American West and History

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Uniting Mountain and Plain: Cities, Law, and Environmental Change along the Front Range

Kathleen A. Brosnan

Tracing the birth of Denver and its sister cities Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Uniting Mountain and Plain recounts an important chapter in the transformation of the United States from a nation of traditional agricultural communities to a modern, urban, industrial society.

Standing at the intersection of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, Denver shaped the regional economy that grew out of the discovery of gold in 1858. As Denver grew, Colorado Springs and Pueblo developed economic niches to complement the metropolis. Challenging the idea that front-range entrepreneurs acted as conduits for outside dollars, Kathleen Brosnan explores the sources of their capital and how they invested it across the region, showing how they remained independent of the outside economy for more than forty years. Market values influenced the region, but farmers, miners, state officials, and others created regulatory schemes and other quasi-legal systems to advance the interests of local communities vis-á-vis larger corporate interests.

By linking widely separated ecosystems in the urban-based economy of the Front Range, Brosnan notes, entrepreneurs created irrevocable environmental change and restructured the relations of the region's inhabitants with the land and with each other. Hispanic and Native American people who had lived in Colorado since long before the gold rush found themselves marginalized or displaced, foreshadowing the subsequent surrender of regional industries to the Goulds, Guggenheims, and Rockefellers by the early twentieth century.


Kathleen A. Brosnan (J.D., University of Illinois; Ph.D., University of Chicago) is an assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee.


"This provocative and ably researched book should interest western, urban, and business historians."


American Historical Review

"Brosnan offers a remarkably well-researched and well-written analysis of the Colorado Front Range. . . Richly documented and superbly illustrated with well-chosen photos and the occasional map, this is an important contribution to western history, Colorado history, and the developing field of environmental history, wherein its most original contribution may lie."


Great Plains Research

" Uniting Mountain and Plain joins a growing list of outstanding books that seek to reinterpret western unrban and business history. . Brosnan has given the people of Colorado and the entire Rocky Mountain Front a historical narrative that can help them make sense of a crucially important but heretofore overlooked feature of their past."


New Mexico Historical Review

"Brosnans's most original contribution is assessing the region's evolution along a north-south axis, rather than the more traditional east-west corridor. . . Brosnan has presented thoughtful, fresh perspectives of fields plowed thoroughly by her predecessors."


The Journal of American History

"Brosnan's work provides an important perspective on the realtionship between cities, the environment, and the legal structure designed to control the relationship between the two."


Western Historical Quarterly

6 x 9 in. 288 pages 21 halftones, 3 maps