Planners rely upon planning history to provide a sense of their position in society and the importance of their work. To reinter pret that history is to change the background upon which planners operate in the present and to influence their vision of the future. Traditional histories of American city planning tell a story of gra dual, but inexorable, progress, beginning with the reform move ments of the late nineteenth century and leading steadily toward increasing social acceptance, technical advancement, and institu tional consolidation. Personalities, famous plans, and legislative milestones march past, forming a narrative that is, on the whole, reassuring. Planning is portrayed as an activity that has emerged from tenuous beginnings to become a sophisticated profession, guiding urban change in the public interest.