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Armstrong County: Gateway to the Allegheny


By Ronald Gdovic, Ph.D. A pictoral history of Armstrong County.

Former industrial strength is easy to recognize in America's large northeastern cities. The rise of big business evoked rapid change a century ago. Countless rural towns and villages, bursting with new immigrants to America, sprouted around daring new business ventures like iron making and coal mining. Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, has many such places and, although the factories have been shuttered, its industrial heritage lives on. The founding industires may have disappeared, but evidence of the past abounds in the heritage, culture and pride of the old workers and their descendants.

Northeast of Pittsburgh by only forty miles, Armstrong County was poised to participate in the mosaic of the Industrial Revolution. The county is geographically bisected by one of the most important waterways of the Westward Movement - the Allegheny River and its tributaries. The river's varied uses for nourishment, as a means of tranport and as a source of power, drew many inhabitants to its banks over the centuries.

The industrial era, however, surely put the Allegheny through it paces, for better and for worse, as valley communites sought to secure their places in history. While agriculture remained important, Armstrong County's vast natural deposits of coal, oil and natural gas fueled industrial giants from Chicago to New Jersey. Armstrong County clay products lined blast furnaces while fine river sand produced the highest quality plate glass in the world; its iron and steel works pioneered the use of natural gas while railroad track from its rolling mills laid the way for settlement far west of the Allegheny Mountain range.

This volume explores the rich industrial heritage of Armstrong County and defines its role in an industrializing nation. It contains colorful historic photographs and text that paint a picture of the development of the valley communities around transportation routes and the industries they connected. Through photographs, interviews and inquiry, we explore the early days of iron, steel and glass production, brickyards, refractories and the extractive industries which supported them. Ethnographic forays give us a glimpse of the lives of our immigrant ancestors - their challenges and joys during lives lived along the riverbanks, deep in the mines, and in the long shadows cast by the great factories.

Hardback. 192 p.