Bookshelf

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

The Mills of Manayunk

by Cynthia J. Shelton
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986 (227 pages, cloth, $26.50)

Part of the Johns Hopkins University Press’s Studies in Industry and Society, this book examines the evolution of the Philadelphia region’s in­dustrialization, which was marked by a degree of social stress and conflict experienced by no other significant Ameri­can textile community at the time. The book, subtitled Industrialization and Social Con­flict in the Philadelphia Region, 1787-1837, focuses on the proc­ess of evolution beginning in the textile warehouses of the port of Philadelphia and con­cluding with mechanized factory production in the Ma­nayunk district of Philadel­phia. The first chapter is devoted to entrepreneur John Nicholson’s failings with his establishment of a manufactur­ing village on the Schuylkill River, which provides readers with an understanding of the social relations in non­-mechanized manufacturing during the 1790s, and of how the mechanized factories de­veloped partly from the experi­ences of their non-mechanized counterparts. As the evolution occurred, conflicts arose in the factory center of Manayunk, fueled in part by assaults from handloom weavers of Philadel­phia. The author traces the labor-capital conflict in Manay­unk while focusing on the change in social structure, and social and economic relations that lead to sharp political and cultural conflicts. The look at the seriousness of the strikes of 1833-1834 and the trade union movement before the Panic of 1837 shows that it cannot be compared with the relatively peaceful industrial­ization of New England.

 

The Death of a Great Company

by W. Julian Par­ton
Center for Canal History and Technology, 1986 (161 pages, paper, $9.95)

The fight for survival by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company is documented in this book with a close exami­nation of the final years of “The Old Company,” before liquidation occurred after more than a century and a half of existence. The history opens with the formation of the Le­high Coal Mine Company and its merger with the Lehigh Navigation Company in 1820 to form the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. The early history of this titan cor­poration, which once owned thousands of acres of anthra­cite tracts in Carbon County, is briefly discussed, but the later years, particularly the eras before and after World War II, are examined in great detail. World War II saw the market for hard coal increase after years of decline, enabling “The Old Company” to reduce its considerable debts accumu­lated during the years of de­cline. Following the war, however, the market softened, and the company would never mount a successful comeback. The problems encountered by the management of the corpo­ration, as well as those of its subsidiary, the Lehigh Naviga­tion Coal Company, the actions undertaken by the coal miners, and the various deci­sions and agreements are the areas of focus in this book. Because of the author’s ties with the Lehigh Navigation Coal Company, of which he served as president, insight is given to what actually tran­spired during meetings and strikes, how individuals re­sponded to significant situa­tions and why the actions were taken.

 

The Jewish Experience in Western Pennsylvania

by Jacob Feldman
The Histori­cal Society of Western Pennsyl­vania, 1986 (331 pages, paper, $9.95)

The focus of this book is on the Jewish history of western Pennsylvania, mainly in and around the city of Pittsburgh. Beginning with the first Jewish settlers in the late 1750s and ending at V-J Day in 1945, the book examines the creation and development of Jewish communities. The author uses factual material from his earlier work, The Early Migration and Settlement of Jews in Pittsburgh, 1745-1894, but this book is broader in scope. Western Pennsylvania has its own history concerning the Jews, for the area differs from the state’s eastern half because of geography and economics, causing the Jewish history to develop differently from that of the Jews in eastern Pennsyl­vania. The history examines the experiences of the various settlers of the Pittsburgh area, who primarily emigrated from Germany, identifying individ­uals living and working there and in the rural areas. Finding themselves in a largely non­Jewish environment, the Jews zealously practiced their reli­gion so they would not lose their faith. As new communi­ties were formed and syna­gogues built, other Jewish ethnic groups arrived in the area, mostly from Eastern Europe, and their numbers surpassed the declining num­ber of German Jews. The au­thor traces the local and national events with which the Jews were involved, their jobs, synagogues and the societies that cemented the ties between the various Jewish communi­ties.