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Historical Archaeology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 26–46 | Cite as

Plats and Place: The Transformation of 19th Century Speculation Townsites on the Sacramento River

  • Margaret Purser
  • Noelle Shaver
Article

Abstract

Speculation townsites were integral to 19th-century California settlement and economic expansion and were often planned, formal landscapes based on explicitly urban templates. Inherently profit driven but frequently unsuccessful, many sites survived only as highly fragmentary or dependent rural entrepôts. The juxtaposition of a formal “plan” with the evolving vernacular reality of such places makes them highly significant for an understanding of 19th-century western American landscapes, both as a discrete settlement type and as a broader form of spatial organization. This speculation process defined much of the cultural landscape of the lower Sacramento River between the 1840s and World War I. Early townsite development linked settlement communities, evolving waterway infrastructure, and general land use patterns in systems that were, if not conventionally urban, emphatically cosmopolitan in nature. Two such townsites along the Sacramento illustrate very different strategies in this evolving landscape of capital manipulation, land speculation, and community formation.

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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Purser
    • 1
  • Noelle Shaver
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and LinguisticsSonoma State UniversityRohnert ParkUSA
  2. 2.Jones and StokesTemeculaUSA

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