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Help me find information about Coatesville, Pa.
February 10, 2008 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I need to write a twenty page paper about the economic and social situation of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, a dying rust-belt steel town. Is there a Coatesville expert in the room? Someone who grew up there? Someone who spent time there or did business there? I need your expertise, or at the very least access to resources that might not be readily apparent to me.

I've already got a visit to the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum planned, and I have access to reams of census data, a car, and the Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project, but I'm looking to deeply massage the Mefi hivemind, to suss out any local experience or knowledge anyone might have.

I need to focus on the interface between global economic forces and local economies that eventually torpedoed this city, so if you have any expertise in that area, awesome.
posted by deafmute to Education (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Check out the resources that the Chester County Library has. I've been able to find a few books about local history that I couldn't otherwise locate.

Maybe check the Chester County Historical Society, too. I think they even operate a vistors center located near the Library in Exton.

Lastly, talk to the people from the Coatesville Cultural Society. I'm not sure if they have any historical documents, but they could point you towards the right people to ask.

I'm from Downingtown, which is directly next to Coatesville. Good luck!
posted by pete0r at 5:57 PM on February 10, 2008


Maybe try contacting Sarah, who has a webpage including the story of why she has Bethlehem steel tattooed across her back. I bet she could point you in the right direction or possibly give you the names of people for obtaining some personal, first-hand information.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:25 PM on February 10, 2008


I used to work for a Congressional Commission that does work on China. Commissioners often enjoyed berating the sins of outsourcing and occasionally took our hearings 'to the streets' of the rust belt. I'd recommend sifting through the following testimony:

Dearborn, Michigan

Akron, Ohio
Others

Please bear in mind that some of this might be construed as "China bashing" and would need to be counter-balanced. I don't necessarily agree with everything that's said (as I'm generally pro trade) but I do think that much of whats said warrants careful consideration. At the very least it might make for an interesting gateway to other experts, research and material, or snappy citations.

Good luck!
posted by Dr.James.Orin.Incandenza at 4:45 AM on February 11, 2008


I recommend Kathleen Dudley's ethnography *The End of the Line.* It deals with Kenosha, Wisconsin, but it's a fine study of the cultural dimensions of globalization-driven job loss in a rust belt town. It's a wonderful book, if sad.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:49 AM on February 11, 2008


Chiming in a little late, sorry.

My experience in Coatesville is limited to one summer during college when I drove a stake body truck delivering heating and air conditioning parts and equipment throughout Chester County. I was on construction sites in and around Coatesville maybe once or twice a week and remember mostly being struck by how totally bleak and depressing it was. You get the same feeling in a lot of other small withered industry cities in the general area; Chester, Pottstown, Norristown, Reading and certainly further north into Allentown, Hazleton, Bethlehem, on up the northeast extension. Most of these cities have a frozen in time, Twilight Zone kind of feel as you drive through them; much of the architecture and building design is from the '60s or 70's on back, it's almost like you can tell exactly when industry when south because the look and feel of these places haven't changed very much since. Hazelton, especially, I found to be creepy as all fuck but irresistably fascinating in its advanced decay.

Coatseville is also home to a very large VA hospital complex that has an extensive detox and rehab program for vets. Lots of homeless vets from Philly find their way out there for treatment; in fact, I believe all vets that presents at a Philly rehab for a Medicaid funded stay will be rerouted to Coatesville at some point but don't quote me on that.
posted by The Straightener at 11:06 AM on February 11, 2008


the only thing i know about Coatesville is that it had one of the most horrific public lynchings in the US in 1911. i know this because i've done loads of research into publicly attended lynchings of this period, and i too live in a "dying rust belt steel town."

while many people try to dissociate these sorts of historical events from the present, i do think it's an important thing to think about as you do your research, especially since a memorial to Zach Walker, the victim, was so recently placed. (google "Coatesville lynching" to find loads of info.)

i have found in my own research that these public lynchings have a great deal to say about a town's present culture and racial dynamic. (not to mention that they were often caused by an economic stressor--in this case the man was accused of having killed a white steel mill cop.)
posted by RedEmma at 12:54 PM on February 11, 2008


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