Bookshelf

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

Buggy Town: An Era in American Transpor­tation

by Charles M. Snyder
Oral Traditions Project, 1983 (80 pages, paper, $8.95)

Part of an ongoing series dealing with rural and smalltown handcraft industries which flourished in Pennsyl­vania during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this contribution by historian Charles Snyder presents a compelling and beautifully illustrated portrait of a small community transformed by the economic – and eventually social – impact of carriage­-making, which became a central feature there beginning in the late nineteenth century. Using the emergence of horse and buggy transportation in the New England states as a convenient starting point, the author traces the spread of the industry westward to Pennsylvania and to its intro­duction into his hometown of Mifflinburg as early as the 1850s. The subsequent “buggy town” which gradually emerges is graphically under­scored in the small community’s shops, vehicles and customs, as well as its obviously central­ized economy. Buggy Town is as much a picture of small-town American society at the turn of the nineteenth century as it is a reflection of this dynamic chapter in American transportation history.

 

Susquehanna’s Indians

by Barry C. Kent
Pennsyl­vania Historical and Museum Commission, 1984 (438 pages, cloth, $15.95)

Literally unearthing a fascinating period of the Native American experience, this book traces the history and culture of the Susquehannocks and other Indian tribes who lived along the Susquehanna River of central Pennsyl­vania from the beginning of the fifteenth to the second half of the eighteenth centuries. Beginning with a description of the Susquehanna Valley and a general picture of the changing ways of life of its Indian occupants, the narrative offers an in-depth portrayal of how the history and culture of these vanished people have been reconstructed. A variety of artifacts collected during excavations – from bows and arrows to guns and gun­flints – have been rescued from obscurity and analyzed as mirrors of changing pat­terns of Native American cul­ture. Evidence gathered from historic accounts and secondary sources are also included in this comprehensive examination. Flavored by the archae­ologist’s unique interpretation of “culture history,” Susquehanna’s Indians emerges as a highly informative and read­able synthesis of a people in transition.

 

Cornwall: The People and Culture of an Industrial Camelot, 1890-1980

by Carl Oblinger
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1984 (123 pages, paper, $3.50)

The changing impact of industrialization on American society has been a favorite problem for discussion and debate in the academic world. Rarely, however, have the actors of that controversial drama-the workers them­selves – been given the opportunity to tell the tale from the uninhibited perspective of personal experience. The candid recollections contained in Cornwall effectively answer that need and, in the process, reveal some pro­vocative and surprising con­clusions about working-class response and behavior. Like other industrial ventures of the nineteenth century, the Cornwall Ore Bank Company in Lebanon County generated its share of unskilled and semi-skilled immigrant labor from eastern and southern Europe. Unlike other growing industrial giants, however, the family-operated mining enterprise skillfully con­structed a sense of paternalism which engendered a climate of harmony and cooperation. Although basically a periodic treatment of workers’ experi­ences in the twentieth century, the interviews collected here reflect the subtle con­frontation between that nineteenth century legacy and the reality of the monopoly capitalism initiated by Bethle­hem Steel with its takeover in 1921. A number of events, especially the depression of the 1930s, the CIO unioniza­tion drive in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and the mine closings in 1973, would pro­vide a serious challenge to management’s hold on the com­munity, and underscore workers’ desperate struggle to come to grips with capital­ism’s unpleasant side effects. Cornwall is an interesting and important contribution to the literature of this complex period of American social and economic history.