The southwestern Pennsylvania town of Connellsville lay in the middle of a massive reserve of high quality coal. Connellsville coal was so soft and easily worked that one man and a boy could cut and load ten tons of it in ten hours. This region became a major source of coke, a vital material in industrial processes, above all in steel manufacture, producing forty-seven percent of America`s supply in 1913. But by the 1920s, what had seemed to be a gold mine was turning into a devastating economic, environmental and social loss. In Wealth, Waste and Alienation, Kenneth Warren draws from primary source material, including the minutes and letters of the Carnegie Steel Company, the United States Steel Corporation, and the archives of Henry Clay Frick, to explain the birth, phenomenal growth, decline and death of the Connellsville coke industry. Its rich natural resources produced wealth for individuals, companies, and some communities, but as Warren shows, there was also social alienation, waste, and devastation of the natural environment. The complicated structure of enterprise, capital, and labor which made this region flourish unwound almost as quickly as it arose, creating repercussions that are still reverberating in what’s left of Connellsville today, a kind of postindustrial rural shell of its former productive glory.
A masterful combination of sensitive analysis and engaging narrative, Wealth, Waste, and Alienation is both a comprehensive economic history of the 19th- and early 20th-century coke industry and an insightful business history of that industry's major firms and entrepreneurs. It is also a study in the historical geography and environmental and social history of a region that grew rich and then declined through a dependence on producing the essential fuel of the American steel industry.
Connellsville coke made Pittsburgh steel world famous, and this book shows why. Drawing on economic, technological, labor, and environmental history, Warren tells the 'biography' of one of America's premier metallurgical districts. This book builds outward from fresh archival research in the Frick and Carnegie archives (and from Warren's own splendid book on the Connellsville coke king, Henry Clay Frick).
The Connellsville coal industry has been long neglected by historians. Professor Kenneth Warren has corrected that omission with his fine treatment of a vitally important industry. This is a master historian at the top of his form.
Warren is to be congratulated for his outstanding, thorough, detailed coverage of Connellsville and its coke industry. ... it gives significant insights into an era, industry, and individuals that are now gone but that helped develop America into what it is today.
Kenneth Warren was Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford, and the author of numerous books, including Big Steel: The First Century of the United States Steel Corporation 1901–2001; Wealth, Waste, and Alienation: Growth and Decline in the Connellsville Coke Industry; and Bethlehem Steel: Builder and Arsenal of America.learn more