January 19, 2018

From Factory Town to Metropolitan Junkyard: Postindustrial Transitions on the Urban Periphery

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By Andrew Hurley

The dismantling of America’s manufacturing economy in the 1970s and 1980s left hundreds of beleaguered communities struggling to reclaim something viable from the detritus of an industrial age. Across the nation’s Rust Belt, sharp workforce reductions and plant closings eroded the financial resources of local governments and families alike. Deindustrialization also saddled afflicted localities with the physical remains of industrial production: hulking factory carcasses, decaying rail spurs, and toxic waste dumps. Finding some constructive use for these brownfield sites emerged as one of the most pressing revitalization challenges of the 1990s. Postindustrial recovery proved particularly daunting for former manufacturing enclaves located on the metropolitan fringe—places like Camden, New Jersey;

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East St. Louis, Illinois; and Richmond, California. These locales had grown dependent on manufacturing for their sustenance and were among the most devastated by the withdrawal of corporate investment. Their spatial placement within host metropolises, however, endowed them with opportunities for economic redevelopment that more remote centers of industry lacked. This article explores one common but understudied redevelopment response: integration into regional networks of waste handling and disposal. In the final decades of the twentieth century, manufacturing suburbs adapted and expanded a robust infrastructure for moving and transforming materials to accommodate burgeoning volumes of postconsumer garbage and scrap.

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Revolutions in the Grass: Energy and Food Systems in Continental North America, 1763–1848

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By Natale Zappia

This article draws connections between the political revolutions of the Atlantic World and the equally powerful environmental revolutions occurring in North America between 1763 and 1848. The political-economic transformations that shook coastal cities also reverberated in the reorganization of food production and indirectly grass consumption, revealing deep interconnections between

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imperial objectives, continental land use practices, and the emergence of a global food system. Understanding the critical role of nonhuman actors, including grass and herbivores, reveals deeper relationships shared between early modern political, cultural, and environmental history.

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Fascist Modernist Landscapes: Wheat, Dams, Forests, and the Making of the Portuguese New State

by Tiago Saraiva

Fascist ideology held strong claims about the relationship between national soil and national community. It has been less noticed that this “ideology of the land” materialized in massive state campaigns that led to major environmental changes. This article examines three such campaigns undertaken by the New State, Portugal’s fascist regime—the Wheat Campaign (1929), the Irrigation Plan (1935), and the Afforestation Plan (1938)—to demonstrate the importance of crops, dams, and forests to the institutionalization of fascism. It argues

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that paying attention to such topics, typical of environmental historians’ narratives, suggests that instead of characterizing fascist regimes through the paradox of reactionary modernism, in which the ideology of the land constitutes the reactionary element, it is more productive to place intensive environmental management at the core of fascist modernist experiments.

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Cruising for Pinelands: Knowledge Work in the Wisconsin Lumber Industry, 1870–1900

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by Craig William Kinnear

Timber cruisers, those workers hired to locate and assess the value of trees, blazed the trail for the lumber industry’s expansion across northern Wisconsin between 1870 and 1900. This article demonstrates that, in addition to tough physical labor, timber cruisers did significant cultural work to gather the information needed to expand industrial logging operations. They chatted with those they met on the trail, trading exaggerated stories about the difficulty of travel in the region. From these tall tales, cruisers gleaned local knowledge about the forests. Even as they

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shared local environmental knowledge, however, the cruisers kept some information, like the location of valuable pine stands, private. By gathering shared local knowledge and hiding valuable information, cruisers did the “knowledge work” with which capitalists selected the parcels of timberland best suited to industrial logging. That tall tales and outright lies were essential to cruisers’ labor suggests that this unexpected and often exploitative knowledge work was central to late nineteenth-century industrial capitalism.

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The Ravages of Teredo: The Rise and Fall of Shipworm in US History, 1860–1940

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By Derek Lee Nelson

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an epidemic of marine wood-boring organisms—known collectively by the catchall name teredo—tore through the American coastline, consuming wharves, ships, and any wooden objects that touched salty and brackish waters. The epidemic, consisting of both native and invasive species, stemmed from the massive commercial development of America’s coastal waterways that began in the late nineteenth century, which created new habitat upon which teredo fed, flourished, and spread. Because teredo hollowed out planks and piles out of sight until they crumbled, the surreptitious borer terrified coastal communities with unexpected damages, ranging in the millions of dollars annually. Teredo was so feared that when sailors, engineers, and stevedores wrote or spoke of it they regularly drew on the menacing catchphrase “the ravages of teredo” to describe its exploits, a negative association that helped to turn the word teredo into an environmental icon that Americans used to express social, economic, and cultural fears and disdain for decades. Americans fought the teredo epidemic by developing freshwater estuaries, importing purportedly teredo-proof hardwoods, and producing all sorts of chemical concoctions to thwart woodborers. Up until the 1940s, when the epidemic subsided, teredo played an important part in shaping the evolution of the American coastline and its peoples.

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The Bulldozer in the Watershed: Conservation, Water, and Technological Optimism in the Post–World War II United States

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Joshua Nygren is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Missouri. He is preparing a book manuscript on the history of soil and water conservation and its relationship to state-building in the twentieth-century United States.

In April 1960, Caterpillar Tractor Company ran a two-page full-color advertisement in popular magazines such as Newsweek, Time, and Saturday Evening Post (figure 1).1 The spread featured an illustration of an idealized, orderly watershed encompassing city, town, and country. Although land occupies the majority of the image, Caterpillar focuses its audience’s attention on water. A ribbon of blue slices through the greens and golds of the countryside and the soft grays and browns of the city, bisecting the prosperous and serene landscape. This water originates in the hills to the upper

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left, where a menacing black cloud threatens to send torrents of water cascading downstream. The storm amounts to little, however. The river flows quietly past the small town to the crystal-clear reservoir at the center of the image. Thereafter, it obeys its bounds while passing through a bustling city in the lower right foreground. The contrast of blue against a sea of earth tones suggests that the thriving state of terrestrial life depends on a well-regulated, flood-free hydrosphere. This was achieved by the Small Watershed Program of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), and, as the accompanying text makes clear, “powerful Caterpillar earthmoving machines.” …

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