Homestead: Glory&trag

William Serrin, Author
William Serrin, Author Crown Publishers $25 (452p) ISBN 978-0-8129-1886-1
Paperback - 460 pages - 978-0-679-74817-5
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Serrin, a former labor reporter for the New York Times, begins here with a poignant account of the 1986 closing of U.S. Steel's Homestead Works, the most famous steel mill in the world. In retracing the mill's history, he suggests that Homestead, just outside Pittsburgh, is emblematic of a classic American story of industry, labor, immigration and community. Serrin ably reconstructs the growth of Homestead, especially the role of industrialist Andrew Carnegie and the epic 1892 strike at the mill. He explains how the company controlled community life, how the unions grew in the 1930s and how neither labor nor management saw the need to change as the industry lost jobs in the 1950s. The narrative gains in power when Serrin reenters it to relate eyewitness stories of despair in depressed 1980s Homestead, including those of a futile redevelopment effort, of a minister-led protest movement, and of how the virtually abandoned town became, ironically, a fashionable subject for study by anthropologists, sociologists and social workers. Though the book is valuable as history, its account of the industry's collapse in the 1980s is less comprehensive than John P. Hoerr's 1988 book, And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline of the American Steel Industry. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Oct.)
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