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A U.S. city that never was [almost but not quite AH]

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#1
For a completely non-AH project, I need to have a generic city U.S. city to use as an example. Being a huge AH nerd, after populating my city "Port Franklin" with generic street and neighborhood names, I started fleshing it out.

Port Franklin is the largest city the state of Jefferson, in the Northwestern United States in what in OTL is Oregon and California. In fact, it sits exactly where the line would be, at a harbor formed by the mouth of the fictional Tolowa River. The Tolowa is not an extremely big river, but it's a bit bigger than OTL's Klamath and Rogue (maybe they converge to form the Tolowa? The details aren't important).

I'm a bit vague about size at this point, but I'd like something bigger than Portland. A Seattle or San Francisco-sized metro area that's more centralized.

Besides the fictional Tolowa, Port Franklin is at the western terminus of a transcontinental railroad. I read in a museum in Lander, WY, which in OTL was the end of the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley railroad, that the Chicago and Northwestern, which bought the Elkhorn, intended to build a transcontinental line through Nebraska and Wyoming, crossing the Divide at South Pass, and terminating in Eureka CA, which isn't terribly far south of Port Franklin. According to this rail fan website, they had surveyed the line as far as Lakeview, OR and from there were going to follow the Pit River. Basically this route would be the Oregon Trail but head straight west instead of following the Snake.

The state of Jefferson would have had to pop up as its own thing prior to 1850, when California got statehood. I'd suggest some type of Oregon pioneers who didn't like the California government being in the area that early? You would have to have a population at Port Franklin essentially around the same time you did at San Francisco, but it wouldn't have to be a really large one. Something like an early gold rush? A Russian or HBC fur trading post up there that attracts some American settlement?

Anyway, Jefferson and Port Franklin after the completion of the transcontinental railroad would just be the seaport for a fairly small agricultural hinterland. The rapid growth of the city would be as a logging and fishing port in the late 1800's. You'd need some kind of analogue for Seattle's being the center for the Klondike Gold Rush to make it a big city and not just a Eureka CA or Newport OR, though. Perhaps shipbuilding? Anyway, like the rest of the West Coast, Port Franklin would grow even more rapidly during WWII, perhaps having some major Army base near it (there's a lot of training acreage) and more shipbuilding. This would also contribute to a more diverse city, with a lot of black workers arriving from the South (which is the reason for other black communities on the West Coast).

Think of this as my version of Sinclair Lewis' Winnemac, where I want a bunch of specific details about what's meant to be Anytown, USA. The reason I chose this exact place is that there's not really much existing regional identity (or really much population at all) and I can make a fairly generic city that reflects general American trends. My idea for the flavor is a larger-scale version of a gritty industrial West Coast city like Tacoma or Oakland without the glamor of other West Coast metro areas, and I'm especially inspired by fishing and logging ports like Grays Harbor in Washington.

Anyone have any thoughts about the evolution of Port Franklin and Jefferson State?

Here is a crayon drawing by Kayla, age 7:
BlankMap-USA-states-west.svg.png
 
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#2
This is fun. I'll have to think about it.

I think your biggest issue would be finding that Klondike Gold Rush equivalent, something to make Port Franklin grow larger than its neighbors around the turn of the century. After WWI, you could maybe get some aircraft manufacturing going, like we talked about in that alternate industrial development for Portland conversation a while back. Port Franklin is still inside the spruce belt, so if you already had some industry going there by the 1920s it's easy to see how it could become the home of alt-Boeing or whatever. That provides an industrial backbone for the rest of the 20th century.
 

Aznavour

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#3
Is there any industry or natural resource that could attract immigrants from the east or abroad?

Could the place attract Chinese and Japanese immigration? Maybe leftovers from all that railway or port building in the second half of the 19th century.

Less likely might be Chileans and Peruvians, without something similar to the Gold Rush. (Unless they're the ones kicked out of San Francisco by angry mobs, and settle in Port Franklin for whatever reason.)
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#4
This is fun. I'll have to think about it.

I think your biggest issue would be finding that Klondike Gold Rush equivalent, something to make Port Franklin grow larger than its neighbors around the turn of the century. After WWI, you could maybe get some aircraft manufacturing going, like we talked about in that alternate industrial development for Portland conversation a while back. Port Franklin is still inside the spruce belt, so if you already had some industry going there by the 1920s it's easy to see how it could become the home of alt-Boeing or whatever. That provides an industrial backbone for the rest of the 20th century.
It's a big challenge to have a large city between Portland and San Francisco because the Rogue/Klamath/Eel rivers don't have nearly as large and productive an agricultural hinterland as the Columbia/Willamette and Sacramento/San Joaquin do. Secondly, your transcontinental railroad following the Oregon Trail before going straight west goes almost entirely through useless desert that is close enough to the more northerly and southerly transcontinental routes to not really need its own railroad access.

Timber is going to be a big deal. Eureka CA was fairly prosperous in the late 1800's due to timber (and Old Town Eureka's Victorians are something that Port Franklin has to have). There were 400 mills in Humboldt County in the 1880's, and at least one major shipyard in Humboldt Bay. The fundamental question is how you give it staying power. By around 1900, the timber industry is on it last legs, but from 1900 to 1910, Portland's population doubled and Seattle's tripled. Sustaining rapid growth from 1940 on is reasonably easy, it's keeping Port Franklin as a major city long enough to meet the West Coast's second economic boom that's challenging.

Hmm, as I look, Hoquiam, WA, tripled in size during that same 1900-1910 period and Eureka grew 60%. Hoquiam grew 27% in the 1920's and only started shrinking in the 30's, whereas Eureka grew slowly into the 1960's before it started shrinking. So if you get a transcontinental railroad, even a minor one, in there as the lumber trade starts declining, you can start processing Idaho potatoes and cattle from throughout the West to ship across the Pacific. In fact, with Port Franklin's close proximity to a lot of ranchland, it might have a large stockyards, though not as large as Chicago's, but enough to diversify the economy a bit.

Realistically, even with the perfect storm of:

Obvious city location north of Humboldt Bay
Some reason to settle said city prior to 1850 and then some reason to split northern California and southern Oregon off into Jefferson 80 years before it was first suggested
Transcontinental railroad

You might have a metro of 150,000-200,000, twice the size of OTL's Eureka metro. But hey, I'm not looking at how likely it could happen so much as decreeing that this city has to exist and then working backwards.

Is there any industry or natural resource that could attract immigrants from the east or abroad?

Could the place attract Chinese and Japanese immigration? Maybe leftovers from all that railway or port building in the second half of the 19th century.

Less likely might be Chileans and Peruvians, without something similar to the Gold Rush. (Unless they're the ones kicked out of San Francisco by angry mobs, and settle in Port Franklin for whatever reason.)
I'm thinking an early Jefferson gold rush parallel to the California one. You'd have to have some amount of white settlement on the Tolowa river before the gold rush starts, but some kind of lost Oregonians isn't a huge stretch.

I want Port Franklin to be generically American in it demographics. Currently thinking it's a merged city-county government like Philadelphia or San Francisco so you have a lot of postwar suburbs inside the city limits (to keep up the anytown, USA identity). Something like:

White 40%
Hispanic 25%
Black 20%
Asian 9%
ME/SA 3%
Native 2%
Pacific Islander 1%

That would be in line with 2050 American demographics or with medium West Coast cities like Anchorage or Las Vegas. Having deep-rooted ethnic communities would work fine. I don't want Port Franklin to be as white as Portland, something more like Seattle.

I like the idea of a large Asian community early on, something like New York's Chinatown. Deep historic ties with Chile and Peru would be good too.
 
#5
A more aggressive Hudson's Bay Company, maybe someone other than McLoughlin being in charge at Oregon City, could make some American settlers leery of the Columbia / Willamette confluence and maybe more inclined to push south a little further.

Early Chinese and Japanese community is easy to do, a major PNW fishing port will have lots of salmon canneries and that work was mostly done by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century - just have to not have the kind of pogroms that happened elsewhere. Likewise, just have the Kaiser shipyard be in Port Franklin instead of Portland and you've got a large black community after WWII.
 

d32123

Well-known member
Location
Seattle
#6
A black population that large would be difficult. Maybe have a naval base nearby or a major war industry for Great Migration jobs. OTL Seattle's black population was never more than around 10% and Portland's even less. Just too far away from the migration routes of the first wave.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#7
A more aggressive Hudson's Bay Company, maybe someone other than McLoughlin being in charge at Oregon City, could make some American settlers leery of the Columbia / Willamette confluence and maybe more inclined to push south a little further.

Early Chinese and Japanese community is easy to do, a major PNW fishing port will have lots of salmon canneries and that work was mostly done by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century - just have to not have the kind of pogroms that happened elsewhere. Likewise, just have the Kaiser shipyard be in Port Franklin instead of Portland and you've got a large black community after WWII.
More aggressive Hudson's Bay in Oregon, combined with an American fur trading post at Tolowa Bay? Maybe Astoria is on Tolowa Bay? I believe Astor did some deals with the Russians as well, so maybe Fort Ross could be at Tolowa Bay, then transfer it to the American Fur Company? The biggest problem with that is poor river access to the interior compared to Oregon, but it's not impossible.

And yeah, something like the Kaiser shipyards, or even a Navy yard like Philadelphia's. Maybe the Navy buys a shipyard in Port Franklin instead of Hunter's Point in San Francisco? That way instead of Bremerton, San Diego, and the San Francisco base complex, you have four West Coast naval bases. Regardless, given the amount of empty country close to a major port, a large Army base will probably crop up in time for WWII, or maybe the Marines will establish Camp Pendleton there instead of Orange County.

A black population that large would be difficult. Maybe have a naval base nearby or a major war industry for Great Migration jobs. OTL Seattle's black population was never more than around 10% and Portland's even less. Just too far away from the migration routes of the first wave.
Portland's black population is so small because Oregon was explicitly founded as a white man's state and didn't move on completely from that legacy until fairly recently. Seattle had a much larger white population in its hinterland, whereas Port Franklin is in a pretty rugged and empty area. Either way, the black populations on the West Coast are almost entirely a product of WWII defense industry, so if this TL's shipyards recruit black workers in the South more aggressively, there will be a larger black population.
You could also have a Radical Republican government that starts encouraging black settlers to move to Jefferson early on. Maybe it's a pie in the sky idea, but Robert Smalls could move to Jefferson late in his life?
(also keep in mind I chose those numbers to make an "average" American city and I'm just post hoc justifying them)
 
#8
Portland's black population is also lower than it could be because the Kaiser housing complexes, which had become a black-majority unincorporated city by the end of the war, were completely destroyed in a flood in 1948 and their inhabitants scattered. If Vanport had been better prepared for the flood there would probably be a larger African-American presence in Portland - but of course that would require the city to be less racist and to care about setting up dikes etc. for Vanport, so it's chicken and egg. But hey, if the Tolowa doesn't flood, there's no need for that to happen in Port Franklin.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#9
Data point on black residents. In 1970 San Francisco was 13.4% black and Oakland was about 46% black. Since this city didn't undergo as dramatic an economic transformation as the Bay Area, I think 20% black is a pretty reasonable number just by having a Navy Yard and maybe a major civilian shipbuilder there.

EDIT: And a black community there to start with, even if it's relatively small.
 
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Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#10
So for early history:

Should Tolowa Bay be a Russian outpost?
1824: McLoughlin isn't in charge at Oregon city, the HBC isn't as conciliatory to American settlers
1827: Jedidiah Smith, coming north from California, discovers Tolowa Bay. He doesn't get into trouble with the Umpqua and surveys a route from Tolowa Bay back to the Columbia. The best way I can see on a map from the Klamath basin is to get into the Deschutes drainage, so it's not a straight shot like the future railroad will be.
Maybe the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, which is struggling by the early 1830's, makes a last shot at relevance by attempting to get into the Pacific trade, maybe in partnership with a shipper from back east. We can say it's a Philadelphia company to explain the "Franklin" name. Instead of going on the Santa Fe trail, maybe Smith guides them back to Tolowa Bay.

That actually gives me an idea about the political characteristics of Jefferson as opposed to Washington, Oregon, and California. You could say that the first pioneers out there were Pennsylvania Quakers and that shaped the attitudes people had. I guess with the name "Jefferson" early on you'd have to say that the early pioneers were Democrats, right?
 
#11
So for early history:

Should Tolowa Bay be a Russian outpost?
1824: McLoughlin isn't in charge at Oregon city, the HBC isn't as conciliatory to American settlers
1827: Jedidiah Smith, coming north from California, discovers Tolowa Bay. He doesn't get into trouble with the Umpqua and surveys a route from Tolowa Bay back to the Columbia. The best way I can see on a map from the Klamath basin is to get into the Deschutes drainage, so it's not a straight shot like the future railroad will be.
Maybe the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, which is struggling by the early 1830's, makes a last shot at relevance by attempting to get into the Pacific trade, maybe in partnership with a shipper from back east. We can say it's a Philadelphia company to explain the "Franklin" name. Instead of going on the Santa Fe trail, maybe Smith guides them back to Tolowa Bay.

That actually gives me an idea about the political characteristics of Jefferson as opposed to Washington, Oregon, and California. You could say that the first pioneers out there were Pennsylvania Quakers and that shaped the attitudes people had. I guess with the name "Jefferson" early on you'd have to say that the early pioneers were Democrats, right?
Quakers setting the tone would probably mean a less vigorously racist attitude than 1850s Oregon, so that could work towards your idea of greater ethnic diversity.

By the same token though they're less likely to name the state Jefferson. Are you wedded to that name? Not, idk, Siskiyou or some other term for the region?

Maybe strong ties to Philadelphia and a more Whig / Republican attitude means a greater emphasis on industrial development rather than yeoman farming, which makes sense given the area isn't as conducive to farming as the Willamette Valley or the Central Valley and also fits with your end goal
 

Md139115

You have not even begun to grasp the madness
#12
Philadelphia has a naval base for three reasons:
1. It’s the old capital.
2. It’s near the US’s big iron and steel firms.
3. [MOST IMPORTANT] It’s a fresh water port.

I cannot stress 3 enough. Before the Civil War, the Philadelphia Naval Yard was in its way out, being essentially irrelevant between New York and Norfolk. However once we start building large numbers of monitors and investing in ironclad R&D, someone realized that all these new expensive ships would be nice to hold onto in peacetime, but not nice for the bottom line if they need constant maintenance to not rust to pieces. Instead, they decided to base the reserve and mothballed fleet out of Philly so the ships wouldn’t rust as fast. And to this day, that’s the primary purpose of the yard: hold on to older ships either looking for a museum home, a scrapyard, or WWIII.

now, you could do that and take away Bremerton and San Diego’s thunder (the main mothball fleet bases on the West Coast), or you could do the shipyard route, but that’s going to cause stiff competition with San Francisco for most of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#13
Philadelphia has a naval base for three reasons:
1. It’s the old capital.
2. It’s near the US’s big iron and steel firms.
3. [MOST IMPORTANT] It’s a fresh water port.

I cannot stress 3 enough. Before the Civil War, the Philadelphia Naval Yard was in its way out, being essentially irrelevant between New York and Norfolk. However once we start building large numbers of monitors and investing in ironclad R&D, someone realized that all these new expensive ships would be nice to hold onto in peacetime, but not nice for the bottom line if they need constant maintenance to not rust to pieces. Instead, they decided to base the reserve and mothballed fleet out of Philly so the ships wouldn’t rust as fast. And to this day, that’s the primary purpose of the yard: hold on to older ships either looking for a museum home, a scrapyard, or WWIII.

now, you could do that and take away Bremerton and San Diego’s thunder (the main mothball fleet bases on the West Coast), or you could do the shipyard route, but that’s going to cause stiff competition with San Francisco for most of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
San Francisco is the West Coast equivalent of Philadelphia for the Navy. The Navy in the early 20th century mirrored nearly everything between East and West coasts. Mare Island in Suisun Bay has a bunch of mothball ships like Philadelphia. Hunter's Point at San Francisco was also a big shipbuilding center like Philadelphia.

My idea was that Port Franklin, as a historic center for shipbuilding (that was able to keep building ships after wooden ships went out of style in the early 1900's), gets the Navy contracts that Hunters Point did OTL and later becomes a Navy shipyard, in addition to building civilian ships into the 1970's. San Francisco would continue as a naval base, with Mare Island, Treasure Island, Alameda, and Concord, just not as big of one as it actually was. That way you have four major West Coast naval bases instead of just three as per OTL.

During WWII you'd also have an ordnance shipping facility like OTL Oakland's.
 

Md139115

You have not even begun to grasp the madness
#14
That way you have four major West Coast naval bases instead of just three as per OTL.

“But does the US need four naval bases on the West Coast?” - every bean counter in Washington.

There’s nothing wrong with what you have proposed. Just remember that a naval base and a naval shipyard are different things. Best example I can think of is Ingalls Shipbuilding down in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The shipyard there still produces much of our surface combatants, but NS Pascagoula was closed down in 2006 for being redundant.

And I am sorry if this sounds a bit like belittling, this is a great idea and I’m really interested in seeing it develop.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#15
“But does the US need four naval bases on the West Coast?” - every bean counter in Washington.

There’s nothing wrong with what you have proposed. Just remember that a naval base and a naval shipyard are different things. Best example I can think of is Ingalls Shipbuilding down in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The shipyard there still produces much of our surface combatants, but NS Pascagoula was closed down in 2006 for being redundant.

And I am sorry if this sounds a bit like belittling, this is a great idea and I’m really interested in seeing it develop.
I'm aware of what a naval shipyard is and does. The U.S. Navy of 1900-1920 would absolutely have made a fourth west coast naval base if an appropriate choice was available. Again, this is no expansion beyond what was actually done OTL, it's just that Hunter's Point is at Port Franklin instead of San Francisco. This shipyard almost certainly would not survive the 1980's, just like Hunter's Point. My model is Hunter's Point. Hunter's Point started as a private shipyard that contracted with the Navy before being taken over by the Navy in 1940.
 

Md139115

You have not even begun to grasp the madness
#16
I'm aware of what a naval shipyard is and does. The U.S. Navy of 1900-1920 would absolutely have made a fourth west coast naval base if an appropriate choice was available. Again, this is no expansion beyond what was actually done OTL, it's just that Hunter's Point is at Port Franklin instead of San Francisco. This shipyard almost certainly would not survive the 1980's, just like Hunter's Point. My model is Hunter's Point. Hunter's Point started as a private shipyard that contracted with the Navy before being taken over by the Navy in 1940.
Excellent.

On a completely unrelated matter, how are you going to address the dynamic of the Union having another state? A 51-state nation is going to behave a bit differently than a 50 state nation. Or are you planning to eliminate a state to keep that number?
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#17
Excellent.

On a completely unrelated matter, how are you going to address the dynamic of the Union having another state? A 51-state nation is going to behave a bit differently than a 50 state nation. Or are you planning to eliminate a state to keep that number?
I haven't really thought of how Jefferson works on a national level. It's going to be a fairly small state with not much population outside metropolitan Port Jefferson, so not a major electoral factor. And of course the "50 state nation" isn't a thing until 1959, so maybe Hawaii or Alaska statehood is the difference.

The culture of the state is the question. Washington is sort of Yankee/Upper Midwest liberal, California has been associated with a kind of technofuturism as early as the 1920's, and Oregon is prickly individualist libertarian. I like the idea of the first Jefferson settlers being from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the politics of the state now being machine Democrats. Probably, like Philadelphia and New Jersey, the machine would be a Republican one from statehood until the New Deal.

I also still am not quite sure how Jefferson would be established, but I guess the idea of a few thousand Quaker settlers who don't like Oregon or California is good enough for now. Statehood could come during the Civil War along with Nevada.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#19
How's the Earthquake situation in the area?
I actually looked this up. Earthquakes are more common in the area than further south, but there's never been a big land-based quake like the 1906 and 1989 San Francisco ones.
https://earthquaketrack.com/us-ca-eureka/biggest
Wikipedia has some general information about earthquakes in the area here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980_Eureka_earthquake

You'd have occasional earthquakes that damage buildings, but never any major city-leveling disasters. Yet. Tsumani hazard would probably be the thing I'd worry about the most.
 

Ciclavex

Ciclavex Jarl av Nya Sverige
Moderator
Patreon supporter
Location
Penn’s Woods
#20
Excellent.

On a completely unrelated matter, how are you going to address the dynamic of the Union having another state? A 51-state nation is going to behave a bit differently than a 50 state nation. Or are you planning to eliminate a state to keep that number?
One could just have Dakota admitted as a single state and it’s still a fifty-state union.