Date of Graduation
Located sixty miles above Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley follows the seventy-mile path of the Lehigh River as it descends from the Pocono Mountains south through the Blue Mountains into the rich agricultural lands of the Appalachian Great Valley. With anthracite deposits in its northern reaches, rich agricultural lands in its middle section, and commercial connections to Philadelphia at its mouth, nineteenth-century industrialists saw the river as a potential transportation route. From 1817 to 1829, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company developed a system of slack water navigation along the river. With the opening of the channel in 1829, extractive industries and commercial agriculture rose quickly within the valley and altered the valley's spatial, social, and political structure. Not everyone supported such changes. A dialectic formed within the valley between the new commercially-minded entrepreneurs, who saw the benefits of industrialization in terms of increased profits and wealth, and the more conservative traditional valley landowners, who criticized the environmental and social consequences of industrial development. The tension between those who welcomed industrialization and those who resisted it created in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, a middle industrial landscape, a transitional space between the primarily agricultural landscape of the eighteenth century and the large-scale industrial one of the late nineteenth century. By examining the industrial situation in the Lehigh Valley between 1820 and 1870, this study will integrate new ideas of environmental history within the ongoing debate regarding early industrialization in American history. More specifically, it will explore the complexities and nuances of the valley's entry into a mature industrial order initially through the construction of the Lehigh Navigation and subsequently through the development of a complex rail network. Market penetration, supported by local entrepreneurs and fostered by Philadelphia capital, brought with it a new commercial economy. By detailing both the relatively quick, simple and complete transformation of the northern hinterland and the comparatively slower, contested and complex alteration of the southern agricultural valley into a middle industrial landscape, this dissertation will contribute to the historical dialogue on the evolution of industrialization in America and its effect upon the environment.
Nigro, Augustine, "Landscaping the Lehigh: The creation of a middle industrial landscape in nineteenth-century Pennsylvania." (2002). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 9506.