Mar 4, 2010

A Vanishing History


Most of you know it as the Phoenix Building, a sprawling old factory building on Race Street, between Hamilton and Linden. When in opened in 1881 as the Adelaide Silk Mill, it was the largest in the world. By 1928 Allentown had over 140 textile factories; it was the second largest industry and employer in the region, only behind assorted metal fabricators.

There is an interesting editorial* in today's Morning Call. As efforts continue to brand the area Lehigh Valley, Josh Friebolin ponders the loss of local history and culture. Josh may share my frustration with the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum. Last year I reported that Frank Whelan, a local historian who was formally with the Morning Call, was laid off by the Museum. The current director, not from the area, is an expert on Abraham Lincoln. The show on the famous President, although not a local topic, was understandable. The Museum now has a show on reducing electricity consumption, based on it's experience. I can understand the topic for the Da Vinci Science Center, but our local Historical Society?

I would like to see a show on the local needle trade industry. The last remaining factories have closed. Thousands of people in this area worked in the sewing factories. The remaining testimony and artifacts are quickly disappearing. What will future researchers be able to uncover, when our Historical Society is too cosmopolitan to document our own past?

* this well written piece does not appear on mcall under the opinion section, but is misplaced under sports

ADDENDUM: ALLENTOWN AFTERTHOUGHTS PICKS UP THIS POST, AND RICH FLAGG INFORMS OF A NEW ERA IN THE LOCAL APPAREL INDUSTRY

6 comments:

gary ledebur said...

Allentown, as many other American cities, once thrived from jobs in the textile industry. Textiles was one of the major industries in America up until the 1970s when big business decided to buy from Mexico, India and China. Walmart is the largest corporation in the world, by revenue, according to Fortune Magazine. Walmart is also the largest purchaser of textiles in the world. In 2005, Walmart had $312.4 billion in sales, more than 6,200 stores around the world—including 3,800 stores in the United States employing more than 1.6 million "associates" worldwide. The “associates” are poorly paid. Many do not get health insurance. Walmart stores have driven hundreds of locally owned retail stores out of business. They move into a community, artificially lower prices until competition is gone. Then they have a monopoly on retail sales. The Walton family is now the richest family in the US. All are now billionaires. Thousands of lost American jobs, cities dying and who is getting rich?

Anonymous said...

Very odd that Heritage Museum is currently hosting an electricity exhibit? Could it be a PPL partnership? With PPLs 30% rate hike, not a bad time to showcase its wares.

Anonymous said...

Gary Ledebur's comment is right on. We would do much if we would all boycott Walmart and support our local neighborhood businesses.

Looking To Escape said...

The Museum now has a show on reducing electricity consumption
.
For myself, I am getting sick and tired of the green nags. They're not much different than religious zealots and they're every bit as annoying.



Walmart stores have driven hundreds of locally owned retail stores out of business.
.
WalMart didn't drive anyone out of business. The customers of WalMart did. WalMart can only offer a product or service, they can not force you to buy it.

Anonymous said...

LOOKING TO ESCAPE,

Walmart is a corporation. Which makes them evil, greedy and rich. Automatically.

Progressive Liberals can't stand profit, to speak nothing of American exceptionalism.

They are the people who don't want to keep score at a little league baseball game.

They don't want anyone to win EVER because somebody just might have their feelings hurt.

But back to profit.

Progressive Liberals DO believe Walmart can force people where to shop.

Because Progressive Liberal Democrats think in terms of their Union buddies with the big campaign donations and what the Unions can get away with with respect to their memberships.

So it is like fitting a square peg into a round hole.

Forget any serious discussion of economics or the free market.

Progressive Liberalism is about the Communist Collective - the PLs just lie alot.

Anonymous said...

Mike,

If I am thinking of the same organization (Lehigh County Historical Society) I will never forgive them for building an ugly new building instead of saving one of Allentown’s many beautiful old buildings. I haven’t been and will never go to the new building for any reason. I do however shop at Wal-Mart from time to time although I hate driving on MacArthur Road.

Scott Armstrong