press, 2016).

Brigitte Sion. Memorials in Berlin and Buenos Aires: Balancing Memory, Architecture, and Tourism. (Lexington Books, 2015).

Juan Suriano. Paradoxes of Utopia: Anarchist Culture and Politics in Buenos Aires 1890-1910. (AK Press, 2010).

51ULIasGgzL._SY445_.jpgFiction/Film

Tomás Eloy Martínez. The Tango Singer (Bloomsbury, 2004).

Nine Queens. Director Fabián Bielinsky, 2000.

Featured Image (at top): Buenos Aires, between 1908 and 1919, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

[1] David Goldblatt, The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football, Riverhead Books, 2006, 126-127.

[2] Eul-Soo Pang, “Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930,” Journal of Urban History 9.3 (May 1983): 366-67.

[3] Lyman L. Johnson, “Manumission in Buenos Aires, 1776-1810,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 59.2 (May 1979): 259-260.

[4] Erika Edwards, “Urban History, the Slave Trade, and the Atlantic World 1500-1900,” Journal of Urban History 42.2 (2016): 447.

[5] Anton Rosenthal, “Urban Networks, Global Processes, and the Construction of Public Life in Nineteenth Century Buenos Aires,” Journal of Urban History 29.6 (September 2003): 760.

[6] George Reid Andrew, “Race Versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1850-1900,” Journal of Latin American Studies 11.1 (May 1979): 21.

[7] Eul-Soo Pang, “Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930,” 368.

[8] Rosenthal, “Urban Networks, Global Processes, and the Construction of Public Life in Nineteenth Century Buenos Aires,” 764.

[9] Susan Socolow, The Merchants of Buenos Aires 1778-1810: Family and Commerce, Cambridge University Press, 1978, 177.

[10] Eul-Soo Pang, “Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930,” 370.

[11] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, 126; Eul-Soo Pang, Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930, 370.

[12] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, 126.

[13] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, 127, 130.

[14] Rosenthal, “Urban Networks, Global Processes, and the Construction of Public Life in Nineteenth Century Buenos Aires,” 764.

[15] Rosa Aboy, “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires,” Journal of Urban History 33.3 (March 2007): 494-495

[16] Anton Rosenthal, “The Streetcar in the Urban Imaginary of Latin America,” Journal of Urban History 42.1: 162-163, 165, 167, 172.

[17] Reid Andrew, “Race Versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1850-1900,” 22.

[18] Kristin McCleary, “Ethnic identity and elite idyll: a comparison of carnival in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay, 1900-1920,” Social Identities 16.4 (July 2010): 501-502, 504-506, 513.

[19] Rosa Aboy, “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires,” 497, 499, 500-502.

[20] Rosa Aboy, “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires,” 503-506, 509.

 

Sacramento Stories: A River City Bibliography

In Sarah Polley’s 2013 film, “Stories We Tell”, the Canadian filmmaker conducts an exploration of her mother, Diane Polley, who died when the director was 11.  Navigating Diane Polley’s history proves more complex and elusive than one might think. “There are many stories to tell, partly because there was nothing neat about Diane Polley, the life she lived and the secrets she kept,” New York Times critic Manohla Dargis wrote in her review of the film, and “Not all of these stories are easy.”

Cities, or perhaps more accurately the inhabitants and boosters of cities, also have stories to tell and much like Polley’s documentary, the meaning and accuracy of such narratives vary.  Sacramento, crowned the California state capital in 1854, has its own complicated tale—one deeply entwined with the 1849 Gold Rush, redevelopment, suburbanization, and historic preservation. And yes, some of these stories are not easy.

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Sculpture “Gold Rush” at the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse, Sacramento, California, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, October 2009, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congres

Before and After the Gold Rush 

“The Sacramento region during the 1800s was an incredibly complex area,” historian Ty Smith has noted, because Mexico had not penetrated the valley to any significant extent and French and Russian trappers competed with local tribes for the commercial fur industry. Most historians date the city’s birth to the Gold Rush and often the overall narrative regarding Sacramento attempts to capitalize on its connection to 1849.  However, when John (Johann) Sutter gained control of the city via a Mexican land grant in 1839, he envisioned a metropolitan future dependent on agriculture and commerce, not mineral extraction.

Early on, the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers—a point known as the embarcadero—served as the city’s defining feature, but one that brought both prosperity and pain. “The rivers that embrace the California capital have both punished and rewarded,” notes historian Steven Avella. “They created terrible floods and carried waterborne diseases like cholera but also helped to fashion the ‘earthly Eden’, as one booster described Sacramento.” Residents, however, did not accept Sacramento on its own terms. After devastating floods in 1862, the city raised its grade above the river’s cresting level. As Avella attests, the establishment of the city itself was “an act of defiance against nature,” as residents nearly taxed themselves to “urban death to pay for the ambitious street raising.”

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The Tower Bridge is a vertical lift bridge across the Sacramento River, linking West Sacramento in Yolo County to the west, with the capital of California, Sacramento, in Sacramento County to the east, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress

Like a moth to flame, capital and labor flowed into the riverfront town. “From the city’s founding in 1849, boats carrying global migrants, miners and merchants plied the Sacramento River, arriving at Sutter’s Embarcadero at the foot of J. Street” write historians Lee Simpson and Lisa Prince.  It would be here in what became known as the West End that “the booming riverfront quickly became the commercial and social hub of the infant city….” When the capital house moved east, away from the docks several years later, so too did much of the activity along the waterfront. The West End entered a long period of decline accelerated by the Great Depression, to such an extent that, by the 1950s, some observers categorized it as “one of the worst slums west of the Mississippi.” Still, a thriving Japantown, and a smaller Chinatown near it, emerged within the riverfront district.

As the nineteenth century came to a close, Sacramento’s suburbanization began its ascent. City boosters and suburban developers packaged the city as a “rural (and suburban) antidote to a growing urban disease,” a veritable “machine in the garden,” marrying industrial efficiency with the purity of rural/suburban life, notes historian Paul Sandul.  Suburbanization spread to the city’s northern and northeastern edges while “the interior expanded outward as well, as subdivisions began near … downtown.”  Sandul describes these new communities as “agriburbs,” “advertised as the perfect mix of rural and urban,” “consciously, planned, developed, and promoted based on the drive for profit in emerging agricultural markets….”

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Downtown Sacramento, California’s capital city, seen from across the Sacramento River in West Sacramento, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The rise of the “gentleman farmer” archetype in the early twentieth century aided boosters. Gentlemen farmers emerged as a new ideal in the Progressive era. White male middle class suburban farmers brought civilization and order to the frontier while also soothing any rough edges absorbed from city living; a Jeffersonian nod to “the foundation of a middle class white settler” society, writes Laura Barraclough, who explored the role of gentlemen farming in the creation of the San Fernando Valley.  Few gentlemen farmers ever turned a real profit in the Valley, and Sandul suggests the same for Sacramento, but the idea proved a powerful marketing device helping to sell new subdivisions like Rancho Del Paso, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, and North Sacramento, among others.

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The Gentleman Farmer“, by Henry Mayer, June 6, 1914, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Suburbanization unfolded as Sacramento residents sought to create an identity around the “pioneer” narrative. Tropes about “gentleman farmers” fit neatly into the city’s presence in the public sphere. Agriburbs and gentlemen farming married rural virtue with middle class civility and comfort. Boosters sold the city as “a modern and cultured metropolis” while simultaneously highlighting it as a “farmer’s paradise” and “ideal suburb.” Even today, while it lacks the charm of San Francisco or the fast lane lifestyle of Los Angeles, Sacramento “held sway in California’s growing interior as a good place to live and prosper,” notes Avella. “The midwest of California,” as the titular heroine of the film Ladybird describes it.

Not all suburban growth originated strictly from an agricultural ideal alone. The development of the “streetcar suburb” of Oak Park marked the beginning of suburban expansion from the city’s core. As with Los Angeles, the trolley car fueled this movement. Edwin K. Alsip, a prominent real estate speculator, promoted the suburb with the usual references to gentlemen farming, good soil, beneficial climate, easy transit to downtown, and “no city taxes” though this final provision also meant no water or sewer facilities. The Joyland amusement park opened in the neighborhood in 1894 to further entice prospective buyers, however the financial panic of 1893 doused enthusiasm. It would take until 1900 before Oak Park filled with residents, which included working class whites, African Americans, and Mexican Americans. The latter groups were attracted to Oak Park because of its lack of restrictive covenants, which plagued minority homebuyers throughout Sacramento and its burgeoning suburbia.

Other working class suburbs arose around the city, not from speculative real estate practices but rather as the result of ethnic groups huddling in particular neighborhoods. Ethnic enclaves with Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, and Filipino communities formed “not as part of the packaging of place but as a consequence of it,” Sandul writes.  Denied entry into many subdivisions where developers and residents assumed that agrarian living was only suitable for white families, and where developers deployed covenants to maintain lines of segregation, minority groups formed several enclaves in the West End section—Chinatown and Japantown, most famously. Some Mexican barrios took root in the West End, but others also formed near the rail yards and sometimes outside some of the northern agriburbs where employment in agriculture was available. Unsurprisingly, gentlemen farming created a need for farm workers. In the San Fernando Valley,  a mix of Asian and Mexican, immigrant and native labor built the Valley’s infrastructure and worked “to make suburban farms productive” while racist land and homeownership restrictions prevented non-white laborers from competing on equal terms. Sacramento’s experience, though perhaps less stark, mirrored this development.

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Tower Theatre, a Sacramento landmark, built in 1938, that is famous for its neon displays, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As with many of the nation’s cities, Sacramento struggled through the Great Depression with aid from FDR’s New Deal. World War II shook it from its economic doldrums and after the war California’s prosperity boomed, a function of the demographic migration to and federal investment in the state. The financial windfall that visited the Golden State after 1945 also added further diversity to the city through an expanded military presence, the long standing bracero program, and the growth of the state and municipal governments.

In its urban renewal efforts Sacramento proved pioneering in two ways. First, the redevelopment of the West End in the 1950s and 1960s used a new financing mechanism at the time, known as Tax Increment Financing (TIF).  TIF, a practice in which future revenues from property tax increases from a particular district are earmarked for economic development in a local community, would become a dominant force in urban renewal efforts nationally, for both good and ill.

Second, by the 1950s, the West End had slid into an uneasy state. Though home to relatively prosperous Japantown and Chinatown, it also struggled with high rates of crime, homelessness, illness, and juvenile delinquency; a quarter of the city’s fires, three-quarters of its TB cases, and 42 percent of its adult crime occurred in the district. Over two decades, it witnessed a fifty percent decline in its tax revenue.

The city declared the area blighted and enacted an ambitious urban renewal project that razed the West End and replaced it with “Old Sacramento,” a historic district dedicated to telling Sacramento’s pioneer tale.  The plan, which a 1961 National Park Service report summarized as an attempt to save and refurbish 31 “old structures importantly associated with broad aspects of Western history and with notable men and events,” presented the opportunity to highlight the city’s “pioneer western scene for the inspiration, education and enjoyment of future generations.” Other reports at the state and municipal level told similar stories and established the justification for Old Sacramento at all levels of government. However ham fisted the end result or the process by which the result was reached turned out to be, the Old Sacramento redevelopment placed Sacramento at the forefront of the historic preservation movement that, though problematic in its own ways, slowed the pace of renewal in ensuing decades.

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Sacramento Southern train in Old Sacramento, a 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park along the Sacramento River in California’s capital city, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As with most renewal projects, minority communities bore the brunt of its sacrifices. Nearly 50 percent of the businesses in the West End were minority-owned and operated. Japantown and Chinatown were wiped away and some 2,000 residents were displaced. Many critics rightly asserted that Old Sacramento’s story failed to capture the district’s true history and ignored the contributions of its inhabitants to Sacramento’s past and present. However, as Smith, Simpson, Prince, and others have pointed out in recent years, residents are not bound to one mythological story. “This generation has the opportunity to re-inscribe onto the site that which was vital to the site’s history, but not important to past planners: the California Indian story and the environmental story,” argues Smith.

Indeed, Sacramento’s stories have only grown more nuanced and complex.  In 2005, 250,000 foreign born persons resided in its suburbs; about 100,000 lived in the city itself. The region had become a “refugee magnet,” Robin Datel and Dennis Dingemans noted in 2008.  Today the local economy continues to attract both “brain … and brawn,” laborers working in agriculture and construction on one hand and tech on the other. The closing of military bases in the late twentieth century led to cheap suburban housing ringing the city.

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Beauty salon, Stockton Boulevard, Sacramento, California, photo by John Margolies, 1980, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

American military interventions in Asia contributed to such complexities. Between 1975 and 1980, 3,000 Vietnamese fleeing communism settled in Sacramento.  Over time, this population grew and established a Little Saigon community along Stockton Boulevard featuring 350 Asian businesses.  While Little Saigon remains the largest and most significant concentration of ethnic businesses, another six miles of Franklin Boulevard and four miles of Main Street house nearly 200 Latino enterprises. Clusters of Korean and Eastern European business dot the city as well; the latter are a manifestation of the migration of Russians and other Slavic refugees due to their religious persecution by Soviet authorities and succeeding regimes.  From 1995 to 2005, Sacramento absorbed 19,000 immigrants from the former USSR, many of whom became evangelical Christians after arriving in the U.S.

Driving along Sacramento’s throughfares and surface streets, it becomes clear that “immigrant businesses along the Sacramento metropolitan area’s older suburban and small town commercial districts have become the norm,” as Datel and Dingemans assert. Ethnic festivals such as the Bengali Festival of Joy, Festival de la Familia, the Pacific Rim Festival, and Hmong New Year attest to the diversity of the city but also the incorporation of new Sacramentans into the urban fold.

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Gift shop at the 2012 California State Fair held in Sacramento, California, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

This, perhaps, is where we leave you. Many of these festivals are held across the city in places associated with “traditional Sacramento,” be it the former state fair grounds now known as Cal Expo, the Sacramento Convention Center, and yes, Old Sacramento. Whatever the faults in Old Sacramento’s establishment, and most agree they are legion, these newer arrivals will inscribe new meaning onto the district. “This area of ‘establishment’ history is now incorporating and being incorporated into the histories and cultures of new Sacramentans, some of whose co-ethnics were part of those earlier storied events,” Datel and Dingemans point out.

Undoubtedly, stories about ourselves and our homes sustain us, but they are not cast in amber or frozen in time. For example, during its first 100 years, Sacramento enacted state laws and policies that protected whites and punished Asians, Latinos, and blacks, yet today, it is seen as a vocal outpost of “The Resistance,” the capital of one of the most racially and ethnically diverse states in America. This too is a story, a difficult one admittedly worth telling.

As always, our bibliography is an attempt to get at the historiography of the city, but in no way do we claim it is comprehensive. If you have additions to recommend, please do, you can get at us via “the twitter” @UrbanHistoryA. Special thanks to Steven Avella, Robin Datel, William Burg, Marcia Eyman, and Dylan McDonald for their help in compiling this bibliography.

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The 10-story Ziggurat, a pyramidal state office building along the Sacramento River, across from downtown Sacramento, California’s capital city, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Sacramento Bibliography 

—–,  The Lower American River, Prehistory to Parkway. Ed. Peter J. Hayes, The American River Natural History Association, 2005.

—–, River City and Valley Life: An Environmental History of the Sacramento Region. Eds. Christopher I. Castaneda and Lee M. A. Simpson, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013.

Avella, Steven M. Sacramento, Indomitable City. Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Avella, Steven M. The Good Life: Sacramento’s Consumer Culture Arcadia Publishing, 2008.

Avella, Steven M. Sacramento and the Catholic Church: Shaping a Capital City. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008. 

Burg, William. Sacramento’s K Street, Where Our City Was Born. The History Press, 2012.

Datel, Robin E. “Central Oak Park Walking Tour.” Sacramento, CA: Center for Sacramento History, 2010.

Datel, Robin and Dennis Dingemans. “Immigrant Space and Place in Suburban Sacramento.” In Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America. Eds. Audrey Singer, Susan W. Hardwick, and Caroline B. Brettell. Washington, D. C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2008, 171-199.

Datel, Robin E. and Dennis J. Dingemans. “Historic Preservation and Social Stability in Sacramento’s Old City.” Urban Geography 15, no. 6 (1994): 565-591.

Didion, Joan. Where I Was From. Vintage International, 2003.

Dingemans, Dennis. “Sacramento’s Redneck Suburb.” Pacifica (newsletter of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers). Spring (1996): 1, 14-19.

Dingemans, Dennis J. and Robin E. Datel. “Urban Multiethnicity.” Geographical Review 85, no. 4 (October 1995): 458-477.

Hallinan, Tim. “River City: Right Here in California?” Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 51 (1989): 49-64.

Hernandez, Jose. “Redlining Revisited: Mortgage Lending Patterns in Sacramento, 1930 – 2004.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33.2 (June 2009): 291-313.

Hurtado, Albert L. John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier. University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.

McGowan, Joseph. History of the Sacramento Valley. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1961.

Sandul, Paul J. P. California Dreaming: Boosterism, Memory, and Rural Suburbs in the Golden State. West Virginia University Press, 2014.

Wildie, Kevin. Sacramento’s Historic Japantown: Legacy of a Lost Neighborhood. Arcadia Publishing, 2013.

Wilde, Amanda G. and James C. Scott. World War One and the Sacramento Valley. Arcadia Publishing, 2016.

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Eagle Theatre in Old Sacramento, a 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park along the Sacramento River in California’s capital city, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Fiction/Film 

Didion, Joan. Run River. Ivan Obolensky, Inc., 1963.

Ladybird. Director Greta Gerwig, 2017.

Replacing the Past: Sacramento’s Redevelopment History.” Director Chris Lango, 2016.

Featured image: Sacramento city, Ca. from the foot of J. Street, showing I., J., & K. Sts. with the Sierra Nevada in the distance, by C. Parsons ; drawn Dec. 20th 1849 by G.V. Coope, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. 

“The Cuyahoga will be the place”: A bibliography for over two centuries of Cleveland

“I believe … the Cuyahoga will be the place,” Moses Cleaveland wrote in July of 1796. Working for the Connecticut Land Company, Cleaveland had arrived in Ohio to survey the land and plot it for settlement. Cleveland, he believed, would be well situated for future success. “It must command the greatest communication either by land or Water of an River on the purchase or in any ceded lands from the head of the Mohawk to the western extent or I am no prophet,” he wrote to his superiors.[1] Others viewed the potential hamlet more problematically. “Cleveland has a Thousand Charms but I am deterred from pitching on that place by the Sickness, the poorness of the Soil, and the inhabitants under the hill,” wrote Gideon Granger in 1804. Needless to say, Granger’s views suggested changes needed to be made.[2]

Transformation occurred. Due in part to the kind of physical alteration of the environment that made its larger counterpart Chicago famous, “the Sickness” that Granger noted was afflicting residents eventually dissipated. Engineers opened new channels that more directly connected to Lake Erie; the Cuyahoga River’s swift current eliminated sandbars that had previously prevented larger ships from accessing the lake. It also eliminated “the miasmic swamps from the mouth,” thereby bringing greater health to inhabitants.[3]

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Cleveland and Toledo Rail-Road 1856, G. F. Thomas & Co., Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

With other transportation improvements such as the completion of the Erie and Ohio Canals and the introduction of the railroad, Cleveland boomed. The city evolved from hamlet to “commercial village and city [to] industrial city, and [to] post industrial city,” as historians Carol Poh Miller and Robert A. Wheeler summarize in their short history of the metropolis. Though it lay it in what was then considered the American West, planners and leaders attempted to construct the city on the model of the New England town.[4] It would not stay that way.

Canal building and railroad construction enabled the city to establish itself as a commercial center; circumstances did not remain static. First the “west” moved; in 1825 Cleveland could lay claim to frontier status, but by 1845 that frontier had moved 1,000 miles further west. Second, demographics shifted. If its population consisted primarily of the native born in 1825, two decades later half of the city’s residents had been born abroad. Third, the disinterested gentlemen politicians of 1825, serving only for the “public good” had, twenty years on, become machine hacks as ”party politics” determined most elections.[5]

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Birds eye view of Cleveland, Ohio 1877, Ruger, A., J.J. Stoner and Shober & Carqueville, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the city had emerged as a regional economic force. Cleveland shed its provincialism and its political and civic leaders engaged in national debate particularly in regards to slavery and abolitionism. Industry soon flourished; its police and fire departments formed in the 1860s. Having emerged as a center of abolitionism, the city threw its support behind Lincoln and, after secession, the Union. European immigrants poured into the city. In its early years the city housed mostly new arrivals from Ireland and German, but with the onset of industrialization it welcomed Italians, Slavics, Greeks, Hungarians and other immigrants. Hoping to escape discrimination in Europe, Jews also arrived in large numbers. Roughly 3,500 resided in Cleveland by 1880, and within 40 years the number climbed to 75,000, making Jews nearly 10% of the overall population.[6] In 1890, 37 percent of its population had been born in Europe, but even more telling, three quarters of the city were either born abroad or the progeny of parents who were immigrants.[7]

Jewish Americans would be critical to the city’s wellbeing in the coming decades particularly as the black population swelled and pressures resulting from segregation and structural racism in the housing market bulged. In moments, Jewish homeowners resisted African American attempts to purchase homes in Cleveland neighborhoods; at other times, they worked to reduce tensions between the two groups as communities slowly integrated. An odd amalgam of self interest, altruism, and fear over alleged declining home values shaped responses. “[I]n Cleveland, ethnic and religious divisions shaped divergent responses and decisions,” historian Todd Michney points out. “Whites of different backgrounds reacted more or less disconcertedly, some departing sooner and others later, with patterns hardly resembling unanimity.”[8] Still, on average, when compared with their Catholic white ethnic counterparts in the city, Jewish Clevelanders demonstrated greater flexibility and understanding in relation to housing integration.

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Bathing beach and pavilion, Gordon Park, 1917, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Admittedly, for much of the nineteenth century, African Americans made up a small percentage of the city’s population. Serving as a guide, navigator, and interpreter, Joseph Hodge (aka Black Joe) had been an important contributor to Moses Cleveland’s initial founding of the future metropolis in 1796, but the state’s Black Laws, which essentially discouraged black settlement in Ohio, and the practice of slavery south of the state’s borders, more generally helped keep these numbers low.[9]

It was not until World War I and the Great Migration that residents would witness an increase in the city’s African American population. With immigration at a standstill, “Cleveland’s industrialists turned to the ready supply of black labor in the South,” historian Russell H. Davis pointed out in 1972. The great flow of labor north brought the quotidian, the remarkable, and everything in between. For example, James Cleveland Owens, named after the city his parents viewed as “the promised land,” arrived in the Ohio metropolis during the 1920s. During his first day of school he took on the name that he would later make famous. Unable to fully understand Owens due to his southern accent, his teacher mistook his nickname of J.C. for Jesse. His teachers “from that day forward, called him Jesse instead. So did everyone else in this new world he was in,” writes Isabel Wilkerson in her Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Warmth of Other Suns.[10]

Jesse Owens needs little introduction, of course , but rather embodies Cleveland as a site of opportunity, both shaping and shaped by new arrivals. The growth of the black population continued through and after World War II. Most settled on the city’s east side which would be “the principle place of residence” for Black Cleveland for much of the twentieth century.[11] Though limited by segregation, as Michney argues in his recently published work, Surrogate Suburbs, Cleveland’s black working and middle classes “dynamically and creatively engaged with space at the urban periphery” and transformed communities into critical centers of black economic, social, and political life.[12] This influence exceeded local neighborhoods, labor, and demographics. In 1967, Carl B. Stokes triumphed in the mayoral contest becoming the first black mayor of a major U.S. metropolis.

World War II drove Cleveland to further economic and demographic heights. In 1950 the city reached nearly 1,000,000 residents with almost 150,000 of that figure accounting for black Clevelanders. Unfortunately, like other rust belt counterparts such as Pittsburgh or Detroit, the fall came soon after. In ensuing decades, the usual story of decline and deindustrialization unfolded, yet its history, while similar to its sister rust belt metropolises, proved unique. As Mark Souther notes in his forthcoming work Believing in Cleveland, it did not “endure collapse as stultifying as that in Detroit”; it lacked the kind of global connections and vastness of the Windy City or the tourist friendly James Rouse revisionist reboot of Charm City. Pittsburgh, perhaps its closest relative, found ways to rebuild successfully upon the dual industries of “eds-and-meds” and cutting edge robotics and medical technology (though Patrick Vitale’s arguments to the contrary are noted).[13] Cleveland, arguably the most understudied of these examples, went its own way.

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Jewish Temple, Cleveland, O[hio], 1900, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
For example, in the area of race relations and housing, though it witnessed its own tensions and occasional violence, it never endured the kind of unrest and bloodshed that defined other cities. Cleveland “did not experience anything remotely approaching the sustained and highly organized violence mounted by white residents in … Chicago and Detroit”, writes Michney.[14] White ethnics in Cleveland, particularly its Jewish residents, might have been uncomfortable with neighborhood transitions, but they never resorted to the kind of brutality that defined the era, and many even tried to work with community groups in order to blunt population changes or enable them to occur more efficiently.

Urban historians have spent decades peeling back the layers of rust belt ascension–decline–ascension narratives. In addition to groundbreaking work like Tom Sugrue’s The Origin of the Urban Crisis which established a new template for discussions of urban America, a newer cohort of scholars like Tracy Neumann, the aforementioned Vitale, Michney, and Souther, Elihu Rubin, Andrew K. Sandoval Strausz, Chloe Taft and others have been reworking the rise-and-fall narratives by intellectually sauntering down previously ignored avenues of exploration. In particular, Michney and Souther seek to place Cleveland, with some exceptions, into this discussion. “Like many cities across the Great Lakes region,” writes Souther, “Cleveland was a city whose leaders faced broad challenges that forced them to manage its decline or, perhaps more accurately, to manage perception of metropolitan transformations that produced spatially differentiated outcomes – winners and losers.”[15]

Even if rise and fall narratives obscure important realities, few would argue that by the 1970s Cleveland could use some improvements. In a fifteen-year period from 1958 to 1973, the city lost 50,000 manufacturing jobs. Schools struggled, neighborhoods faced declining infrastructure, and air pollution soared. While some African Americans found purchase in the suburbs, most remained relegated to struggling communities in the inner city that ultimately served as a “repository for the metropolitan area’s worst socioeconomic hardships,” Souther argued in a recent article.

“The Best Location in the Nation” (1940s), “The Best Things in Life are Here” (1970s), “Comeback City” (1990s), and “Believe in Cleveland” (2000s) serve as only a few taglines among countless others that were meant to sell post-World War II Cleveland to the nation. “New York might be the Big Apple, but Cleveland is a plum,” the Cleveland New Dealer once asserted.[16] Unfortunately, no degree of semantics could alter opinions held by even local residents. “Anyone dumb enough to believe that ‘the best things in life are right here in Cleveland deserves to breathe Cleveland’s air and live in Cleveland’s filth,” wrote one disbelieving Shaker Heights resident. “Cleveland is a rotting corpse clothed in a hazy, blue gray shroud. Cute songs and slogans won’t fix it. You fix a trash heap by cleaning it up. You start with the air and work your way down period.”

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, Carol M. Highsmith, 2010, Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Today, disgruntled Clevelanders of the past aside, it would seem such attempts to renew interest in the metropolis are unnecessary; the city has shed the image of the “mistake on the lake,” when the Cuyahoga River caught fire from pollution. Pop culture overflows with references to the city. The soap opera that is the relationship between Lebron James and the Cavaliers has transfixed the nation for over a decade and arguably boosted the NBA to new heights of popularity. ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “Believeland” laid out the angst of the city’s erstwhile sports fan for all to see; only to be improbably redeemed by James and the Cavaliers the same year. Tina Fey’s Thirty Rock dedicated an entire episode to the city’s undeniable if unexciting pleasantness; the film Trainwreck gently teased it for the same. It even gets a mention on the latest album, Sleep Well Beast, by Ohio’s most famous aging hipster rock band, the National: “Young mothers love me / Even ghosts of girlfriends call from Cleveland / They will meet me anytime, anywhere.”

Whether or not our bibliography for Cleveland fully explains how the city came to its current incarnation remains to be seen. We do hope that it piques interest in a rust belt city that has persevered through two centuries of existence. Beyond trite slogans, 1990s sitcoms (Drew Carey, we are looking at you), or museums dedicated to dying art forms (we kid, Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Millenials love dinosauresque four-piece garage bands … ), the city of “progress and prosperity” soldiers on in ways 1970s resident might never have predicted. Perhaps, Mr. Carey, Cleveland does rock.

As always, we know the list has flaws but hope that readers will use the comments section to help us fill in the blanks. Special thanks to J. Mark Souther (especially herculean in his efforts), Todd Michney, and Nichole Nelson for their help in creating the bibliography.

Photo at top of the page: Dusk-time view of the Cleveland Museum of Art from Wade Lagoon in ClevelandDusk-time view of the Cleveland Museum of Art from Wade Lagoon in Cleveland, Ohio, Carol M. Highsmith, 2016, Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

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Overview, southeast, Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio, Carol M. Highsmith, 2016, Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Books

Campbell, Thomas F., and Edward M. Miggins, eds. The Birth of Modern Cleveland, 1865-
1930
. Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1988.

Cigliano, Jan. Showplace of America: Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue, 1850-1910. Kent, OH: Kent
State University Press, 1991.

Davis, Russell H. Black Americans in Cleveland: From George Peake to Carl B. Stokes, 1796-1969. Cleveland: Associated Publishers, 1972.

Hammack, David C., Diane L. Grabowski, and John J. Grabowski, eds. Identity, Conflict,                and Cooperation: Central Europeans in Cleveland, 1850-1930. Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 2002.

Harwood, Herbert H., Jr. Invisible Giants: The Empires of Cleveland’s Van Sweringen Brothers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

Howe, Frederic C. The Confessions of a Reformer. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press,
1988.

Keating, W. Dennis. The Suburban Racial Dilemma: Housing and Neighborhoods.Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.

Keating, W. Dennis, Norman Krumholz, and David C. Perry, eds. Cleveland: A Metropolitan Reader. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1995.

Kerr, Daniel R. Derelict Paradise: Homelessness and Urban Development in Cleveland, Ohio. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.

Kusmer, Kenneth L. A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930. Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1978.

Michney, Todd M. Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in
Cleveland, 1900-1980.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Miller, Carol Poh, and Robert Wheeler. Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796-1996. 2nd ed.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Moore, Leonard N. Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power. Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 2002.

Pekar, Harvey, and Joseph Remnant. Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland. Scarsdale, NY: Zip Comics,
2012.

Phillips, Kimberley L. AlabamaNorth: African-American Migrants, Community, and Working-Class Activism in Cleveland, 1915-1945. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Souther, J. Mark. Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the
Nation.”
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2017.

Stokes, Carl B. Promises of Power: A Political Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster,
1973.

Stradling, David, and Richard Stradling. Where the River Burned: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Save Cleveland. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015.

Swanstrom, Todd. The Crisis of Growth Politics: Cleveland, Kucinich, and the Challenge of
Urban Populism
. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985.

Tittle, Diana. Rebuilding Cleveland: The Cleveland Foundation and Its Evolving Urban
Strategy
. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992.

Toman, James A., and Blaine S. Hayes. Horse Trails to Regional Rails: The Story of Public
Transit in Greater Cleveland
. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1996.

Vacha, John. Meet Me on Lake Erie, Dearie!: Cleveland’s Great Lakes Exposition, 1936-1937.
Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2010.

Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. Cleveland: A Tradition of Reform. Kent,
OH: Kent State University Press, 1986.

Wiese, Andrew. Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth
Century
. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

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Jimmy Carter at a street rally during a campaign stop in Cleveland, Ohio, Thomas J. O’Halloran, September 1976, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Articles

Borchert, James, and Susan Borchert. Downtown, Uptown, Out of Town: Diverging Patterns of Upper-Class Residential Landscapes in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, 1885-1935. Social Science History 26, no. 2(2002): 311-346.

Jenkins, William D. “Before Downtown: Cleveland, Ohio, and Urban Renewal, 1949-1958.”
Journal of Urban History 27, no. 4 (May 2001): 471-496.

Michney, Todd M. “Race, Violence, and Urban Territoriality: Cleveland’s Little Italy and the 1966 Hough Uprising.” Journal of Urban History 32, no. 3 (March 2006): 404-428.

Michney, “Constrained Communities: Black Cleveland’s Experience with World War II Public Housing,” Journal of Social History 40 (Summer 2007): 933-956

Michney, Todd M. “White Civic Visions Versus Black Suburban Aspirations: Cleveland’s
Garden Valley Urban Renewal Project.” Journal of Planning History 10, no. 4 (November 2011): 282-309.

Souther, J. Mark. “A $35 Million ‘Hole in the Ground’: Metropolitan Fragmentation and
Cleveland’s Unbuilt Downtown Subway.” Journal of Planning History 14, no. 3 (August 2015): 179-203.

Souther, J. Mark. “Acropolis of the Middle-West: Decay, Renewal, and Boosterism in
Cleveland’s University Circle.” Journal of Planning History 10, no. 1 (February 2011): 30-58.

Stradling, David, and Richard Stradling. “Perceptions of the Burning River: Deindustrialization and Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River.” Environmental History 13, no. 3 (July 2008): 515-35.

Tebeau, Mark. “Sculpted Landscapes: Art & Place in Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens, 1916-
2006.” Journal of Social History 44, no. 2 (winter 2010): 327-50.

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Cleveland, Ohio, aerial view, Thomas J. O’Halloran, September 1965, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Online Resources

Cleveland Historical. https://clevelandhistorical.org. A website and mobile app that puts
Cleveland history at your fingertips. Developed by the Center for Public History +
Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University.

Cleveland Memory Project. http://clevelandmemory.org. An online collection of digital photos, historical texts, oral histories, videos, and other local history resources. Developed by the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University.

Cleveland Voices. https://clevelandvoices.org. An online streaming-audio collection of
approximately 1,000 interviews conducted since 2002 as part of the Cleveland Regional
Oral History Collection, a project of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
at Cleveland State University.

 Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. http://ech.case.edu. Originally published in 1987 by Indiana University Press and now online, the ECH is edited by Case Western Reserve University historian John J. Grabowski, contains more than 3,000 entries about all aspects of Cleveland history.

 

[1] Carol Poh Miller and Robert A. Wheeler, Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796 – 1996, (Indiana University Press, 1997), 9.

[2] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 17.

[3] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 33.

[4] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 32-34, xiv.

[5] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 31.

[6] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 102-103.

[7] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 82-83.

[8] Todd Michney, Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980, (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 10.

[9] Russell H. Davis, Black Americans in Cleveland: From George Peake to Carl B. Stokes, 1796-1969, (Associated Publishers, 1972), 5.

[10] Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, (Random House, 2010) 265-266.

[11] Russell H. Davis, Black Americans in Cleveland: From George Peake to Carl B. Stokes, 1796-1969, (Associated Publishers, 1972), 127-128.

[12] Todd Michney, Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980, (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 3.

[13] J. Mark Souther, Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in ‘The Best Location in the Nation’, (Temple University Press, 2017), 4.

[14] Michney, Surrogate Suburbs, 9.

[15] Souther, Believing in Cleveland, 11.

[16] Souther, Believing in Cleveland, 2.

All Roads Lead to the DF: A Modest Bibliography of Mexico City

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[Map of Mexico City Region], G.T. Beauregard, 1847, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress
“The city has become a monster, an urban disaster, a planner’s nightmare,” wrote Ruben Gallo.[1] “Glorious Mexico City, once known as the city of palaces, is now gasping for breath in a sea of people, poverty, and pollution,” Diane Davis bemoaned in the opening to her deeply influential history of the city, Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century.[2] Indeed, over the course of the twentieth century, countless scholars offered similar assessments of the Mexican capital; Octavio Paz assailed Mexico’s leaders for their technocratic modernizing efforts which failed to solve the overcrowding and rampant expansion that had “converted Mexico City into a monstrous inflated head, crushing the frail body that holds it up.”

For some, even revisiting the city’s establishment and place at the center of the Aztec empire provoked deep ambivalence. Jorge Ibargüengoitia characterized the city’s founding as a mistake, only “one of the most belligerent tribes in history” would think to build a city “in the middle of the lake,” he opined. Once the lake “dried up” and the surrounding tribes and Aztecs came into close proximity, local hostilities abated. “What remained was mud, unstable ground, and dust clouds. So our first conclusion can be that the city is here because it was put here, although there’s no good reason for its continued presence on this spot.”[3]

“And yet not everything in Mexico City is all that bad,” Gallo later admitted. The city’s history as the magnet of MesoAmerican Empire in the pre-Columbian period, a colonial metropole, and later a capital of Latin America—culturally, economically, and politically—undoubtedly bestows upon Distrito Federal no small measure of gravitas. The DF can claim “influential publishing houses”, “a booming film industry, a lively music scene”, “spectacular museums … And above all it is one of the most vibrant urban spaces in the world.” Gallo paraphrases Juan Villoro, “we have fallen in love with the bearded lady.”[4] It might be a mess, but no other city matches its chaotic charm.

Consider its centuries of importance; an echo over the North American landscape that shaped not only policy in Latin America and Mexico, but brought dollars, culture, and politics to the Yankees up North. The city witnessed Aztec conquest, the unimaginable wealth and exploitation of Colonial Spain, the dizzying liberation of independence, the struggle of revolution, and the burgeoning modernism of the 20th century. Trotsky, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo called it home for periods; the Menshevik communist famously died at the hand of Stalinist assassin in the DF.

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[Communist youth, Mexico City 1929], Tina Modotti, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Anyone who has ever visited the city marvels at the architecture, a compelling mash up of colonial, modernist, and post-modernist styles. Its people hail from across the Americas, Europe, and even on occasion Asia; indigenous faces and culture are sewn into is fabric. Like many cities, the DF struggles with inequality, poverty, and corruption, but to focus only on its problems misses the point.

As with every Metropolis of the Month, The Metropole has compiled a bibliography for anyone interested in reading more about the history of Mexico City. Our list leans heavily toward the modern and the English language, a weakness that can undoubtedly be ascribed to our own specialization in the twentieth century history and our sadly inadequate language skills. As always, we hope readers can improve upon our start here by providing further suggestions in the comments.

Over the course of May, several scholars will publish posts with The Metropole on various aspects of the city’s history. First up will be Columbia University’s Pablo Piccato, who provides some perspective on crime and justice in the DF while also giving readers a taste of his new work, A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico. Several other posts will follow including travelogues by non-specialists such as Georgia State Professor and Tropics of Meta Senior Editor, Alex Sayf Cummings on his 2016 visit to the city.

Thanks to Matthew Vitz, Michael Lettieri, Jorge Nicolás Leal, Megan C. Strom, James Shrader, Sharon Glasco, and Toni Loftin Salazar for their help with the bibliography.

 

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[Cargo of Vegetables, Viga Canal, City of Mexico], Keystone Viewing Company, circa 1900, Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress
General

John Kandell, LA Capital: The Biography of Mexico City, (New York: Random House, 1988) – L.A. Times review

Eds. Linda A. Newson and John King, Mexico City Through History and Culture, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) – H-Net review

Travelogue

 David Lida, First Stop in the New World: Mexico City and the Capital of the 21st Century, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008) – NYT review

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[The Aztec Calendar Stone, located at the base of the bell tower of the Cathedral, Mexico City, Mexico], William Henry Jackson, before 1885, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Pre-Columbian Era

Edward E. Calnek, “Patterns of Empire Formation in the Valley of Mexico, Late Post Classical Period 1200-1521”, in Inca and Aztec States, 1400-1800: Anthropology and History, Eds. George A. Collier, Renato I. Rosaldo, John D. Wirth, (New York: Academic Press, 1982), 43-62.

Christopher P. Garraty, “Aztec TeotihuacaÌn: Political Processes at a Postclassic and Early Colonial City-State in the Basin of Mexico,” Latin America Antiquity 17.4 (December 2006): 363-387.

Inga Clendinnen, Aztecs: An Interpretation, (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Barbara E. Mundy, The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015) – CAA review

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[Tomb of President Benito Juarez, Mexico City – covered with wreathes from the Mexican states], Underwood and Underwood, circa 1901, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Eighteenth – Nineteenth Century

Anna Rose Alexander, City on Fire: Technology, Social Change and the Hazards of Progress in Mexico City, 1860 – 1910, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016)

Claudia Agostoni, Monuments of Progress: Modernization and Public Health in Mexico City, 1876-1910, (Mexico City: UNAM, 2003) – Bulletin of the History of Modern Medicine review (via project muse)

Linda Arnold, Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats in Mexico City, 1742-1835, (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1988)

Silvia Maria Arrom, Containing the Poor: The Mexico City Poor House, 1774 – 1871, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000) – Social History review (via Jstor)

Jurgen Buchenau, Tools of Progress: A German Merchant Family in Mexico City, 1865 – Present, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004) – EH.net review

Vera S. Candiani, Dreaming of Dry Land: Environmental Transformation in Colonial Mexico City, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2014) – H-Net review

Donald B. Cooper, Epidemic Disease in Colonial Mexico City, 1761-1813: An Administrative, Social, and Medical Study, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014)

R. Douglas Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994) – Scholar Commons University of South Carolina review

Linda A. Curcio, The Great Festivals of Colonial Mexico City: Performing Power and Identity (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004) – Journal of Social History review

M.E. Francois, A Culture of Everyday Credit: Housekeeping, Pawnbroking, and Governance in Mexico City, 1750 – 1920, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007) – AHR review

Sharon Glasco, Constructing Mexico City: Colonial Conflicts Over Culture, Space, and Authority, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) – H-Net review

Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Crime and Punishment in Late Colonial Mexico City, 1692-1810, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999) – The Americas review (via project muse)

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[Seller of Water Bottles, Mexico City, Mexico], circa 1910-1915, George Grantham Bain Collection, Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress
Twentieth Century

Katherine Elaine Bliss, Compromised Positions: Prostitution, Public Health, and Gender Politics in Revolutionary Mexico City, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001) – Hispanic American Historical Review (via project muse)

Ann Shelby Blum, Domestic Economies: Family, Work, and Welfare in Mexico City, 1884-1943, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009) – H-Net review

Luis Castañeda, Spectacular Mexico: Design, Propaganda, and the 1968 Olympics, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014) – H-War review

Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez, Mexico City between Geometry and Geography, (Brooklyn: Applied Research and Design Publishing, 2015) – Archdaily review

John C. Cross, Informal Politics: Street Vendors and the State in Mexico City, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998) – H-Urban review

Diane E. Davis, Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994) – Review by SDSU’s Lawrence Herzog (though the review is incorrectly linked on his page)

George F. Flaherty, Hotel Mexico: Dwelling on the ‘68 Movement, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2016)

David William Foster, Mexico City in Contemporary Mexican Cinema, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002) – Review Arizona Journal of Hispanic Studies via project Muse

Ed. Ruben Gallo The Mexico City Reader, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004)

Mathew C. Guttman, The Romance of Democracy: Compliance and Defiance in Contemporary Mexico, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) –

San Diego History Center review

Matthew C. Gutmann, The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City, (University of California Press, 1996, 2006) – H-Net review

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[Mexico City, Mexico – National Palace], circa 1910-1915, George Grantham Bain Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Daniel Hernandez, Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty First Century, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011) – Kirkus review

Michael Johns, The City of Mexico in the Age of Díaz(Austin: University of Texas, 1997) – H-Net review

John Lear, Workers, Neighbors, and Citizens: The Revolution in Mexico City, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001) – Hispanic American Historical Review (project muse)

Larissa Lomnitz, Networks and Marginality: Life in a Mexican Shantytown, (New York: Academic Press, 1977)

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[Mexico City, Mexico – Soldier Guarding Palace], February 10, 1913, George Grantham Bain Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Carol McMichael Reese, “The Urban Development of Mexico City” in Planning Latin American Capital Cities, 1850-1950, edited by Arturo Almondoz Marte, 139-169. London: Routledge, 2002.

Julio Moreno, Yankee Don’t Go Home! Mexican Nationalism, American Business Culture and the Shaping of Modern Mexico, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003) – EH.net and H-LatAm review

Patrice Olsen, Artifacts of Revolution: Architecture, Society and Politics in Mexico City, 1920-1940, (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008) – Review by University of Tulsa’s Andrew Grant Wood

Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings, (Mexico City: Grove Press, 1950)

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[Teatro National under construction], circa 1920, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Kathryn E. O’Rourke, Modern Architecture in Mexico City: History, Representation and the Shaping of the Capital, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017)

Jaime M. Pensado, Rebel Mexico: Student Unrest and Authoritarian Political Culture During the Long Sixties, (Stanford: Stanford University, 2014) – Journal of Latin American Studies review

Keith Pezzoli, Human Settlements and Planning for Ecological Sustainability: The Case of Mexico City, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998) – Review by UCSD’s Mark Spalding

Pablo Piccato, A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2017)

Pablo Piccato, City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001) – Review by Professor Carlos Aguirre (University of Oregon)

Jeffery Pilcher, The Sausage Rebellion: Public Health, Private Enterprise, and Meat in Mexico City, 1890-1917, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico press, 2006) – Latino America blog and AHR review

Elena Poniatowska, Massacre in Mexico, (Missoula: University of Missouri Press, 1975). – short review at blogcritics.org

Ageeth Sluis, Deco Body, Deco City: Female Spectacle and Modernity in Mexico City, 1900-1930, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2016)

Tovar de Teresa, The City of Palaces: Chronicles of a Lost Heritage, (Mexico: Vuelta, 1990)

Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012) – AHR review

Germán Vergara, 2015,“Fueling Change: The Valley of Mexico and the Quest for Energy,” 1850-1930.” Ph.D. diss., UC-Berkeley.

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[Making cigarettes in the great factory, “El Buen Tono”, Mexico city Mexico], Underwood and Underwood, circa 1903, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Matthew Vitz, ““To Save the Forests”: Power, Narrative, and Environment in Mexico City’s Cooking Fuel Transition,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos. Vol. 31, No. 1 (Winter 2015): 125-155.

Matthew Vitz, “’The Lands with Which We Shall Struggle’: Land Reclamation, Revolution, and Redevelopment in Mexico’s Lake Texcoco, 1910-1950,” Hispanic American Historical Review, 97.1 (February 2017).

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[Visiting Soviet delegation with international communists, Mexico City, Mexico], Toni Modetti, circa 1927, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Notable works of fiction on Mexico City

Jessica Abel, La Perdida, (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006) – Kirkus review.

Robert Bolano, The Savage Detectives, (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007) – Slate and NYT review (note the book was originally published in Spanish in 1998 but not in English until 2007)

Carlos Fuentes, Where the Air is Clear, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1958).

Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo II, The Uncomfortable Dead, (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2006) – Guardian and NYT review (hint one liked it much more than the other)

Michael Nava, The City of Palaces: A Novel, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014) – LaBloga review

Juan Pablo Villalobos, I’ll Sell You a Dog, (High Wycombe, England: And Other Stories Publishing, 2016) – NPR review

[1] Ruben Gallo, “Introduction”, The Mexico City Reader, Ed. Ruben Gallo, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), 5.

[2] Diane Davis, Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 1.

[3] Jorge Ibarguengoitia, “Call the Doctor” in The Mexico City Reader, Ed. Ruben Gallo, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), 196.

[4] Gallo, The Mexico City Reader, 5-6.

A Big Easy Bibliography

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New Orleans, Louisiana“, Henry Lewis, 1857, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“It has been said that, in any New Orleans bar, the three subjects most likely to be discussed are the status of the seafood in season at the time, politics and sports – all with equal fervor,” notes the introduction to the 1983 reissue of The W.P.A. Guide to New Orleans. In the original guide, Harry L. Hopkins, the head administrator of the W.P.A. noted that the challenges of using and controlling the Mississippi River had “resulted in brilliant feats of commerce, engineering, sanitation and medical research.” Rost. S. Maestri, the Mayor of New Orleans, called the guide “the first major accomplishment of the Federal Writers’ Project of Louisiana” and described it as “more than a conventional guidebook” but rather an attempt to capture the “the history and heritage” of the city. The three perspectives underscore the intersection of environment, culture, and history that have made New Orleans a transnational American treasure.

Here at The Metropole, we harbor no grand ambition to reshape your understanding of the city, but as part of our monthly series have chosen arguably the nation’s most unique urban metropolis as our first focus. Admittedly, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) conference might have drawn our attention to “the Big Easy.” With that in mind, I’ll make a soft plug here for Craig Colten’s piece that The Metropole will publish tomorrow. Colten, the author of several works including Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature (listed below) will be speaking at the UHA’s OAH luncheon on Saturday, April 8. The subject of Colten’s talk is one he’s explored widely in books like Unnatural Metropolis: Exporting Risk: New Orleans, Commerce, and Flood Water Diversion.

To the chagrin of the aforementioned denizens of New Orleans drinking establishments, we’ve not covered sports or culinary history, but have included plenty of politics (minus the Kingfish Huey Long), culture, geography, and of course, sex.

Regarding matters of the flesh for which the city has drawn equal parts renown, condemnation, and approbation, it would seem that from its birth writers depicted New Orleans “as a dark, primitive, an abandoned place, governed by immoral pleasures than by rationality or law,” as Shannon Dawdy noted in her 2008 work, Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans. Then again, according to Herbert Asbury Americans brought the city’s famed licentiousness to its peak: “it was under the rule of the United States that New Orleans embarked upon its golden age of glamour and spectacular wickedness.” As Dawdy, Jennifer Spear, Emily Epstein Landau and others have demonstrated, sex in New Orleans meant more than sinful pleasure; rather it was intertwined in politics, economics, and culture. Such examples tells us that complexity beats at the heart of the Big Easy.

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Arcade of Crescent and Tulane Theaters, New Orleans, Louisiana“, 1906, Prints and Photographs Division, Manuscript Division

Every month, we will bring you a curated bibliography or historiography in the hopes of piquing further exploration into the world’s cities and helping those who might be embarking on research in the area a means to get their proverbial feet wet. With that in mind, a very good starting point is the Journal of American History’s December 2007 special issue, “Through the Eyes of Katrina”. The issue features over 20 essays by prominent scholars in the field, many of which appear in the bibliography below.

Our list is by no means comprehensive and undoubtedly we’ve probably missed more than a few landmark works. Later this month we will post a roundup of New Orleans-related articles from the Journal of Urban History. We hope that readers will add those books and articles that have eluded us in the comments and/or on twitter (@UrbanHistoryA). Also, we’ll be putting out calls for future bibliography lists on social media and welcome your suggestions. For example, Mexico City is the Metropolis of the Month for May, Seattle for June, and Honolulu for July, so please do forward us book/article recommendations at our twitter account or via email at uhacommunicationsteam@gmail.com.

Special thanks to Brenda Santos, Steve Peraza, Stephen K. Prince, Emily Epstein Landau, and Andy Horowitz for their invaluable help with compiling the list. In addition, the New Orleans Research Collaborative has some outstanding bibliographies (circa 2012) as well. Finally, the Historic New Orleans Collection has several digitized collections available to researchers online.

New Orleans Bibliography

 

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Group of workers in Lane Cotton Mill, New Orleans, showing the youngest workers and typical of conditions in New Orleans“, Lewis Hines photographer, November 1913, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Labor History

Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863 – 1923, (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994) – Louisiana History review (via jstor)

Thomas Adams and Steve Striffler, ed. Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans, (Lafayette, LA: University of Louisiana Press, 2014)

Travel

Federal Writers Project, The W.P.A. Guide to New Orleans, (New York: Pantheon, 1983) (Originally published in 1938)

Cultural History

Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, (NY: Columbia University Press, 1996) – Theatre Journal review (via project muse)

Ned Sublette, The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square, (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2008) – NYT review

 

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Architect’s Drawing, New Orleans Custom House, 1857, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Caryn C. Bell, Revolutions, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718-1800, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997) – The Journal of Interdisciplinary History review (via Jstor)

James B. Bennett, Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton, 2005) – Journal of American History review

John W. Blassingame, Black New Orleans, 1860-1880, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973) – Journal of Negro History review (via Jstor)

Richard Campanella, Bienville’s Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans, (Lafayette, LA: University of Louisiana Press, 2008) – Places Journal review

Emily Clark, The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World, (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013) – H-Net review

Gilbert C. Din and John E. Harkins, The New Orleans Cabildo: Colonial Louisiana’s First City Government, 1769-1803, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996) – H-Urban review and H-LatAm review

Shannon Lee Dawdy, Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).– Journal of Interdisciplinary History review (via project muse)

James Gill, Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans, (Oxford, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 1997) – H-Pol review

Virginia Meacham Gould, “A Chaos of Iniquity and Discord”: Slave and Free Women of Color in the Spanish Ports of New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola,” in Catherine Clinton and Michelle Gillespie, eds., The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997): 232-246

Kimberly S. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769-1803, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997) – H-Net review

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Went Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

James G. Hollandsworth, An Absolute Massacre: The New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2001) – H-South review

James K. Hogue, Uncivil War: Five New Orleans Street Battles and the Rise and Fall of Radical Reconstruction, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana Street University, 2011) – H-Net review

Thomas N. Ingersoll, “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans, 1718-1807”, Law and History Review 13, no. 1 (1995): 23-62.

Thomas N. Ingersoll, “Free Blacks in a Slave Society: New Orleans, 1718-1812”, William and Mary Quarterly, 48, 2 (1991): 173-200.

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The plantation police or home-guard examining Negro passes on the levee road below New Orleans“, Frederic B. Shell artist, 1863, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Thomas N. Ingersoll, Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans: The First Slave Society in the Deep South, 1718-1819, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999) – H-Net review

Rashauna Johnson, Slavery’s Metropolis: Unfree Labor in New Orleans During the Age of Revolutions, (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2016) – Johnson on Slavery’s Metropolis and the Blues at AAIHS

Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001) – H-Net review

Grace King, Creole Families of New Orleans, Baton Rouge: Claitor’s Publishing, 1971.

Justin A. Nystrom, New Orleans After the Civil War: Race, Politics, and the New Birth of Freedom, (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 2010) – H-Net review

Lawrence Powell, The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012) – Southern Spaces review

Vernon Palmer, “The Origins and Authors of the Code Noir,” Louisiana Law Review 56 (1995): 363-407.

Daniel Rasmussen, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, (New York: HarperCollins, 2011) – NYT review and WAPO review

Mike Ross, “Justice Miller’s Civil War: The Slaughter-House Cases, Health Codes, and Civil Rights in New Orleans, 1863-1873”, Journal of Southern History, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Nov., 1998): 649-676

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Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa, slaves from New Orleans“,  Chas Paxon photographer, circa 1864, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa, slaves from New Orleans / Chas. Paxson, photographer, New York

Michael Ross, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) – NYT review

Judith K.Schafer, Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, 1846-1862, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003) – H-Law review

Judith K. Schafer, Slavery, Civil Law, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1997) – Journal of Louisiana History review (via Jstor)

Jennifer Spear, “They Need Wives”: Metissage and the Regulation of Sexuality in French Louisiana, 1699-1730, in Martha Hodes, ed., Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History, (New York: New York University Press, 1999): 35-59

Jennifer Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 2009) – Journal of American History review

Shirley Elizabeth Thompson, Exiles at Home: The Struggle to become American in Creole New Orleans (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009) – AHR review

Christina Vella, Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1997) – NYT review

Cecile Vidal, ed., Louisiana: Crossroads of the Atlantic World, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) – Southern Spaces review

Minter Wood, “Life in New Orleans in the Spanish Period.” Louisiana Historical Quarterly XXII (1939): 642-709.

Environmental History

Craig E. Colten, Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature, (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2005) – Journal of Social History review

Ari Kelman, A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) – AHR review

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Night Scene showing hotel lit up for Mardi Gras, with seats on platform in front, New Orleans, Louisiana“, circa 1903, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Twentieth Century

Herbert Asbury, The French Quarter: An Informal History of New Orleans Underworld, (New York: Basic Books, 2003) – originally published in 1936

Bruce Baker and Barbara Hahn, The Cotton Kings: Capitalism and Corruption in Turn of the Century New Orleans, (NY: Oxford University Press, 2015) – AHR review

John Barry, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997) – NYT review

 

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Scene in New Orleans, Louisiana. Street Tailor“, Ben Shan photographer, October 1935, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Emily Epstein Landau, Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2013) – AHR Review

Kent Germany, New Orleans After the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship and the Great Society, (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2007) – AHR review

Kevin Fox Gotham, Authentic New Orleans: Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy, (NY: New York University Press, 2007) – ResearchGate review

William Ivy Hair, Carnival of Fury: Robert Charles and the New Orleans Race Riot of 1900, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976) –Videri review

Gary Krist, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz and Modern and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, (New York: Broadway Books, 2014) – NYT and WAPO review

Alecia P. Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Race, Sex and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865 – 1920, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2005) – H-Net review

Peirce F. Lewis, New Orleans: The Making of an Urban Landscape, (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1976) – University of Chicago Press Journals review

Keith Medley, We as Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson, The Fight Against Legal Segregation, (Gretna, LA: Publican Publishing, 2012)

Reid Mitchell, All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of the New Orleans Carnival, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999)

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Street Scene, New Orleans, Louisiana“, Ben Shan photographer, October 1935, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, (NY: Columbia University Press, 1996) – Theatre Journal review (via project muse)

Kim Lacy Rogers. Righteous Lives: Narratives of the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement, (New York: New York University Press, 1994) – Oral History Review review

Anthony Stanonis, Creating the Big Easy: New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918 – 1945, (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011) – H-net Travel review

J. Mark Souther, New Orleans on Parade: Tourism and the Transformation of the Crescent City,(Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2006) – AHR review

Lynne L. Thomas, Disaster and Desire in New Orleans: Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014) – BAAS review

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In the Midst of Levee, Life, and Cotton Traffic, New Orleans, LA“, Standard Scenic Company, 1907, Prints and Photographs Division

Geography/Cartography

Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedecker, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013) – Chicago Tribune review / New Orleans Review

Richard Campanella, Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before the Storm, (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2006)

Edited Volume – General

Arnold R. Hirsch, ed., Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992) – JAH review

Popular Culture (a very limited list)

“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

“The Big Easy” (1987)

“When the Levees Broke” – Spike Lee documentary (2006)

“Trouble the Water” – documentary (2008)

“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” (2009)

Treme – HBO series (four seasons; 2010-2013)