St.Clair

Anthony F. C. Wallace, Author Alfred A. Knopf $35 (519p) ISBN 978-0-394-52867-0
Wallace, a Bancroft-winning anthropologist for Rockdale, examines the complex forces that shaped and ultimately destroyed a Pennsylvania mining town. An early manifestation of the U.S. industrial revolution, St. Clair was a small, noisy immigrant community dedicated in the years covered here (18351880) to providing hard coal for a fuel-hungry nation. Against the larger background of the industry's economics and technologies, Wallace focuses on the illusions that allowed mine owners and operators to persist in a high-risk, low-profit trade whose main guarantee was death and injury for miners. Boosterish owners, he finds, ensured their own failure by refusing to take safety precautions to avoid disasters or to listen to geologists' advice on the inaccessibility of coal, choosing instead to blame difficulties on union activity and violence among miners. This is first-rate work that brims with insights into a town and an era. Photos. History Book Club alternate. (August 20)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1987
Release date: 09/01/1987
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