Was life in frontier cities notably different from life in cities on the east coast?


Ad Honoris
May 2014
Was life in frontier cities (not tiny frontier towns, but frontier cities that had at least a couple dozen thousand people) in the US and Canada notably different from life in cities (especially cities of comparable size) on or near the east coast?

The life of a pioneer sounds attractive if one will have a nice city on or near the frontier to settle in. I just want to know how those cities compared to the cities (especially cities with similar populations) on or near the east coast.


Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
Depends on what you mean by frontier city and when. Ohio valley was the frontier for quite awhile and life was definitely rougher with most things shipped via the St Lawrence and associated waterways but as the area between NY and Ohio was more fully settled and the western frontier pushed up to St Louis life in frontier cities was pretty good with Missippi shipping allowing nearly equal cost goods as on the east coast and the massive cattle market shipments and other exports bringing in cash.

As the frontier moved west the roughest period was directly after the war between the states when massive amounts of settlers were moving into lands that were nearly bare of infrastructure and before the railroads caught up and crossed the continent. Settlements near railways could be quite comfortable if one had money but most settlers were busy settling- it took 5-10 years to make a productive farm or ranch and there was not much cash to spare meanwhile. Various mining rushes were really the only reason large areas of the mountain west and southwest were ever settled aside from a handful of oases.
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Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
Las Vegas, NV USA
Beyond having the basic needs available as transport improved, I would think cities like New York and Philadelphia offered much more and better cultural and educational amenities. In 1870 the interior West was still "wild" in many ways. The Atlantic cable was in place by this time so communication with Europe and most the US east of the Mississippi was a lot better than between Yuma and Deadwood. A fairly dense telegraph network existed in the East while telegraph lines in much of the West only existed along the trans-continental railroad which had just been completed. This dramatically improved getting from New York to San Fransisco. A dense rail network in the East meant people in small towns had access to larger cities compared to the relative isolation in the West.
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