It is important for historians to work toward a better understanding of the urban frontier. Cities were crucial to the settlement experience. As a process, urban development was part of a larger framework that shaped the national heritage. Spirited rivalries, such as New York versus other major northeastern cities and Chicago versus St. Louis, many of which continued long after the passing of the frontier, remained a constant in the evolution of American urban centers. The rise of metropolises ultimately shaped a twentieth-century form of American regionalism--a "Sun Belt" stretching in a great arch from Virginia through the Gulf States and on into the vast Trans-Mississippi West. Certainly, just as Turner contended, the Western urban movement has helped to shape the way in which Americans have perceived one another and their problems. The 1984 presidential election illustrated great differences between urban dwellers throughout the country. One result was that people in the Sun Belt communities rejected the notion that they should help to pay welfare costs for their counterparts in the Northeast. Here, for better or for worse, was a story as old as urban America. Views in the West--seen as either "radical" or "conservative," depending on the time and place--clashed with East Coast "liberalism." The literature about Western cities, no matter how diverse in form, demonstrates a continuity between the frontier experience and later progress.
The need for further research is obvious from any survey of the literature of the moving urban frontier. Every area of investigation requires more study. What exists--even in areas such as frontier violence and the significance of New England villages--is fragmentary. Hardly anything, except for a few studies on prostitutes, touches on urban Westering women.33 Generalizations on urban pioneering have been made in an ethnic study here and an urban biography there. Many articles on city building were not written with an urban frontier in mind. They only require inclusion in a survey of urban frontier literature because of the paucity of data. Any conclusions about the nature of the urban frontier, from coast to coast, remain highly suggestive. Yet two consistent themes emerge from the recent literature: there has been little innovation and the urban frontier should not be considered by traditional standards. Clearly urbanization dictates a different approach.