The first intensive analysis of sense of place in American
mining towns, Hard as the Rock Itself: Place and Identity in
the American Mining Town provides rare insight into the
struggles and rewards of life in these communities. David Robertson
contends that these communities - often characterized in scholarly
and literary works as derelict, as sources of debasing moral
influence, and as scenes of environmental decay - have a strong and
enduring sense of place and have even embraced some of the signs of
Robertson documents the history of Toluca, Illinois; Cokedale,
Colorado; and Picher, Oklahoma, from the mineral discovery phase
through mine closure, telling for the first time how these
century-old mining towns have survived and how sense of place has
played a vital role.
Acknowledging the hardships that mining's social, environmental,
and economic legacies have created for current residents, Robertson
argues that the industry's influences also have contributed to the
creation of strong, cohesive communities in which residents have
always identified with the severe landscape and challenging, but
rewarding way of life.
Robertson contends that the tough, unpretentious appearance of
mining landscapes mirrors qualities that residents value in
themselves, confirming that a strong sense of place in mining
regions, as elsewhere, is not necessarily wedded to an attractive
aesthetic or even to a thriving economy.
Mining historians, geographers, and other students of place in the
American landscape will find fascinating material in Hard As
the Rock Itself.
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