The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979 Page: 339
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owed much more to their eastern counterparts than to the challenge of
the western environment" (p. 2). Larsen's basic source is the census
bureau's Report on the Social Statistics of Cities, 188o. Other census
publications and a wide variety of secondary sources provide ample
supporting evidence, and there is no doubt that his conclusion is ac-
curate. In demography, society, economics, city planning, sanitation,
health, public safety, public transportation, and other fields he demon-
strates that "little was unique or new about the young cities of the
West" (p. xi).
The problem with the book is that the author never shows that any-
one ever thought otherwise. His straw man is that people expected
western cities to be different: "A West in which the cities would look and
function the same as those in the East appeared an unlikely possibility"
(p. 2). To whom? To Turner? Surely he did not expect anyone to apply
his frontier thesis to Kansas City, San Francisco, or Denver in 188o. To
historians? Richard Wade had already demonstrated a similar thesis for
midwestern cities which spearheaded settlement and emulated the East.
To readers and viewers of the "dime novels of the nineteenth century
and the horse operas of the twentieth" (p. 2), Larsen notes that none of
the twenty-four cities had "classic 'OK Corral' or 'High Noon' shoot-
outs" (p. 89); but he neglects to point out that those archetypical western
movies were not supposed to have taken place in any of his cities. The
myths he debunks were set in the early days of Dodge City, Tombstone,
El Paso, or Laramie, not in Galveston, Omaha, or Oakland. The book
is full of convincing quotations, examples, and statistics to tear apart his
straw man, but not once does he quote authority or cite relevant exam-
ple to set it up. Actually in much western lore the cities are portrayed
precisely as Larsen says they should be-as slices of the East. In the
musical "Oklahoma" both cowman and farmer understood that "every-
thing is up to date in Kansas City" and that the place had already "gone
about as far as they can go." The "unsinkable" Molly Brown went to
Denver to escape the frontier roughness of the mining districts, and
tourists passing through her restored home on Capitol Hill in Denver
see trappings of a very urbane life. The only movie this reviewer recalls
in which the cities of northeast Kansas were featured starred both Roy
Rogers and John Wayne as respectable townsfolk facing Quantrill's
raiders not rustlers.
In fact, all but one (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1867) of the twenty-four cities
analyzed were established before the Civil War. Three (San Antonio,
San Jose, and Los Angeles) were even founded in the eighteenth century.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979, periodical, 1978/1979; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/m1/391/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.