Main Street Blues: The Decline of Small-Town America / Edition 1

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Richard O. Davies takes the reader through two hundred years of American history as reflected in the small Ohio farming village of Camden. Davies describes the development of the relatively self-sufficient community that emerged from the Ohio land rush of the early nineteenth century, a community that reached its apex during the 1920s and then entered into a period of slow decline caused by forces beyond its control. He details the roles of land speculation, the railroad era, the impact of the automobile, the emergence of a tightly knit community, and finally the post-World War II loss of business and population to the nearby cities of Dayton, Hamilton, and Cincinnati.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author, a history professor now residing in Nevada, grew up in Camden, Ohio, and left his home town after graduating from high school in 1960. The town's population, hovering around 1000, in most ways typifies small-town America, though every town has unique components. Although Camden doesn't appear in the title or subtitle, this is really a thorough, well-written and minutely detailed account of that one town. Davies presents convincing evidence that the popular image of small-town America as a folk society is based on the isolated communities of the rural 19th century. Wal-Mart may be considered the final blow to mom-and-pop Main Street businesses, but the forces of centralization and urbanization were in place by 1900 and Davies tracks Camden's ebb and flow during the 20th century up to the shell that remains in the late 1990s. Sherwood Anderson was born in Camden, and his depiction of life in the fictitious Winesburg, Ohio, pairs with Sinclair Lewis's portrayal of Main Street, to provide mythical counterpoints to reality. The case study of Camden is 95% of the book, but the town is contrasted with other communities the author visited on a 44-state driving trip. The few small towns that have escaped the stagnation of the majority have done so because of special circumstances, inspired leadership or plain luck. Ultimately, this is a competent book with a sad story but little new to report. (Aug.)
A study of the history of the town of Camden, Ohio. Drawing on the works of novelists--particularly Camden native Sherwood Anderson, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists, as well as a variety of local sources, the author explores the small farming community as it was affected by land speculation, the railroad era, the automobile, and the post-World War II loss of business and population to the cities of Dayton, Hamilton, and Cincinnati. Paper edition (unseen), $20.00. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814207826
  • Publisher: Ohio State University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Series: Urban Life and Urban Landscape Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue. Plainville, U.S.A.: The Towns We Left Behind 1
1 Dover: The Building of a Community 9
2 Winesburg: Life along Main Street 43
3 Camden: The Halcyon Days of the 1920s 61
4 Depression: "The Worst of Times" 89
5 War: "Camden Behind the Men Behind the Guns" 117
6 The Last Picture Show 137
7 Main Street In Repose 163
Epilogue. Camden: The Town We Left Behind 185
Notes 197
Bibliography 213
Index 221
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