Once a Native American hunting ground, the industrial melting pot of Monessen, in western Pennsylvania, rises over a horseshoe bend in the Monongahela River. Established in 1898, this powerhouse town boomed for close to 60 years, producing vast amounts of steel and other crucial industrial materials. Known for its cultural diversity, Monessen's predominantly immigrant population-with the highest naturalization rate in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century-and the vibrant neighborhoods they established were entirely sustained by the local mills. The battles for decent pay, job protection, benefits, and an 8-hour day kindled fiercely for decades until Monessen and towns like it in the Monongahela Valley gave the average person a dignity denied them for centuries: decent pay for decent work. Families thrived. Children went to college. It was the American dream. Then, neighborhoods began to unravel, foreign imports stole jobs, and finally the mills, the only support of the town, closed.
Demonstrating their unyielding spirit, Monessen residents have struggled to fight for the recovery and rebirth of their hometown. In this new history, Monessen: A Typical Steel Country Town, informative narrative highlights the rapid expansion and gradual demise of a society built almost solely on its industrial endeavors and recounts how a disjointed populace has come together to restore their proud community. Over 100 striking photographs depict the dominating presence of the mills, the quiet faces of the people who toiled there, scenes of daily life, and memorable events through the years, as well as the dramatic changes that have marked Monessen's unique history.