Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth: Coal, Politics, and Economy in Antebellum America

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Overview

In 1796, famed engineer and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe toured the coal fields outside Richmond, Virginia, declaring enthusiastically, "Such a mine of Wealth exists, I believe, nowhere else!" With its abundant and accessible deposits, growing industries, and network of rivers and ports, Virginia stood poised to serve as the center of the young nation's coal trade. By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, Virginia's leadership in the American coal industry had completely unraveled while Pennsylvania, at first slow to exploit its vast reserves of anthracite and bituminous coal, had become the country's leading producer.

Sean Patrick Adams compares the political economies of coal in Virginia and Pennsylvania from the late eighteenth century through the Civil War, examining the divergent paths these two states took in developing their ample coal reserves during a critical period of American industrialization. In both cases, Adams finds, state economic policies played a major role. Virginia's failure to exploit the rich coal fields in the western part of the state can be traced to the legislature's overriding concern to protect and promote the interests of the agrarian, slaveholding elite of eastern Virginia. Pennsylvania's more factious legislature enthusiastically embraced a policy of economic growth that resulted in the construction of an extensive transportation network, a statewide geological survey, and support for private investment in its coal fields.

Using coal as a barometer of economic change, Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth addresses longstanding questions about North-South economic divergence and the role of state government in American industrial development, providing new insights for both political and economic historians of nineteenth-century America.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Historians of many fields will want to take note.
Choice
For anyone interested in state policies, paths of economic development, and antebellum political economy, this study is necessary reading.
Journal of American History - Edward J. Davies
Adams's innovative study has opened up a new arena for investigation and, judging from the richness of his analysis, one with great potential.
Historian - Willard Carl Klunder
Adams makes good use of the available primary and secondary sources in support of his thesis.
Common-Place - Warren R. Hofstra
Explaining the troubled present is not Adam's objective, but his book provides a powerful tool for doing just that.
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography - Andrew M. Schocket
As with any successful study, this one answers some questions and provokes others... One hopes that rather than this being the last word on the subject, it serves as a call for further investigation.
Journal of American Studies - James Campbell
An engaging and persuasive work that addresses in a highly accessible manner the intricacies of state-level politics and economic decision-making.
History - Howell John Harris
Thoroughly researched, attractively written, and nicely produced, with clear maps and useful data graphs.
Enterprise and Society - John Majewski
An impressive exemplar of comparative history. Adams is a gifted writer with an excellent eye for detail.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History - Robert E. Wright
Profoundly powerful insights into the importance of political and economic institutions.
West Virginia History - Paul Salstrom
This is economic history as it should be written... Adams has created an important and highly readable interpretation of Virginia and Pennsylvania's economic history in the early and mid-1800s, and I commend him.
Economic History Review - Neville Kirk
Rooted in impressive scholarship in the archives, and with a sound knowledge and understanding of the secondary sources, it merits a wide readership.
Choice

For anyone interested in state policies, paths of economic development, and antebellum political economy, this study is necessary reading.

Journal of American History - Edward J. Davies

Adams's innovative study has opened up a new arena for investigation and, judging from the richness of his analysis, one with great potential.

Historian - Willard Carl Klunder

Adams makes good use of the available primary and secondary sources in support of his thesis.

Common-Place - Warren R. Hofstra

Explaining the troubled present is not Adam's objective, but his book provides a powerful tool for doing just that.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography - Andrew M. Schocket

As with any successful study, this one answers some questions and provokes others... One hopes that rather than this being the last word on the subject, it serves as a call for further investigation.

Journal of American Studies - James Campbell

An engaging and persuasive work that addresses in a highly accessible manner the intricacies of state-level politics and economic decision-making.

History - Howell John Harris

Thoroughly researched, attractively written, and nicely produced, with clear maps and useful data graphs.

Enterprise and Society - John Majewski

An impressive exemplar of comparative history. Adams is a gifted writer with an excellent eye for detail.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History - Robert E. Wright

Profoundly powerful insights into the importance of political and economic institutions.

West Virginia History - Paul Salstrom

This is economic history as it should be written... Adams has created an important and highly readable interpretation of Virginia and Pennsylvania's economic history in the early and mid-1800s, and I commend him.

Economic History Review - Neville Kirk

Rooted in impressive scholarship in the archives, and with a sound knowledge and understanding of the secondary sources, it merits a wide readership.

Historian
Adams makes good use of the available primary and secondary sources in support of his thesis.

— Willard Carl Klunder

Choice

For anyone interested in state policies, paths of economic development, and antebellum political economy, this study is necessary reading.

History
Thoroughly researched, attractively written, and nicely produced, with clear maps and useful data graphs.

— Howell John Harris

Journal of American Studies
An engaging and persuasive work that addresses in a highly accessible manner the intricacies of state-level politics and economic decision-making.

— James Campbell

Journal of American History
Adams's innovative study has opened up a new arena for investigation and, judging from the richness of his analysis, one with great potential.

— Edward J. Davies, II

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Historians of many fields will want to take note.

Economic History Review
Rooted in impressive scholarship in the archives, and with a sound knowledge and understanding of the secondary sources, it merits a wide readership.

— Neville Kirk

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Profoundly powerful insights into the importance of political and economic institutions.

— Robert E. Wright

Enterprise and Society
An impressive exemplar of comparative history. Adams is a gifted writer with an excellent eye for detail.

— John Majewski

Common-Place
Explaining the troubled present is not Adam's objective, but his book provides a powerful tool for doing just that.

— Warren R. Hofstra

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
As with any successful study, this one answers some questions and provokes others... One hopes that rather than this being the last word on the subject, it serves as a call for further investigation.

— Andrew M. Schocket

West Virginia History
This is economic history as it should be written... Adams has created an important and highly readable interpretation of Virginia and Pennsylvania's economic history in the early and mid-1800s, and I commend him.

— Paul Salstrom

Economic History Review
Rooted in impressive scholarship in the archives, and with a sound knowledge and understanding of the secondary sources, it merits a wide readership.

— Neville Kirk

Enterprise and Society
An impressive exemplar of comparative history. Adams is a gifted writer with an excellent eye for detail.

— John Majewski

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Profoundly powerful insights into the importance of political and economic institutions.

— Robert E. Wright

West Virginia History
This is economic history as it should be written... Adams has created an important and highly readable interpretation of Virginia and Pennsylvania's economic history in the early and mid-1800s, and I commend him.

— Paul Salstrom

History
Thoroughly researched, attractively written, and nicely produced, with clear maps and useful data graphs.

— Howell John Harris

Choice

For anyone interested in state policies, paths of economic development, and antebellum political economy, this study is necessary reading.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
As with any successful study, this one answers some questions and provokes others... One hopes that rather than this being the last word on the subject, it serves as a call for further investigation.

— Andrew M. Schocket

Journal of American Studies
An engaging and persuasive work that addresses in a highly accessible manner the intricacies of state-level politics and economic decision-making.

— James Campbell

Journal of American History
Adams's innovative study has opened up a new arena for investigation and, judging from the richness of his analysis, one with great potential.

— Edward J. Davies, II

Common-Place
Explaining the troubled present is not Adam's objective, but his book provides a powerful tool for doing just that.

— Warren R. Hofstra

Historian
Adams makes good use of the available primary and secondary sources in support of his thesis.

— Willard Carl Klunder

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Sean Patrick Adams is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction : the political economy of coal 1
1 The intersection of politics and geology : America's first coal trade 12
2 The Commonwealth's fuel : the rise of Pennsylvania anthracite 48
3 Trunk and branch : state internal improvement networks and the coal trade 84
4 "Hidden treasures" and nasty politics : antebellum geological surveys in Pennsylvania and Virginia 119
5 Miners without souls : corporations and coal in Pennsylvania and Virginia 152
6 Three separate paths : the impact of the Civil War 189
Epilogue : capture and confusion 223
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