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“Almost a Nation” The History of Industrial Heritage in Pennsylvania To tell the story of Pennsylvania’s industries would be to parallel the history of the marvelous development of the modern world. “Industrial Pennsylvania” is so indelibly stamped in the brain of the human race that it stands out as a “trade mark” among the century’s greatest achievements. It was built on a foundation of iron and steel, coal and timber, agriculture and stock-raising, and has risen to a superstructure of supreme heights, unfolding in the mind a vista of boundless possibilities. —Pennsylvania Highways brochure, 1930 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 Presents Them All!” began one 1940 guidebook, which promised, “Rugged mountains or peaceful valleys . . . streamlined industry or historic shrines. . . . There is a world of interest within an easy drive of wherever you are in Pennsylvania.”2 Industrialization was part of this glorious mix. The “heavy industries”—notably coal, steel, and railroading—were celebrated as part of the state’s public identity while they were at their peak. At the same time, there were the first glimmers of nostalgia for other industries, notably oil and lumber, whose peak had passed. The ways in which all of these industries were described in early tourism literature would set the stage for the industrial heritage projects of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. 22   Pennsylvania in Public Memory “Industrial Titan” or “Sylvan Paradise”? Early Tensions in the Tourism Mix The origins of Pennsylvania industrial tourism—while not yet industrial heritage tourism—date to the 1870s and lie in the charming town of Mauch Chunk, an early resort because of its industrial wealth (gained through the anthracite coal-mining and railroad industries) and its location in the Pocono Mountains, close to New York and Philadelphia. There, tourists could take a thrilling, highspeed ride on the Gravity Railroad, along the steep tracks on which coal cars had descended from Summit Hill into the Lehigh Valley (prior to the building of a tunnel, which freed the tracks for tourists). This adventure’s appeal was moral as well as novel, writes John Sears. “Mauch Chunk confirmed the values of many Americans in the nineteenth century—the faith in progress, the pride in America’s growing power and wealth—and reconciled the underlying contradictions between their fascination with technology and their love of grand and picturesque scenery.”3 A ride on the switchback presumably engendered the sentimental pastoralism that a number of scholars date to the late nineteenth century—a time when, for affluent Americans, a trip through nature was not an arduous journey but an escape from urban industrial reality.4 By the early twentieth century, tourism was taking shape as a modern industry that catered not just to the upper classes but also to the middle and, to a limited extent, working classes. Tour packagers, hotels, railroads, chambers of commerce, and, increasingly, highway associations and motoring clubs urged these travelers to “see America first.” The new tourism combined commercial enterprise with Progressive-era ideas about the value of fresh air and self-improvement through education, and it coincided with growing public and academic interest in preserving American historical sites. Toward the latter end, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission was established in 1915. Its first report contained this statement: “History, like charity, should begin at home. It should not end there. There are many people who have visited the historic localities of Europe, but have never been to more interesting localities at their very doors. . . . The young people, and the older people, of this State should see and ‘know Pennsylvania first.’” Referring to the role of the state in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, this report acknowledged industrialization but characterized it as a distraction from understandings of the state’s great past: Industrial Heritage in Pennsylvania   23 Cut out of American history what these events stand for, and the part played in them by Pennsylvania, and one loses the real plot of the entire drama of American history. Pennsylvania historians have been too modest , or too much fascinated by the mere glitter of the wonderful industrial development of the State, to give just...


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