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

Wealth, Waste, and Alienation: Growth and Decline in the Connellsville Coke Industry

By Kenneth Warren
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001 (297 pages, cloth, $30.00)

In less than three-quarters of a century, the Connellsville coke industry, situated in southwestern Pennsylvania, mushroomed from slight beginnings into a key supplier essential to the iron and steel industries. It then fell victim to the profligate exploitation of its resource base and rapid advances in technology. In 1913, the Connellsville coke district made nearly fifty percent of the country’s metallurgical coke and nearly eighteen percent of the global output. It covered a stretch of land running roughly thirty miles north and south of the small Fayette County community of Connellsville, underlain by the superb metallurgic coal of the Pittsburgh seam. Thousands of beehive coke ovens operating on a tract of land three miles wide produced the coke that fed the iron furnaces and steel mills that helped catapult the United States to world leadership. The manufacture of coke – at its peak an economic gold mine – also caused social disruption, environmental devastation, and, ultimately, economic loss for the entire region. Coke production led to an influx of workers who fought a series of violent, often bloody, clashes with operators. The exploitation of natural resources created vast wealth for certain individuals, companies, and communities, but left much of the land grossly polluted. The rapid decline of the industry in the 1920s left the Connellsville area little to show for its industrial heyday except abandoned rows of brick coke ovens. Wealth, Waste, and Alienation: Growth and Decline in the Connellsville Coke Industry describes in great detail the rise, growth, enormous success, and fall of the industry, and addresses the accompanying costs of social alienation, waste, and rapid deindustrialization. The author’s analysis is enriched by materials drawn from the extensive archives of the United States Steel Corporation and unprecedented access to the personal and business papers of Henry Clay Frick. Wealth, Waste, and Alienation greatly expands the analysis of earlier works and is an accessible, comprehensive business history of the Connellsville coke district and the industry it spawned.


Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind

By Michael J. Lewis
W.W. Norton and Company, 2001 (273 pages, cloth, $45.00)

Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind contends that the Philadelphia architect produced the most aggressive and eye-catching buildings ever produced in the United States, merging French classicism, English medievalism, and New England transcendentalism. This first biography of Frank Furness (1839- 1912), a flamboyant personality whom his student, architect Louis Sullivan, dubbed “the dog-man,” shows him to be a man of his age, immersed in its most powerful currents and forces. It details his abolitionist upbringing in staid Philadelphia, the transformative experience of the Civil War (during which he earned a Congressional Medal of Honor), and its translation into swagger­ing architecture that met the needs for vivid commercial imagery in the Gilded Age. The book also recounts how Furness’s rip­-roaring professional style brought him success when he served a generation of veterans, but, by the turn of the twentieth century, it helped make him a pariah in the transformed culture of America. The author’s lively narrative draws on military records, unpublished family papers, interviews with family members, and contemporary documents, enriched by more than two hundred illustrations, including archival images of demolished master­pieces and contemporary photographs of his buildings that still stand today. Among surviving Philadelphia area buildings designed by Frank Furness are the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the original library of the University of Pennsylvania, the Bryn Mawr Hotel (now the Baldwin School), the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, and “Idlewild,” his charming cottage in Media.


Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949

By John W. Orr
Penn State University Press, 2001 (376 pages, cloth, $38.50)

Oscar Perry Orr (1883-1954), a locomotive engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad, operated steam-powered freight and passenger trains throughout central Pennsylvania and southcen­tral New York for nearly a half-century. From 1904 to 1949, he sat at the controls of many famous steam locomotives; moved trains loaded with coal, perishables, and other valuable com­modities; and encountered virtually every situation an engineer of that era could expect to experience. Born several miles northeast of Bellefonte, Centre County, Orr remained on the family farm until 1902, when he took a job firing the stationary boilers of the Central Steam Heating Plant in Bellefonte. Two years later, in July 1904, he was hired as fireman of the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, formerly the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad. During his employment by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Orr operated nearly every kind of steam locomotive the company owned, working from the bottom of the roster to the top position (or highest in seniority). The story, told by his son John W. Orr, includes a number of incidents and anecdotes, such as the first time the elder Orr came upon an automobile along the right-of-way, what it was like to operate a train in a blinding blizzard, and about the difficulties railroadmen faced in stopping a trainload of tank cars loaded with oil in order to take on water and coal. It is a compelling saga of personal stories, but it is also an invaluable contribution to the history of railroading, destined to intrigue not only rail buffs, but also the reader generally interested in railroads and locomotives, past and present. Set Up Running features an introduction by railroad writer James D. Porterfield, maps, photographs, and a glossary. The title refers to the promotion examinations offered by the railroad; if a fireman successfully passed his exams, he was promoted to engineer and was eligible to be “set up running.”


The Philadelphia Navy Yard: From the Birth of the U.S. Navy to the Nuclear Age

By Jeffery M. Dorwart, with Jean K. Wolf
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001 (271 pages, cloth, $45.00)

A history of the Philadelphia Navy Yard is the history of the American Navy. Begun in 1762 as a collection of some of the most skilled shipwrights in the colonies, it witnessed the birth of the United States Navy and Marine Corps and outfitted the first American fleet in 1775. The yard was the site for the organization of a Navy Department, the Navy shore establishment, and the construction of the forty-four-gun frigate United States, the first American warship launched under the naval provisions of the U.S. Constitution. As the Navy converted its ships from sail to steam in the mid-nineteenth century, the Philadelphia Navy Yard was a leader in naval innovation, particularly the development of the screw propeller. During the Civil War, the facility stood as the first line of coastal defense for the Union as navy yards to the south fell to the Confederacy. Eventually outgrowing its location in the Southwark section of Philadelphia, the Navy Yard moved to League Island in 1876 where it became the center for such technological developments as radio and steam turbine propul­sion. By World War II, the Philadelphia Navy Yard had become one of the most modern and productive shipbuilding industrial plants in the world, responsible for constructing scores of warships. After the war, the yard continued to serve as a vital pa1t of the Navy shore establishment through refurbishing and modernizing vessels, as well as maintaining a large reserve fleet. Despite two centuries of dedication to shipbuilding and technological innovation, the venerable Philadelphia Navy Yard was closed in 1996 as part of an effort to reduce federal expenditures. The Philadelphia Navy Yard is the definitive history of one of America’s most illustrious military institutions and explains how it struggled throughout its history to survive, while remaining a viable and integral part of the nation’s defense. Illustrated with more than one hundred archival photographs and nearly a dozen detailed maps, The Philadelphia Navy Yard provides a candid and complete chronicle of the relationship of this important facility to local and national politics and social and economic change, while highlighting the contributions of America’s first government-operated naval shipyard.


The Corporation: A Centennial Biography of the United States

By Brian Apelt
Cathedral Publishing of the University of Pittsburgh, 2001 (560 pages, cloth, $29.95)

For many, during the early decades of the twentieth century, two words – “The Corporation” – meant only one thing: United States Steel Corporation. U.S. Steel has for many years been one of the most powerful corporations in the United States. It was at the forefront of a parade of influential corporate giants that created railroads, bridges, automobiles, highways, skyscrapers, and far-flung communications and electrical generation transmission systems. The Corporation: A Centennial Biography of the United States Steel Corporation, 1901-2001, tells how the corporation helped invent and build the modern world, dealing with the forces that reshaped it again and again. It was the first corporation to publish an annual report and the first to hold an annual meeting for its shareholders; the first to create and apply a code of business ethics; the first to introduce benefits for its employees, including medical and pension plans; and the first to adopt the eight-hour workday. The Corporation is also a book about people – from titans in U.S. Steel’s highest offices to the burly steelworkers who tamed flames and molten metal to produce the steel, to the power brokers and politicians who dealt – and sometimes dashed – with the company. Marching through the pages of The Corporation are the likes of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, J.P. Morgan, Mark Twain, Charles Schwab, John L. Lewis, Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. This is, in the words of the author, “a story told straight from the hip.” Officials who today lead the corporation (U.S. Steel and its parent company, USX Corporation) insisted that this history be accurate and honest. Nothing sanitized. Bad news to appear with the good. Both failures and achievements analyzed. Wrinkles and ragged edges preserved. Basically, a portrait of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the author’s presentation of this portrait makes U.S. Steel’s story even more compelling.