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Essay on American Metropolitan Evolution

4 pages
937 words
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
Course work
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The article American Metropolitan Evolution by John R. Borchert was published by the American Geographical Society. The article talks about the development of metropolises and their evolution between the 1800's to the 1960's. The evolution of the metropolises is widely recognized. Facts are contained in several studies concerning certain cities and legacies that have contributed to the physical plant. A structured history of a metropolis that would aid in bringing a sense of order to the forces that create the landscape of the metropolis has not emerged. In the meantime, upcoming populations are estimated whereby even clearance that is more massive and by extension redevelopment continue in the older central regions of metropolitan areas without an entirely developed theory of growth. Therefore, I believe that variances in their growth were mainly responsive to the size of the hinterland and the technology used in transport to processing industries. The milestones in innovations since 1790 had a huge impact on the development of metropolises.

I have learned that the steam engine was the first innovation in land and water transport. Rail mileage was initially developed in 1929. On the other hand, the development of the first steamboats happened in the early 1930s. I feel that introducing the steam engine created transportation passageways that led to the growth of the hinterlands bordering the ports. Due to these innovations, there was the creation of a nationwide transport system, which integrated waterways and rail webs. These major occurrences led to the development of ports, which had relatively extensive harbors and closeness to vital resources. Concurrently, however, they led to the demise of smaller ports, which were near them. Steam engines were also used in manufacturing. However, I find that their impact was not widespread due to the impractical nature of the extensive hauls of coal with the relatively light gear and the iron rails of that time. Consequently, waterpower locations went on to influence the location of industries. Even during the 1870s, waterwheels remained the sole providers for nearly half of the energy used in manufacturing. Development of the railroads made transportation of coal cheap, which in turn led to the universal use of coal in cotton mills. I believe this goes a long way to prove that the introduction of the steam engines set a major foundation for the development of technology, which has led to the growth of major urban areas.

Another major innovation was the steel rail. I have seen that it was facilitated mainly by the abundance of steel, which was very low-priced. Steel products from America started penetrating the world in the 1870s. America had begun her commercial production of steel in the previous decade. I think that this industrial milestone contributed greatly to the development of early industries because the cheap steel rails made transport much faster and cheaper. The availability of steel contributed to a widening of the railway network. Rails made of steel started being used in place of the iron rails. They were replaced on both the new and old lines. The locomotives made of steel were heavier and stronger thus, they allowed greater speed in transportation. There was also standardization of parts of the freight car to make interline exchange and shipment of goods between coasts possible. Furthermore, the introduction of refrigerated cars gave way to the era of specialization of agricultural practices. I have learned that these developments also led to negative ramifications on other fronts. Passenger movement and cargo traffic through inland waterways reduced significantly. Therefore, as much as the developments in transportation led to the creation of more industries, the collateral damage on other transport businesses may have caused people jobs and there means of livelihoods. Nevertheless, it was a necessary evil.

The 1890s marked the arrival of the combustion engine. However, there was no significant registration of motor vehicles until 1910. Automobiles led to the necessity of road surfacing without which their operation would have been close to impossible. Consequently, growth in the number of automobiles necessitated the introduction of national coordination of highways. The combustion engine made it possible to have tractors. Tractors made it possible to increase the area of land under farming multiple times. It led to a revolution whereby large pieces of land were owned as family units, and agriculture became mechanized. Mechanization led to the growth of these areas leading to their development into urban centers. The combustion engine led to a positive impact on the cities near oil fields but a negative impact on the cities near major railway centers. People shifted from using railroads and started looking for road transportation mechanism especially for human traffic. Cargo was presumed to be bulky hence, its transportation was still mainly by rail. I have noticed that places, which were picking points for transportation through the combustion engine, and areas where it was possible to use tractors in agriculture became urban centers because of the concentration of people in such areas.

Overall, I believe the milestones in innovations since the 1790s contributed greatly to the development of metropolises. The areas where technological advancement in transport was experienced grew rapidly because many industries based their operations in such places. In effect, the people who worked in such industries established settlements in those areas leading to their growth. One advancement in transport often led to a negative impact on other transport means. The steel rail influenced negatively on the steam engine while the combustion engine created negative ramifications on the steel rail. Metropolises developed in areas that were favored by the transport. Therefore, advancement in the technology used in transportation is always a major factor in the development of metropolises.

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