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Boom Town

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Asterix: There is something funny going on here.
Obelix: Either that or these Romans have learnt to build very fast.
The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, after they go to sleep on a plain and wake up in a city

Sometimes a town grows very rapidly, doubling in population or more in a very short time. In The Wild West, this often happened around gold or silver strikes, or where water was discovered in an arid area. While the rapid expansion lasts, the community is considered a boom town.

Boom towns tend to have a lot of new construction, much of it ramshackle and hastily done, to house the new residents and businesses. In Westerns, most of the businesses will be saloons, gambling halls, and other entertainments designed to get the newfound wealth of the residents into the business owners' pockets, along with a a general store for supplies. Churches and schools will come later, with the maturation of the town.

Often, the growth of the town will attract undesirable elements—rogues, outlaws, and scammers— leading to fights and crime and the need for law enforcement to clean it up. Even before a badge-wearing Sherrif shows up, some hero of moral fiber, possibly The Drifter, will stand up to the bad guys. Certainly, any boom town is likely to be an Adventure Town.

Since a boom town often relies on a single resource or attraction, if that dries up the town will start dying, quite possibly becoming a Ghost Town, with tumbleweed blowing past boarded-up buildings. This means the town leaders have a strong desire to protect that resource from any interference. Those who interfere or threaten the town mines or water supply may be "permanently dealt with".

While associated with Westerns, the boom town can be used in modern day, with the resource being oil or power, rather than gold. As well, it transposes easily to a space setting, in which a planet or moon has a hastily-set up base to extract its resources.

Note that several works have used the title "Boom Town" to refer to communities about to blow up. Not the same thing.

Not to be confused with short-lived series Boomtown, or the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town".


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    Comic Books 
  • In The Dandy there was a Molly cartoon where she demanded she have her own award ceremony. So she managed to get a construction company to build a building (for the awards ceremony) by the evening.
  • Like all Western tropes, it was parodied in Lucky Luke, where the title character was more or less forcibly put into the law-enforcing position. A patch of desert one day becomes a little town the next, with various incidents: a man going to sleep on the ground and waking up to find the place has become an expensive hotel whose owner is urging him to pay; clients waiting impatiently at the bar in a saloon while the walls are being built around them; customers (including a robber) waiting impatiently for the local bank to finish being built and open; and, of course, houses built any old how directly against each other. Unfortunately, as the year goes by, the area turns out to be dryer than expected, and the town eventually becomes a ghost town.
    Luke: No way, we need to knock down some houses and build streets...
    Official: Is that really necessary, Luke? The street is where accidents happen...
  • In Tintin in America, the discovery of oil in a piece of Injun Country leads to its overnight conversion into a bustling small city (the Indians are forced to leave within an hour by the army at bayonet-point). The next morning, Tintin finds himself the only person in the city still wearing his cowboy outfit, and receives a chiding from a police officer who tells him to put on something proper.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: When gold is discovered at the delta of the Yukon river, the only settlement in the area, the small logging camp of Dawson, explodes into a city with thousands of inhabitants virtually overnight, just as happened in real life. However, in this universe, the city has another claim to fame; this is where legendary adventurer and businessman Scrooge Mcduck struck it rich.

  • Boom Town has a boom town! And a real one, Burkburnett, Texas. The film opens in 1918 as the discovery of oil nearby has attracted thousands of people to what was once a tiny village, as happened in Real Life.
  • The page quote comes from The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, where the eponymous hero and Obelix go to sleep in a haunted plain a day's walk from their village in northwestern France... and wake up in Rome (something never explained, but as that film's epilogue remembers, "Let's face it, this is only a cartoon film, and anything goes!").
  • The town in the western spoof Support Your Local Sheriff springs into existence almost overnight after the accidental discovery of a rich gold strike.
  • No Name City in Paint Your Wagon.
  • Creede, Colorado, is this in I Shot Jesse James, being right in the middle of a silver rush that is attracting thousands of prospectors to the area. While the city is real and did experience a silver rush, it didn't grow much after the rush and only has a population of around 300 people today.

  • 1632:
    • Like many small, rural towns dominated by one industry, the coal mining town of Grantville was shrinking and withering during the 1980s and 1990s... until a Negative Space Wedgie transplanted the town to central Germany during the Thirty Years' War. The town suddenly found itself the most high-tech place in the world and its population mushroomed with refugees. Inhabitants have tried to maintain building codes and labor standards for all the new construction and industry, but the fact that they haven't always succeeded has been a plot point more than once.
    • In the same series, Magdeburg rises from the ashes of a brutal sack of the town (as in Real Life), becoming not only the capital of the new empire headed by Gustavus Adolphus, but also an industrial center in its own right, thanks in part to assistance from uptimers.
  • In A Town Like Alice, the heroine turns a Ghost Town into a Boom Town with an application of money, enterprise, and motivation.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude: Macondo got trough this trope during its Producer Town stage.
  • The obscure Venezuelan novel Oficina Número 1 takes place constrating the Ghost Town in the prequel Casas Muertas.
  • Louis L'Amour's novels:
    • Tell Sackett founds one of these almost inadvertently in Sackett, as a cover for his more profitable gold strike some distance away.
    • In Fallon, the titular character starts a boomtown on top of a boomtown
    • In The Iron Marshall it's pointed out several times that the town didn't exist just a year before
    • In Bendigo Shafter, building a town is the whole point.
  • Discworld
    • Holy Wood in Moving Pictures. The buildings are described as being quite ramshackle, but have impressive frontages, essentially as if the whole town was a set.
    • Various towns on the route of the new railway in Raising Steam are said to be booming as a result in Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook, although in some cases Mrs Bradshaw expresses regret that traditional industries have been abandoned in the process.
  • The galaxy in the Book Of The Ler is littered with places called Boomtown, towns which invariably grew quickly, and then just lingered for centuries.
  • Played With in River of Teeth. Echoing the California Gold Rush, this Alternate History of America had the Great Louisiana Hippo Rush which drove many would-be ranchers to the area around the southern Mississippi and Baton Rouge to stake their claims, swelling the area's population.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Deadwood! Unusual in that you get to actually watch the boom happening, on screen.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Haven - and basically every other city on Poseidon - in Blue Planet. The Long John rush has increased the planet's population twenty-fold.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Quest:
    • The most extreme example has to be New Town in Dragon Quest III: If you time it right, you can turn a mostly-vacant patch of land a hundred world-map tiles from nowhere into the game world's largest and most-populous town and witness it undergo a revolution against the leader (whom you appoint). The game has an active day-night cycle, so all of this can transpire, literally, within a few days.
    • Featured again in Dragon Quest IV. You help a young entrepreneur to develop a boom town in a patch of desert (which previously was a bazaar) by recruiting people from around the world. Completing this sidequest will turn the boom town into a castle. Dragon Quest VII featured this too.
  • The town of Township (yes, that's its name) from Breath of Fire II starts out as a ruined building that your friend Bow is forced to restore while he hides from the law. When the house gets appropriated by shamans, you hire a proper carpenter to build more buildings, while you recruit helpful people for the population. And it can fly, too. All over the course of one game.
  • Dragalia Lost has New Alberia, starting from the Halidom in Mistholt. The Halidom starts off in the game as a relic of an ancient fortress used by Euden's ancestor, King Alberius, in his war against the first incarnation of the Dyrenell Empire 300 years ago. Over time, it becomes one of the major world powers competing against the Empire with altars, dojos, mines, temples, circuses, eldritch libraries, as well as the varied adventurers and dragons that come from across the world and even other dimensions.
  • One of the most extreme examples is Jeuno in Final Fantasy XI. It's certainly longer in the time to grow, but you can't really complain when a small fishing village, in four years, became the economic center of an entire continent and an independent nation.
  • Your castle in Suikoden is usually one of these, as it fills up with the 108 stars and various hangers on. Even if it starts out deserted, by the end of the game your castle is complete with a farm, multiple stores, a blacksmith, a restaurant, an orchestra, an inn, a bathhouse, and any number of other amenities and services.
  • In Sunless Skies, the town of Lustrum was a pleasant little mountain town until someone discovered that the crystals buried within the Mother of Mountains could speed up or slow time (and one's lifespan) when processed into yarn (those weird glowing-white strands you occasionally see around farms and workshops). Ever since, prospectors and mega-companies come en masse in hope of mining Hours or maybe even Years from the mountain and earn lots of money by doing so. You can stake a claim and source your crew as miners, but it's a thankless nightmare for a few barrels of crystals every month. One of the original colonists resorts to mugging you for a spare ticket off this rock.
  • A game-spanning sidequest in Terranigma involves building up towns from their initial Dark Ages-state into modern societies. In fact, if you don't participate in this activity, it creates plot holes later on.
  • Container City in Brink! is this, a sprawling town built out of shipping containers, built when refugees arrived on The Ark by the boatload. Supposedly modeled on the favelas of Brazil.
  • Newcastle in Might and Magic IV can be turned from a ruin to the most advanced city on Xeen's Cloudside in a fingersnap, if you have the Megacredits to build it.
  • The City of Luin becomes this in Tales of Symphonia. Well first it was a decent sized city, got burned down to the ground, and then you help restore it. Give enough money and you have giant statues of Sheena, Lloyd, and Raine.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has a few abandoned encampments in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone repopulated by seasoned stalkers and other disorganized bunch of misfits because they need a place to sit, eat, drink, trade, and relax from the macabre expeditions they often have to undertake. This ends up turning into an inversion of a Dying Town as once empty shells of civilization due to the Chernobyl disaster have suddenly become little beacons of life to cater to the artifact-hunting and weapons trade; namely, instead of a thriving town dying out into a ghost town, the ghost towns become resettled.
  • Preston Springs in Tin Star (Choice of Games) is a gold-rush town in The Wild West, built because town founder J.T. Preston liked the taste of the water. However, Preston wants more than that; he wants to make his mark on the desert and build a town that'll last instead of becoming a Ghost Town. Whether he succeeds depends on the player's decisions; it can grow into a Shining City or be left an abandoned ruin. It's worth noting that Preston's own shortsightedness is part of what's keeping the town from thriving.

  • Schlock Mercenary: After the mercenaries become the security arm of the Neofan Freehold, they help build a city to study the very large space station that is the home and wealth of the Freehold. The settlement jumps from a population of a couple hundred mercenaries to hundreds of thousands of scientists and civilians in a matter of days. Thankfully, hyper-advanced construction techniques allow them to deconstruct a capital ship and create a beautiful, modern city with plenty of time to spare.
    Narrator: Most 32nd century engineering programs require a final project unironically titled "Rome in a day."

    Western Animation 
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: In Operation N.U.G.G.E.T, Numbuh 4 inadvertenly creates one of these when he stumbles over a fortune in nuggets in a creek...chicken nuggets that is, starting a huge nugget rush, and what follows is a parody of just about every western movie trope you can imagine.
  • In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West the town of Green River is presented as a boom town on its way out, located near some gold mines that have since run dry. Although a large population of mice are brought there from New York, there doesn’t seem to be a very high human population, at least outside of the saloon.

    Real Life 
  • Constantinople (now Istanbul) sprang up just about overnight when Constantine decided to make it the new capitol of the empire.
  • Dubai is the most famous of the many examples on the Persian Gulf. They suddenly expanded thanks to the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, which attracted multinational expatriates to settle (the native population mostly stays unchanged). It's kind of uncanny to see how many dying desert port towns sustained only by prickly pearling trade got suddenly transformed into futuristic Skyscraper Cities virtually overnight.
  • Sunomata Castle was built (or at least repaired to full functionality) in one night.
  • Tombstone was a boom town around the time of Wyatt Earp, which is covered in many movies.
  • St. Petersburg is a subversion, since it was built over the course of several years; on the other hand, as soon as it became the capital, it was filled with many more people than it could support, including many, many construction workers.
  • "Residence cities" (i.e. the seats of royal courts) throughout the pre-modern history of most of Asia. There were a lot of those; many of them were founded and abandoned overnight on the ruler's whim (some Indian dynasties preferred to abandon the old capital and move a new one whenever a new ruler arose).
  • Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan, while not a hamlet in anyway beforehand (it was a port town for Western India), exploded in both population and importance after Pakistan's independence. Its 1947 population of just under 500,000 kept doubling every ten years: the biggest jump would be from 1998 to 2010, which went from 9 million to 22 million. The culprit for this was the population movement of Muslims of the Indian subcontinent towards Pakistan, which mostly ended only a couple of years after the Partition, followed by urbanization for hopefuls of the countryside, hence the sudden swelling. It also made the city the most cosmopolitan of all, since the new immigrants came from various backgrounds and cultures, only united by a single religion.
  • Shenzhen, China is probably the uber example. 30 years ago there was almost nothing there. Not a city, not a town, barely a fishing village. Today it's got 7 million people, is the third largest city in the entire country and, quite possibly, the richest. How, you ask? Magic, of course!. The magic of Chummy Commies being just on the mainland side of Hong Kong when China decided to open up as well as a pet project of the premier.
  • Everytime someone discovers huge amounts of gold in a remote area, Gold Fever-induced people will build mining towns around, such in the Klondike in the 1890s, which created a big boom for Seattle, and the ones in California 50 years earlier did the same for San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  • Ireland in the 80s was a million miles away from Ireland of the 00s. A lot the people who moved abroad to find jobs had by now come back, which attracted a lot of property developers. This led to an entire country almost solely based on a housing bubble. Suffice to say, they aren't quite a boom country any more.
  • Soviet "Monotowns". Basically, a manufacturing plant, factory or mine was built in the middle of nowhere, and then a town was built around it. Resulted in a lot of troubles in The New Russia, with the industries dying out and the towns getting plagued by unemployment, since everybody was supposed to work at a single workplace.
  • Las Vegas back when the mob first came in and started building the hotels and casinos the city is now famous for.
  • The advent of hydraulic fracturing led to the oil boom in places like North Dakota. Towns like Williston have become modern-day boom towns, and the suddenness of the boom has strained infrastructure and even made rents rise.
  • Sydney for the first part of its history was a backwater slum that hosted disease and rebellion. The discovery of gold out in Bathurst saw the population grow from 40,000 to 200,000 in two decades, and it hasn't stopped since.
  • Berlin went from four hamlets on the outskirts of the residence of Brandenburg/Prussia to the capital of one of the biggest industrial and military powers in Europe. On the eve of World War II it had four million inhabitants. After reunification Potsdamer Platz (which had been too close to the wall to build anything of use during the Cold War era) became the biggest building site in Europe.
  • Leipzig already contained a university and an important trade fair by The Late Middle Ages, but only in the 19th century did it really take off. In 1839 the railway arrived to a city of barely 50,000, linking it with Dresden. In 1870 Leipzig surpassed the mark of 100,000 people for the first time, by the turn of the century half a million was surpassed, and by 1930 it stood at just above 700 000 inhabitants, making it Germany's fourth biggest city. Today it hovers just above half a million again and fights for the Overly Narrow Superlative of being the biggest city in Saxony (currently Dresden barely edges it out).