A Sweep Of Bridges

“De railroad bridges’s A sad song in de air…”

In 1801 James Finley, a justice of the peace in Pennsylvania, connected towers on both sides of a creek with cables, hung a platform between them, and thereby invented the modern suspension bridge. It seems more than coincidence that this vital structural form had its genesis in Yankee ingenuity, for America, more than any other country, benefited from the engineering conquest of its natural barriers.Read more »

Mary Cassatt

“I do not admit that a woman can draw like that,” said Degas when he saw one of her pictures

At eight o’clock on the evening of June 14, 1926, a very old woman—blind and suffering from advanced diabetes—died in her chateau on the edge of the tiny village of Mesnil-Theribus, some thirty miles northwest of Paris. At her funeral, because she held the Legion of Honor, there was a detail of soldiers, and because she was chatelaine of the manor house, the village band played and most of the townspeople followed her coffin to the cemetery. There was nothing extraordinary in this; it is a not uncommon ritual in the villages of France.Read more »

‘The Works Are Not Worth One Drop Of Human Blood’

In his own time there raged about Andrew Carnegie, as about any man who pushes his head above the crowd, many a controversy. From the standpoint of his place in history, none is more important than the great strike that erupted at the Homestead, Pennsylvania, works of the Carnegie Steel Company in the summer of 1892. Read more »

The Coal Kings Come To Judgment

When the anthracite miners downed tools in 1902, economic feudalism went on trial

The highways leading south and west out of Scranton, Pennsylvania, wind through the graveyard of a dying industry. Its monuments are decaying company houses, boarded-up collieries, and mountainous piles of culm—the black, gravelly residue from the mining of anthracite coal.

 
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Sitting On A Gusher

How gullible Edwin L. Drake, an ailing ex-railroad conductor, brought about America’s first and gaudiest oil boom

Perhaps the most bizarre of all the great mineral booms of the nineteenth century took place not in a remote western wilderness, but in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, within easy reach of such well-established centers of population as New York and Pittsburgh. In this case the sought-after prize was not gold or silver but an infinitely more valuable substance, petroleum.