A Catholic New Deal: Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh

By Kenneth J. Heineman | Go to book overview

Advent

In the eighteenth century, George Washington came to the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers to wrest control of America's western gateway from the French. Several decades later, Thomas Mellon and Andrew Carnegie struggled to make Pittsburgh more than a strategic outpost on the edge of the wilderness. The financier and the iron maker envisioned Pittsburgh as the hub of a vast industrial empire. Connected by navigable rivers and the Pennsylvania Railroad, their empire extended from Johnstown to Youngstown ( Ohio). Amid the hills of Western Pennsylvania, nineteenth- century entrepreneurs built America's industrial heartland. In the mill towns of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, West Virginia, the cultural outlines of twentieth-century America came into focus. The Protestant Republicans who built Pittsburgh could not have foreseen that their city would become a hotbed of Democratic politics, industrial unionism, and Catholic social activism.1

Entrepreneurial vision and seemingly unlimited natural resources conspired to make the twentieth century the American Century. In 1890, the United States emerged as the leading industrial power on the earth. Western Pennsylvania made that achievement possible. In 1900, Pittsburgh manufactured 64 percent of America's structural steel and 26 percent of its steel rails. Between Connellsville and Greensburg could be found thirty thousand beehive coke ovens, the greatest collection of such equipment on the planet. The beehive ovens, supplied by nine hundred mines in the area, processed coal into coking fuel for the steel mills. Upon such abundance, Bethlehem Steel, Carnegie Steel, Jones & Laughlin, Republic, and Youngstown Sheet and Tube built immense, profitable mills. When Carnegie sold his interests to New York banker J. P. Morgan in 1901, the new U.S. Steel Corporation became

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