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Iron, Oil, and Emeryville: Resource Industrialization and Metropolitan Expansion in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1850-1900


Scholars have largely overlooked the formative role of industry in both California's economic development and the San Francisco Bay Area's metropolitan expansion during the late nineteenth century. Beginning in the early 1880s, leading firms in San Francisco's specialized industries, such as the iron and chemicals sectors, dispersed to the metropolitan periphery. This process of industrial suburbanization created an integrative metropolitan economy, as well as individual suburbs. In this dissertation, I explore the creation of one of the Bay Area's earliest industrial suburbs, Emeryville. I argue that an analysis of industrial dynamism on the regional scale is integral for understanding metropolitan development and industrial suburbanization. Symbiotic relations between resource extraction and industrial dynamism structured California's distinct mode of capitalist development. The expansion and diversification of resource extraction and processing industries fueled metropolitan growth. Within the broader context of regional capitalism, I examine the process of industrial suburbanization and the formation of Emeryville. I show how two processes greatly influenced industrial dispersal and factory relocation: the creation of an industrial property market and the endogenous logic of industrial production. A coalition of land developers, politicos, and transportation entrepreneurs created a new suburban industrial space. High rates of innovation and accumulation, as well as fierce competition, enabled certain firms to eschew the industrial core and locate their factories in early Emeryville. I draw on array of archival material and primary sources to weave together this distinctive story of California landscapes and industries, and cities and suburbs. My examination of the formation of Emeryville also presents a case study of how industry engenders metropolitan transformation. This dissertation provides insights into the necessarily conjoined processes of city development and industrial suburbanization.

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