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BOOMTOWNS, settlements that sprang up or grew rapidly as the result of some economic or political development. Rochester, New York, for example, grew rapidly after 1825 as the result of the completion of the Erie Canal and the harnessing of the Genesee River's water-power. San Francisco boomed during the California gold rush of 1849–1851, while in the 1860s gold strikes in Idaho, Montana, and Colorado attracted thousands of settlers into hastily built towns. Most of those towns were ephemeral, but Helena, Montana, and Denver, Colorado, were permanent. Gold brought Deadwood, South Dakota,

into existence in 1876. Two cities built on silver evolved swiftly in 1878. Tombstone, Arizona, gained a new foundation, and the population of Leadville, Colorado, leaped from three hundred to thirty-five thousand in two years. Oil City, Pennsylvania, in 1859 was the first in a long series of petroleum boomtowns that later continued into Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. The opening of a portion of Indian Territory to colonization in 1889 created Guthrie and Oklahoma City almost over-night. Hopewell, Virginia, was a typical creation of a World War I munitions plant, and war production during World War II dramatically expanded a number of western towns and cities. Beginning in 1956, Cape Canaveral, Florida, developed into a prosperous town with more than thirty-five thousand inhabitants employed in the U.S. space program. Construction of the Alaska pipeline began in 1974, and boomtowns sprang up along the pipe-line's route as work progressed.

Boomtowns have been susceptible to the environ-mental, economic, and political forces that created them. For example, cutbacks in space research in the 1970s brought severe economic stress to the Cape Canaveral area. As the mineral and manufacturing economies declined in many regions of the country in the late twentieth century, the challenges facing former boomtowns became acute.


Holliday, J. S. Rush for Riches: Gold Fever and the Making of California. Oakland, Calif.: Oakland Museum of California, 1999.

Nash, Gerald D. World War II and the West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Alvin F.Harlow/a. r.

See alsoGold Rush ; Mining Towns .