Jan 19, 2008


I received a lot of really fantastic books on photography this xmas. Amongst them was Harry Skrdla's book; Ghostly Ruins - America's Forgotten Architecture. Just thought I'd share a great introduction from a chapter of this book:

Once upon a time, America made things.

We harnessed the energy of coal and the power of mighty rivers to run factories. Steam engines spun and generators hummed and we used the electricity to smelt iron and aluminum, to light homes and shops, and to power chemical plants and mills. Cities sprang up. Cities with names like Cleveland and Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Newark. In these cities the iron was made into I-beams and thumbtacks and Buicks, and the chemical plants turned out dyes and plastics and penicillin. The wheels of industry turned. Cities grew. America prospered. We made everything from a pocket watch to a battleship, and we were proud of it.

But things changed. Industry, which had never worried about its byproducts, faced new laws limiting pollution. Foreign competitors, not hobbled by such laws or the need to pay their employees the high wages that American workers enjoyed, began to garner a greater share of the market. Eventually money-hungry capitalists began to move their factories overseas to take advantage of this same laxness, thus profiting at the expense of their workers and the cities that they had called home.

Now the steel mills of Pittsburgh and Cleveland are dark; their blast furnaces and coke ovens gone cold. Massive steam engines and dynamos stand still and silent, when they stand at all.

Now we live virtual lives in an "information age". We've convinced ourselves that we are somehow above the mere manufacture of goods and that only backwards countries still "make" things. Gazing down from our Olympian perch, we forget that cars are still made of steel, that somewhere mills must weave the fabric for our clothes, and that even computers have to be built by someone, somewhere. It's just not us - and it isn't here.

- Harry Skrdla

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