St. Clair: A Nineteenth-Century Coal Town's Experience with a Disaster-Prone Industry

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St. Clair

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wallace, a Bancroft-winning anthropologist for Rockdale, examines the complex forces that shaped and ultimately destroyed a Pennsylvania mining town. An early manifestation of the U.S. industrial revolution, St. Clair was a small, noisy immigrant community dedicated in the years covered here (18351880) to providing hard coal for a fuel-hungry nation. Against the larger background of the industry's economics and technologies, Wallace focuses on the illusions that allowed mine owners and operators to persist in a high-risk, low-profit trade whose main guarantee was death and injury for miners. Boosterish owners, he finds, ensured their own failure by refusing to take safety precautions to avoid disasters or to listen to geologists' advice on the inaccessibility of coal, choosing instead to blame difficulties on union activity and violence among miners. This is first-rate work that brims with insights into a town and an era. Photos. History Book Club alternate. (August 20)
Library Journal
St. Clair is a fascinating, imaginative, and complete reconstruction of a Pennsylvania mining community. Using the tools of anthropology and history, Wallace mines the rich records of a small population and re-creates the landscape, geology, and people. He examines the motivations of the developers, the ethnic conflicts among workers, the unions, and how all these elements contributed to the town's short (about 40 years), unhappy history. Then, drawing on contemporary decision-making and risk-taking theory, he extrapolates six indicators of a disaster-prone organization. He also draws an analogy between the 19th-century coal industry and the nuclear power industry. An excellent industrial history with a vivid human component, this also sheds light on an urgent current issue. History Book Club alternate.. Mary Drake McFeely, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394528670
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/12/1987
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 519

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