By Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes
The nearly two hundred rare and dramatic photographs in this work depict life at work in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Work- often arduous, low paid, and dangerous- defined the region during its period of supercharged development from the 1880s to the 1920s. A final section records work during the depression and war years in the 1930s and 1940s. Complementing the photographs are statements by workers themselves, government analysts, and later observers. The author's essays and commentary on the photographs demonstrate, that, from the beginning of U. S. control, wage labor was crucial to integrating the Pacific Northwest into national and international networks of trade, commerce, and industry. The development of lumber, mining, fishing, railroad, and service industries in the New Northwest marked the transformation of the region from an isolated periphery to a functioning component of the world economy and culture. Schwantes also deals with the tension between the supposed freedom and individualism of the frontier West on the one hand and the constraints of wage labor as practiced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on the other. This tension gave rise to an often militant trade unionism and political radicalism that was particularly marked in the Northwest.