The rise and fall of frontier urbanization in the American Midwest: Galena, Illinois, 1820--1870

Patrick Allan Pospisek, Purdue University


This dissertation explores the rise and fall of the Upper Mississippi River Valley boomtown Galena, Illinois. Initially founded and nurtured by a mineral rush in lead during the 1820s and 1830s, Galena grew into the most important port on the Mississippi north of St. Louis. As the lead industry declined and railroad traffic supplanted the river's steamboats in the 1850s and 1860s, Galena surrendered its prominence to other Mississippi River cities and entered into a prolonged downward spiral. This dissertation highlights the role of the federal government in creating places like Galena as well as the significance of Indian removal to enabling them to grow from frontier outposts to American cities. This dissertation further uncovers the town's stumbling towards self-government and examines the choices made to maintain a river-based economy as the transportation revolution shifted the region's focus to a growing network of railroads. As a byproduct of the city's economic decline in the late nineteenth century, Galena maintains a rich stock of mid-nineteenth century buildings well into the twenty-first century. This dissertation therefore attempts to understand Galena's development as an urban place in conjunction with the non-textual evidence of its present-day built environment.^




John L. Larson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

History, United States

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server