ROCKDALE: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution, 1825-1865 by Anthony F. C. Wallace
Kirkus Star

ROCKDALE: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution, 1825-1865

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Anthropologist Wallace (The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca) recreates in this important book 40 years of the history of Rockdale, Pennsylvania, as the village of 1825 grows into the industrialized cotton milling town of 1865, undergoing changes that typify the American Industrial Revolution. He traces the early development of the mills (1825-1835) and the struggle for control of the new mechanization (1835-1850) between free-thinking advocates of communal industrialism on the one hand (""the enlightenment's last campaign"") and the evangelical ""Christian capitalism"" of private proprietors on the other. The industrialists/""mechanicians"" and their proselytizing wives and sisters comprise a small world (""His wife Henrietta's sister Arabella had married. . ."") the workers a grimmer one in which the demands of craftsmen/strikers eventually are washed away in reformist pity for poor child laborers. After the ""economic take-off"" of 1850, according to Wallace, the manufacturer-politicians and their converted workers march hand-in-hand to the milennium which unfortunately turns out to be the armageddon of Civil War. But before the first of Rockdale's boys comes home in a box, Wallace has covered everything from making machines and anti-masonic politics to the not-so-private affairs of the Marquis de Lafayette and a flash flood of disastrous proportions. The general reader may squirm under this prodigious load of facts--who cares how a throstle works?--set forth in eminently systematic if sometimes slow-footed fashion. But everything has its place in Wallace's ""paradigm of social change"" in which revolution may come by just such a ""conjunction of trivialities"": a fortuitous partnership, the odd gift for sequential thinking, and--of course--the invention of the throstle.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1978
Publisher: Knopf