Wealth, Waste, and Alienation

Wealth, Waste, and Alienation: Growth and Decline in the Connellsville Coke Industry

Kenneth Warren
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 320
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Wealth, Waste, and Alienation
    Book Description:

    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.

    InWealth, 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7054-5
    Subjects: History, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. 1 The Foundations of the Industry
    (pp. 1-24)

    Coke is the residue produced when great heat is applied to coal kept out of direct contact with air. The process is conducted either by covering the coal with a more or less impermeable layer or, more effectively, by enclosing it in an oven. Volatiles are driven off, leaving a product that is largely carbon. There are various types of coke. That made as a byproduct of gas production is derived from coals fairly high in volatiles and is rapidly processed in retorts at relatively low temperatures. The resulting coke is dull, spongy, and burns readily. In contrast, low-volatile coals...

  8. 2 The Maturing Industry
    (pp. 25-76)

    Despite the trauma of the Civil War, the United States rose to a preeminent position in the world’s industrial production within twenty-five years after 1860. At the beginning of this period, its output was about two-thirds that of the United Kingdom and also lagged behind France and the German states; by the early 1880s it accounted for 29 percent of world production as compared with the United Kingdom’s 27 percent.¹ Given the fact that this national economic growth involved opening half a continent, it is not surprising that infrastructure building played a prominent part. One result was the spectacular advance...

  9. 3 Organization in the Coke Trade
    (pp. 77-119)

    Labor conditions in the Coke Region were hard, and there was a great deal of what a later generation would describe as oppression, though conditions were not worse than in much of the manufacturing economy of the time. Small, isolated communities with a dearth of alternative employment provided conditions ideal for exploitation, especially when populated by recent immigrants with lower expectations than native Americans and often having severe difficulties communicating in English. Although the area was much less remote and more open to outside observation than some of the mid-Appalachian coal settlements whose appalling management/employee relations have been analyzed by...

  10. 4 New Districts
    (pp. 120-156)

    Through the 1880s rising demand for coke was met by extensions of production in a district whose geological limits were already well known. There were 7,000 ovens by the end of 1880 and 16,000 a decade later. Development of other coking coalfields in Pennsylvania was relatively insignificant. During the 1890s there was a further rise in the number of Connellsville ovens, though under 5,000 in total; for the four years through 1899, the increase was only 1,338 ovens. One reason for this reduced rate of growth was the concentration of control in the region; acceptable prices could best be maintained...

  11. 5 New Technology
    (pp. 157-194)

    The United States was superbly endowed with coal resources. It was this enviable situation that in large part accounted for her slowness both in adopting general practices for the conservation of energy and, specifically, the major advances in coking technology pioneered in Europe in the late nineteenth century. On the Continent—Britain was, or for long thought itself to be, in this respect well-favored and therefore cast more in the American than the continental mold—coals suited to the beehive process were less abundant; ovens of “retort” rather than beehive design made it possible to use such poorer coking coals....

  12. 6 The Physical and Social Implications of Beehive Coke Manufacture
    (pp. 195-228)

    In February 1886 the American Institute of Mining Engineers met in Pittsburgh. John Peter Lesley, once a minister of religion and after that for many years a leading Pennsylvania state geologist, gave a paper entitled “The Geology of the Pittsburgh Coal Region.” A learned address became an unrestrained celebration of the blessings bestowed by nature on this region. For Lesley, it was perhaps, “the most valuable spot on the surface of the planet…. A vast community has organized itself by the spirit of the nineteenth century in a thousand forms of intelligence and force…. There seems to be no limit...

  13. 7 Peak and Decline
    (pp. 229-260)

    In the last days of 1914, sixty-year-old Thomas Lynch, president of the H. C. Frick Coke Company, the United States Coal and Coke Company, and director of the United States Steel Corporation, died. Almost exactly five years later, his long-time chief and mentor, Henry Clay Frick, also passed on. The short period between their deaths was marked by a dramatic transition in the beehive industry, from the status of the dominant to that of a dwindling and secondary source of supply for the nation’s steel industry. In 1914 beehive ovens produced 67 percent of the nation’s coke; 1919 national coke...

  14. Appendix A. Statistical Tables
    (pp. 261-266)
  15. Appendix B. Biographical Notes
    (pp. 267-270)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 271-286)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-292)
  18. Index
    (pp. 293-297)