Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Harrisburg Industrializes

by Gerald G. Eggert
The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993 (412 pages, cloth, $35.00)

In 1850, Harrisburg-state capital and county seat-was a community not unlike many others in the United States, employing most of its citizens in trade and commerce. Unlike its larger neighbors, Pittsburgh to the west and Philadelphia in the east, Harrisburg had not yet experienced firsthand the Industrial Revolution. Within a decade, however, the city boasted a cotton textile mill, two blast furnaces and several iron rolling mills, a railroad car manufactory, and a machinery plant. This burst of industrial activity naturally left its mark on the community, but within two generations most industry had abandoned Harrisburg, and its economic base was shifting toward white collar governmental adminis­tration and management. Harrisburg Industrializes: The Coming of Factories to an American Community explores this critical episode in the city’s history to discover the ways in which the coming of the factory system affected the life of the community and the lives of its citizens. The book opens with the earliest years of Harrisburg, describing its transformation from a frontier town to a small commercial and artisan community. The author identifies the early entrepreneurs who established the banking, commercial, and transportation infrastructure which would provide the basis for industry by the mid­-nineteenth century. He then reconstructs the development of the principal manufacturing firms from their foundings, through the expansive post­-Civil War era, to the onset of industrialization near the close of the century. Through census and company records, the author is able to follow the subsequent generation of craftsmen and entrepreneurs, as well as the new industrial workers – many of them minorities – who came to the city after 1850. The author characterizes Harrisburg’s experience with the factory system as “second-stage” or imitative, industrialization which was typical of many, if not most, communities that developed factory production. In those relatively few indus­trial centers – Pittsburgh, for example – where new tech­nologies arose and were aggressively imposed on workers, the consequences were devastating, often causing alienation, rebellion, and repression. By contrast, at secondary centers such as Harrisburg (or Reading or Scranton), industrialization emerged later, was derivative rather than creative, was modest in scale, and focused on local and regional markets. Because the new factories did not compete with local crafts, few displaced artisans became factory hands. At the same time, an adequate supply of local, native-born workers forestalled an influx of immigrants, so Harrisburg experienced little ethnic tension. Ultimately, Harrisburg Industrializes: The Coming of Factories to an American Community concludes that the introduction of an industrial order was much less disrup­tive in Harrisburg than in the major industrial centers, primarily because it did not alter so profoundly the existing economic and social orders.


Josiah White, Quaker Entrepre­neur

by Norris Hansell
Canal History and Technology Press, 1992 (172 pages, cloth, $19.95)

Josiah White (1781-1850) is familiar to historians as an individual of great vision, a man whose boundJess deter­mination and keen engineering skills enabled him – and partner Erskine Hazard – to create one of the country’s pioneering coal transportation systems. He is best remem­bered as a builder of mighty locks and dams, a railroad that relied on gravity for propul­sion, and delicate iron bridges. Josiah White, Quaker Entrepre­neur, considers Josiah White, the family man, the devout Quaker, the farseeing philan­thropist, and reveals his fascinating qualities, including his keen powers of observation. This book draws attention to White’s continuing impact on modern America, not only through the evolving transpor­tation revolution that he originally helped set in motion, but also through the charitable institutions he founded that still endure. Opening with his early years in Mount Holly, New Jersey, Josiah White, Quaker Entrepre­neur follows its subject through his years as an apprentice and hardware merchant in Phila­delphia, his development of the Schuylkill and Lehigh rivers, his promotion of canals, his leadership of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Com­pany, and his interest in education. Original letters, journals, diaries, reports, and papers were used to compile this revealing biography.


A Patch of Land Owned by the Company

by Stephen G. Warfel
Pennsyl­vania Historical and Museum Commission, 1993 (232 pages, paper, $14.95)

Among Pennsylvania’s many state-owned historic sites, Eckley Miners’ Village in Luzerne County is one of the most promising for under­standing the lives of earlier generations through intensive archaeological study. This is so for reasons both of circum­stance and good fortune. The former coal mining town is one of the few remaining historical communities still “young” enough to boast the presence of residents who can recall events of the past and help connect them to the everyday objects discovered during excavations. In addition, the archaeological artifacts themselves have been preserved by a foot of dirt placed around the town’s houses and over its streets by Paramount Studios in 1968 for the production of the film, The Mollie Maguires, which is set in the late nineteenth century. In its effort to make the miners’ village appear more histori­cally accurate by hiding its modern surfaces, the Holly­wood studio unwittingly protected the relics of the past hidden beneath the town. Thus the task of finding and correctly documenting soil deposits and artifacts – such as kitchen utensils, porcelain dishes, wine and medicine bottles, permanent wave curlers, door handles, nails, and glass-was made easier for the archaeologists. The community of Eckley, known as a “patch town” because it was made up of parcels, or patches, of land owned by the mining company and on which the miners lived, was settled in 1854. Large, single­-family dwellings were occupied by mine operators and their support staff. Superintendents and foremen lived in smaller, single-family homes; licensed first-class miners in double or attached houses; and laborers in smaller double houses. The double dwelling documented in A Patch of Land Owned by the Company, 119 Main Street, was the home of a first-class miner, Andrew Shovarsky, Jr. His widow, Mary Dubish Sho­varsky, born in 1907, is one of the primary sources of the site’s oral history. The avail­ability of oral history, or the verbal recollection of actual events and circumstances by those who were present, is extremely gratifying because it often confirms something about which archaeologists can only speculate, or offers clues to which they might not otherwise have gained access. For example, when shown a drop of paint on an unearthed stone, one elderly community member identified the color as matching the shade of paint once covering the house at 119 Main Street. A Patch of Land Owned by the Company offers a scholarly yet provocative account of an archaeological excavation enhanced by oral history. The book’s photo­graphs and illustrations add to the book’s friendly, yet academically thorough, approach to its subject. The book includes extensive appendices, including detailed geological information and artifact inventory. Although it is not necessarily standard procedure to include such archaeologists who are grateful for such detail in documenta­tion, enabling them more readily to compare artifact patterns with those of other excavations. In this book, the sense of We imparted by the mere shreds of its evidence, as well as the simple narrative account of interviews with those familiar with long-ago days, offer a poignant re­minder of the universal nature of the human experience. A Patch of Land Owned by the Company is a testimony not only to the precision of the archaeo­logical investigations at Eckley but to the lives they reveal.



by William Serrin
Times Books, 1992 (452 pages, cloth, $25.00)

Subtitled The Glory and Tragedy of an American Steel Town, this book chronicles the story of one of America’s most famous industrial towns in a sweeping narrative that spans more than one hundred years, and encompasses great moments and movements in American history and the day­-to-day lives of working men and women. For more than a century, Homestead was the heart of the country’s steel industry and the preeminent symbol of America’s industrial might. Today, Homestead, like the steel industry, like much. of industrial America, is a relic of its former self. Nonetheless, the nation’s labor history began in this gritty western community. When Andrew Carnegie acquired the Home­stead Steel Works in 1883, he rapidly built it into a vast steel empire that set the pace for industrial America and the world. The operation drew thousands of immigrants from Europe, as well as African Americans from the South. Steel manufactured by the works built the Empire State Building, the George Washing­ton Bridge, and many national landmarks and symbols. Homestead Steel played so vital a part in the nation’s efforts during World War I and World War II that its site on the Monongahela River became known as “Victory Valley.” The greatest corporate colossus the world had ever seen, the United States Steel Corporation was so wealthy, so powerful, that no one could either see or believe the signs of impending trouble. The bitter, bloody steel strike at Homestead in 1892 (see “‘The Public Is Entitled to Know’: Fighting for the Public Memory of Henry Clay Frick” by Brent D. Glass in the winter 1992 edition) was an unprec­edented worker uprising, whose defeat set back strong unionism for two generations. It was not until 1937, under the leadership of the charismatic John L. Lewis, that a steel­workers’ union was formed. In more recent years, however, the union has waned, parallel­ing the decline of the influential company it had pledged to reform. Skillfully weaving together the many strands of a complicated and intriguing story, the author graphically portrays the lives of Home­stead’s workers and their families: the backbreaking, brutalizing work in the mill, where, it was said, in winter men would suffer frostbite while working at a furnace in which molten steel boiled at three thousand degrees, and where in summer laborers would frequently remove their boots to pour out the perspira­tion. The author describes with rich irony the philanthropy for which the corporation became famous – funding churches, schools, athletic fields, the town library – which in reality was nothing more than a system calculated to control workers. In a vitally important story that has gone largely unreported, Homestead: The Glory and Tragedy of an American Steel Town exposes the terrible plight of individuals and of a town when the community’s major industry collapses. It is an epic work of business, labor, and human history.