From the Miners' Doublehouse: Archeology and Landscape in a Pennsylvania Coal Company Town

Article excerpt

From the Miners' Doublehouse: Archeology and Landscape in a Pennsylvania Coal Company Town Karen Bescherer Metheny. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007.

This book is absolutely indispensable for the study of popular culture. It examines the physical, commercial and emotional controls of a community and the people's reactions and demonstrates how archaeology is necessary for revealing and explaining the lives of the people in the small western Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Helvetia.

Metheny's purpose in her book is "to examine issues of worker agency and working-class behavior within the setting of the company town, with particular emphasis on the role of landscape, material culture, and social action in the creation of a living environment and in the negotiation of place within the corporate landscape" (xvi). Her common-sense conclusions are that the residents of company-owned towns were not mindless automatons completely controlled by the owners of the work-place, but that "Helvetia's residents used landscape, material culture, and social discourse, often in ways that differed from company expectations, to construct and solidify their identities" (xvii).

The author, again obviously, emphasizes the place archaeology needs to play in the study of such communities: "Archaeology has the potential to move us toward a better understanding of working-class lives through the recovery of the evidence of day-to-day living. …