Rating:

Reviewed by Joanne L.

Calling Scranton, “The Silicone Valley of the 19th Century,” Patrick Brown has written a fine (and wonderfully short) book that tells the story of the rise of Scranton in the dawn of the United State’s Industrial Revolution. Beginning as a rural village, Brown’s book follows the community of Scranton for 60 years as the coal-rich region works to meet the demands of a growing country.

Using Longfellow’s poem, The Village Blacksmith, Brown establishes the character of the 1840’s American as someone who, “derives respect from his hard work, integrity, and status as a member of the village.” This American is the skilled worker who owns his own business, has significant pride in his work, and is a community member of equal standing with others. Brown writes, “The difference in wealth between financially successful community members and their less successful peers was of a quantitative, not qualitative nature.”

Initially, removing the coal was easy. As time passed and coal removal became more difficult, machines were needed. Buying the machines required capital. At this point Scranton shifted from a generally self-supporting local economy to a region that attracted people and wealth from other parts of the nation and the world. So began a different type of economy, a capital-intense economy that was a foundation for Scranton’s participation in the industrialization of America.

[amazonify]0982256558[/amazonify]As the capitalists entered Scranton, Brown notes the change as, “The difference in wealth between financially successful individuals and their less successful peers became qualitative.” This created tension in the Scranton community because everyone was working hard yet people were being divided by their roles. The workers and those with the capital knew the meaning of these differences, but their meanings did not agree.

Utilizing contemporary news sources, papers, and books, Brown documents the intriguing story of the transition of Scranton from “The Village Blacksmith” ideals to the on-going balancing act between those that provided the labor, and those that provided the capital and land. At times there was violence from both sides, at times there were level-headed heroes respected by all. The story resulted in the painful, generative, and unevenly lucrative birth of industry and the shift in the cultural dynamics of the Scranton area.

Reading history for me stems from curiosity and then, almost indubitably, challenges some of my assumptions. Within Industrial Pioneers, I expected labor/management conflict and judgment grounded in wealth, greed, and envy. I found a progression of actions peopled by characters striving for something better and influenced by the occurrences of their community, their region, their country, and their world.

Industrial Pioneers is a good and a quick read and probably, somewhere in the 100 or so pages, a read that tells a story that you will recognize as part of your own. Enjoy it!

Want to learn more? See sample illustrations from the book and read an excerpt from the introduction.

Joanne is an organization development and human resources professional with a business background living in Ohio. She has lived in Europe, Africa (including her Peace Corps service in South Africa), and arround the United States. She loves to plays volleyball, read, write, and has a cat named Ender.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Tribute Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.