City Water, City Life: The Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Boston

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This talk will discuss how a city is more than a massing of citizens, a layout of buildings and streets, or an arrangement of political, economic, and social institutions. It is also an infrastructure of ideas, an embodiment of the beliefs, values, and aspirations of the people who created it. In no instance was this more the case than in the construction of Boston’s first comprehensive public waterworks, the Cochituate aqueduct system, which opened on 25 October 1848.

Carl Smith is the Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English & American Studies at Northwestern University where he teaches American literature and cultural history. He is the author of numerous books, including Chicago and the American Literary Imagination, 1880-1920 (1984) and of Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman (1994), which won the Urban History Association's prize for Best Book in North American Urban History and the Society of Midland Authors' first prize for non-fiction. His most recent book, The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City (2006),  won the Lewis Mumford Prize for Best Book in Planning History, given by the Society of American City, Regional, and Planning History.