A town without steel: envisioning Homestead

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University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998 - Business & Economics - 341 pages
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In 1986, with little warning, the USX Homestead Works closed. Thousands of workers who depended on steel to survive were left without work. A Town Without Steel looks at the people of Homestead as they reinvent their views of household and work and place in this world. The book details the modifications and revisions of domestic strategies in a public crisis. In some ways unique, and in some ways typical of American industrial towns, the plight of Homestead sheds light on social, cultural, and political developments of the late twentieth century.

In this anthropological and photographic account of a town facing the crisis of deindustrialization, A Town Without Steel focuses on families, Reminiscent of Margaret Byington and Lewis Hine's approach in Homestead: The Households of a Mill Town, the voices of longtime residents and new arrivals document the continuities as well as the changes in the life of a mill town over the decades. Kinship, networks, religion, race, and other elements of community provided residents with an alternative source of solidarity. Churches, schools, cultural values, traditional customs, kinship bonds, and a strong sense of family emerge from the interviews as the bases that kept the town going. Judith Modell interviews forty-five individuals, twenty-one women and twenty-four men. The array of voices and opinions of these people reflects the age, gender, ethnic, and racial composition of Homestead today.

Charlee Brodsky's photographs document the visual dimension of change in Homestead. The mill that dominated the landscape transformed to a vast, empty lot: a crowded commercial street turns into a ghost town; and an abundance of well-kept homes become anabandoned street of houses for sale. The individual narratives and family snapshots, Modell's interpretations, and Brodsky's photographs all evoke the tragedy and the resilience of a town whose primary source of self-identification no longer exists.

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Three Generations in a Mill Town
Raising a New Generation in an ExSteel Town
Race Relations in Homestead

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About the author (1998)

Modell is professor of anthropology, history, and art at Carnegie Mellon University.