Pastoral and Monumental
Dams, Postcards, and the American Landscape
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press
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Over the past thirty years I have interacted with hundreds of antique postcard dealers and ephemera merchants to gather the images in this book. But in other respects the creation of Pastoral and Monumental constituted a solitary endeavor in-volving little direct collaboration with colleagues or friends. That caveat aside, some specific acknowledgements are in order. First, I thank Carol for her commen-...
Chapter One: Pastoral and Monumental
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...when someone invokes the word technology, what first leaps to mind? Most likely the Internet, ever-smarter phones, or a maelstrom of gigabyte-driven social media. But what about the physical world that sustains us, and the role played by hydraulic technology in defining how human cultures interact with the environ-ment? People today may struggle to imagine life without instant e-connections of all sorts. But imagine a world without fresh water as close as the nearest faucet ...
Chapter Two: Postcard Culture
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Picture postcards seemed to arrive with great suddenness in early twentieth- century America, but they only flourished because of cultural and technolog-ical innovations brought to fruition in the prior century. First and foremost, the U.S. Postal Service created an expansive network allowing for rapid, reliable, and modestly priced mail delivery. By the mid-nineteenth century this fosteredâin the phrasing of the historian David Henkinâa distinctive âpostal cultureâ engag-...
Chapter Three: Materials, Design, Construction
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...an array of questions arises when someone sets out to build a dam. Some re- late to location, topography, and geology, some to purpose, and many con-cern what and how. What materials will be used to build the dam? What will be the size and shape? And how will it be constructed? Later chapters deal with the why of dams and the way that people use them; the postcards featured here document the technology itself. Compared to detailed blueprints, contract specifications, or ...
Chapter Four: Disasters
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Humans are fascinated by the misfortunes of others. Cars slow down at acci-dents so motorists can gape at gruesome wrecks. Mine shaft cave-ins captivate huge audiences across media platforms. And when a wall of water crashes through a village, or a low-lying urban district is inundated by a collapsed levee, people seek out photos to vicariously experience the devastation. This book is not the forum to explore why people are drawn to human tragedy, but it is a place to illus-...
Chapter Five: Using Dams
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People build dams because they want to use water for some purpose or in some new way that natural conditions will not allow. A great many of these usesâand the transformations they brought to riverine environmentsâwere recorded in photographs and postcards disseminated to a broad audience of Americans in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What follows is a visual overview of how dams have been tapped for a multitude of purposes including milling and factory ...
Chapter Six: The New Deal
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...the market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s brought dam building into the public consciousness in new and significant ways. The changes were not always immediate, and they often involved projects planned prior to economic hard times. Nonetheless, the coming of the New Deal repre-sented a major shift in the funding of water resource projects and in how they were promoted as public works. Above all, the political reorientation of the 1930s ...
Chapter Seven: Fish and Environment
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By the start of the twenty-first century dams were widely viewed as having a negative impact on the environment. Such perceptions did not spring out of the ether but had roots extending back more than two hundred years, to a time when dams were first blamed for blocking seasonal fish runs. As early as the eighteenth century, New England farmers, who had come to rely on fishing as a component of their rural lifestyle, sought the removal of mill dams through legal ...
Chapter Eight: Snapshot Culture
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...at midcentury picture postcards were entrenched as essential components of American culture, but their status had changed dramatically since the golden age of 1905â1915. Postcard collectors and postcard clubs survived, but more as a hobbyist niche and not as a broad-based movement engaging people across the sociocultural landscape. The diversity of local views was in decline, and, from the perspective of the renowned photographer Walker Evans, the graphic quality of ...
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...at midcentury monumental dams were but one among many landmarks and structures that people experienced and consumed through postcards, snap-shots, and a welter of mass media. By the 1960s dams were still being built and expansive water control and supply systems remained an integral part of Americaâs urbanizing culture. But in many ways large dams had done their job too well. They had become normalized. The cultural excitement attached to major New Deal ...
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Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 398 photos
Publication Year: 2013