Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Daniel Feller

Committee Members

Ernest Freeberg, Brandon Winford


Although land-use and zoning regulation is an inescapable reality for modern development around the world, its history in the United States and the social, legal, and political context from which it emerged remains largely unknown by scholars and the general public alike. The general consensus up to this point has been that comprehensive zoning ordinances and the modern urban planning profession delivered urban America from the primitive and unregulated state that it was in during the nineteenth century and resulted in the orderly built environment of today. Thus, land use zoning, park planning, and public transportation infrastructure were twentieth-century phenomena which would have been impossible in nineteenth-century America. However, this is not the case. Synthesis of primary and secondary sources demonstrate that cities of all sizes regulated urban land use in America during the nineteenth century prior to modern zoning for many of the same purposes as they do today. Safety concerns, health hazards, and promotion of the general public’s welfare led governments to dictate what could be built where and how. Furthermore, the specific regulatory controls employed by cities reflected the unique legal, political, and cultural framework of nineteenth-century America.

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