[UCP Books]: City Water, City Life: Water and the Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago

“A fascinating history of the ideas about nature, health, citizenship, and time that informed the construction of some of America’s earliest and greatest water systems.”

Michael Rawson, author of Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston


“What sets this book apart from other Burnham histories is Carl Smith’s attention to the filthy, miserable, nineteenth-century city that repelled and motivated Burnham.”

Chicago Tribune on The Plan of Chicago, chosen for One Book, One Chicago

 City Water, City Life

Water and the Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago
by Carl Smith 
 

Publication date: 15 May 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0-226-02251-2
International publication date: 27 May 2013 Cloth $35.00/£24.50

 

 
A city’s infrastructure is more than just concrete, steel, and grids. Underlying the physical foundations of a city are the ideas and ideals of its planners and developers. Looking specifically at Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, Carl Smith reveals in City Water, City Life that how a city manages its water systems—provides access to, maintains, and safeguards—speaks volumes about how a city views its citizens and their rights. Questions of democracy, public health, and environmental conservation are intrinsically bound up with the structural realities of urban development.
 
Smith explores this concept through an insightful examination of the development of the first successful waterworks systems in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago between the 1790s and the 1860s, when the United States began its rapid transformation from rural to urban. An examination of a broad range of verbal and visual sources shows how the discussion, design, and use of waterworks was framed by conceptions of urban democracy, the natural and the built environment, individual health, and the overall well-being of society. As city planners debated matters of thirst, finance, and health, they also negotiated abstract questions of secular and sacred, real and ideal, immanent and transcendent, practical and moral. By examining the place of water in the nineteenth-century consciousness, Smith illuminates how city dwellers perceived themselves during the great age of American urbanization. 
 
Carl Smith is the Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and professor of history at Northwestern University. His books include The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City. He is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or cadams@press.uchicago.edu

 

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