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Industrial Archaeology


Invoke the Industrial Revolution and place names like Pittsburgh or Toledo spring to mind. Industrial archaeology is the systematic study of what that culture shift left behind, especially interesting since we’ve passed from that era to post-industrialization. As someone barely equipped for the 19th century, the further prospects of the 21st scare the crap out of me. Happily, it won’t have to endure much more of my cantankerous disdain for venture Capitalism and an adequately trained and obedient workforce. Cynical, you say? Thank goodness the Coplay Cement Co. kilns appeared on my radar and filled me with uncharacteristic giddy delight.

These kilns were built in 1892-1893 and shut down just eleven years later, at a time when Coplay and surrounding cement producers in the Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania produced seventy-two percent of the Portland cement in the U.S. Chances are very high that an old masonry building in your vicinity is still held together (or kept apart; there are two schools of thought on the function of mortar) by a Coplay product.

I’m not certain how much longer the company survived; improved methods of production may have fossilized these titanic beauties. Because the company made them a gift to their community in 1975 as an industrial heritage park, one which I would gladly have visited, had I know its existence. Let it not be said that “The American Century” had not been fueled with a fusion of invention, innovation, and a substantial quantity of chutzpah.

My regret, of course, is that Agincourt won’t have had anything comparable in its history to compete with the Coplay kilns. But I’m working on it. These (or something similar) would much more likely have shown up in Mason City.


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