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Pennsylvania in Public Memory

Reclaiming the Industrial Past

Carolyn, Kitch

Publication Year: 2012

What stories do we tell about America’s once-great industries at a time when they are fading from the landscape? Pennsylvania in Public Memory attempts to answer that question, exploring the emergence of a heritage culture of industry and its loss through the lens of its most representative industrial state. Based on news coverage, interviews, and more than two hundred heritage sites, this book traces the narrative themes that shape modern public memory of coal, steel, railroading, lumber, oil, and agriculture, and that collectively tell a story about national as well as local identity in a changing social and economic world.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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Title Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: Public Memory and the Legacies of Labor

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pp. 1-20

This portrait appeared on the front page of the nation’s leading newspaper on the day the Pittsburgh Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl championship. The team’s first four victories were achieved in the mid- to late 1970s, as the steel industry was beginning to topple; its other two, ending the 2005 and 2008 seasons, occurred amid the city’s recent revitalization. By their victory in 2009...

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Chapter 1: “Almost a Nation”: The History of Industrial Heritage in Pennsylvania

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pp. 21-40

From the dawn of middle-class American tourism, its promotional language has been full of hyperbole, and Pennsylvania sightseeing literature has been no exception. Within the state’s borders one could experience the full range of American life, proclaimed this and other early travel guides, which had titles such as “All in Pennsylvania” and “Pennsylvania Has Everything.”1 “Pennsylvania...

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Chapter 2: “A Journey That Will Inspire”: Regions, Routes, and Rails

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pp. 41-56

The subject of this heritage text is the Delaware River, which runs along Pennsylvania’s eastern border. Those “just passing through” its region today are, as the quotation marks suggest, addressed as leisure travelers rather than pioneers, industrialists, or merchants. Yet those earlier characters are the stars of the historical story told here and in similarly conceived areas. Whether designated...

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Chapter 3: “Overcomin’ What Nature Put in Your Way”: Rural Heritage and Pioneer Mythology

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pp. 57-76

These bucolic stereotypes appear in a regional tourism brochure that actually has a rather progressive purpose: to promote the purchasing of locally, and in many cases organically, produced food. Its appeal to the twenty-first-century tourist is simultaneously modern and nostalgic, drawing on long-held ideas about the cultural meanings of farming. Writing about “the American quest for...

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Chapter 4: “Where I Came From, How I Got Here”: Ethnic Diversity, Cultural Tourism, and the Memory of Immigration

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pp. 77-90

Thus begins the explanation that greets visitors to the newest major museum in Johnstown. The deindustrialization of this steelmaking city was the narrative backdrop for the 1977 movie Slapshot, about the fictional, struggling “Charlestown” Chiefs minor league hockey team. Between 1973 and 1982, the number of workers at the once-massive Cambria Steel Company shrank from nearly...

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Chapter 5: “Deep Veins of Loss”: Sacrifice and Heroism in Coal Country

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pp. 91-108

This language—full of truth and stereotypes, local news and national mythology— was typical of American news reporting in late July 2002, when an accident trapped nine workers in the Quecreek Mine in western Pennsylvania. A day after this report aired, the miners were rescued in an event that was hailed by the media, as well as the Pennsylvania governor and the U.S. president, as...

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Chapter 6: “From Our Family to Yours”: Personal Meanings of Work in Factory Tourism

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pp. 109-128

Even as factories themselves have been disappearing from the landscape, in recent years tourism literature has increasingly promoted the state’s many “factory tours.” The curious can visit the Utz Potato Chip factory in Hanover, the Martin Guitar Company in Nazareth, and the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville, as well as museums that celebrate Crayola Crayons and Zippo lighters. York...

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Chapter 7: “Steel Made This Town”: An Unfinished Story in Uncertain Times

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pp. 129-152

When the American steel industry collapsed in the closing decades of the twentieth century, the blow was felt perhaps most painfully in Pennsylvania, home to the largest plants of U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel. Together, these two companies had forged the ingredients of the nation’s greatest bridges and skyscrapers, as well as huge battleships engaged in both World Wars. The wave of abrupt...

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Chapter 8: “What’s the Use of Wond’rin’?”: The Questions of Industrial Heritage

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pp. 153-168

This passage, from the introduction to one title in a local history picture-book series, begins with typical heritage language—full of settlers, pioneers, immigrants, and thriving communities—but then takes a less pleasant turn. Occasionally, through mixed messages like this one, the unhappy feelings of local people caught in economic change make their way into industrial heritage interpretation...

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Epilogue: The Future of Pennsylvania’s Past

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pp. 169-180

This explanation, on a sign at the entrance to a public park in the eastern Pennsylvania town of Bristol, describes the ideal situation for heritage projects, in which all kinds of local people come together with no interest other than to create a lasting legacy. At the same time, it pays special tribute to organized labor, and on its backside are almost memorial-style lists of the names of the men...


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pp. 181-218


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pp. 219-240


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pp. 241-260

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053943
E-ISBN-10: 0271053941
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271052199
Print-ISBN-10: 0271052198

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 10 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 821726207
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Pennsylvania in Public Memory

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Industrial archaeology -- Pennsylvania.
  • Historic sites -- Conservation and restoration -- Pennsylvania.
  • Collective memory -- Pennsylvania.
  • Heritage tourism -- Pennsylvania.
  • Industries -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Working class -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Deindustrialization -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Pennsylvania -- Economic conditions.
  • Pennsylvania -- Social conditions.
  • Pennsylvania -- History, Local.
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