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Steam CityRailroads, Urban Space, and Corporate Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Baltimore$
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David Schley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226720258

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226720395.001.0001

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The Urban Origins of the American Railroad

The Urban Origins of the American Railroad

(p.11) 1 The Urban Origins of the American Railroad
Steam City
David Schley
University of Chicago Press

This chapter reconstructs the economic visions that animated popular enthusiasm for and public investment in the railroad in the early republic. The decision by citizens of Baltimore to launch the first long-distance rail line in the United States sparked a wide-ranging conversation about how railroad technology would work and whose interests it would serve. The B&O’s founders portrayed the railroad as an instrument of urban development, arguing that it would make Baltimore the principal eastern entrepôt for the trade of the American West. Baltimore’s mercantile community, press, and city government embraced this vision and characterized the railroad as a public project, one that had a pressing claim to municipal and state funds.

Keywords:   railroads, corporations, early republic, slavery, capitalism, economic geography, public finance, municipal government

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