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A Nation of Steel: The Making of Modern America, 1865-1925 (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) Paperback – September 8, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology (Book 7)
  • Paperback: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; New Ed edition (September 8, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801860520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801860522
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

In what will surely become a standard history of steelmaking, Misa integrates that industry's development with the industrial growth of America in the half-century following the Civil War. Involved in the interplay between steel production and the production of America were such developments as the railroads' demand for steel rails following the Civil War, the role of urbanization and especially tall-building construction, the armor plate requirements of the Navy, and the emergence and growth of the automotive industry.

(Science, Technology and Society)

This truly outstanding book will become required reading in the history of technology. The story of steel is important in its own right, and Thomas Misa writes with remarkable clarity and succinctness... The emphasis upon user-producer interactions allows Misa to focus on the social significance of technologies and to bring out nuances and contingencies in the development of critical technologies and industries.

(Edwin T. Layton Technology and Culture)

Each of Misa's six case studies is fruitful, and together they capture the enormously diverse and complex influences on technological change. Taken as a whole, this study constitutes a massive and successful assault on the neo-classical paradigm... This book will profoundly shape the way scholars understand how technologies 'are not only socially constructed but society-shaping.

(David Bensman American Historical Review)

A brief review can not do justice to the subtlety with which Misa links steelmaking to a larger socioeconomic environment... Based on new information from archival and other primary sources, this well-written, richly textured work greatly expands our knowledge of American industrialization.

(W. David Lewis Journal of American History)

A splendid overview of an industry whose fortunes were inextricably intertwined with the railroads... The protions that treat the dynamic interrelations of the steel industry and the railroads clearly stand as the most sophisticated treatment of this complex topic that has yet appeared in print... An immensely rewarding book.

(Robert C. Post Railroad History)

About the Author

Thomas J. Misa is at the University of Minnesota, where he directs the Charles Babbage Institute Center for the History of Information Technology, teaches in the graduate program for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and is a faculty member in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James Hoogerwerf on May 24, 2007
Thomas J Misa, A Nation of Steel, the Making of Modern America, 1865-1925 (1995)

Thesis: "The relationships between producers and consumers are the single most important determinant of the dynamics of technology and social change." (xix) "The view of technology as applied science has served as a powerful myth for legitimating science policy..., but this view is worse than useless for comprehending the dynamics of technical and social change." (xv)

Chapter 1. "The Dominance of rails 1865-1885"
Three RR building campaigns, 1872, 1882, 1887
Henry Bessemer process: air could decarburize pig iron, blew it in from the bottom of a tilting converter.
Alexander L. Holley: designed Bessemer steel rail mills
From 1877-1915 (except depression decade of 1890s) price of steel rails determined by Bessemer Association & successors
Users and producers of rails could be owned by same corporation, ie Pennsylvania RR p 21
Continuous Bessemer process p26
How to determine quality? Chemistry. Distinguish iron from steel? p30
Carbon content: Steel .2-1% p33 Fusion p32, p38
Steel making in US created for a single product: making steel rails. p 42-43.
RR officials promoted funded and founded early Bessemer steel works
Train steel executives in modern management
Influenced scientific knowledge
Shaped pattern and pace of national development p43.

Chapter 2. "The Structure of Cities, 1880-1900"
New steel for urban structures broke the tyranny of the Bessemer steel rail and was a mammoth technical and scientific effort involving new linkages between producers and consumers of steel. p 50
Bessemer mills could not make structural steel for four reasons; p 76.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lehigh History Student VINE VOICE on February 9, 2007
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Thomas Misa's account of how the Steel industry rose to prominence in the years of 1865-1925 is a masterful telling of the all American story. Steel was crucial for the development of this country from the transcontinental railroad to the automobile. The steel industry was dependant upon these contracts in order to grow. It was a highly centralized system in which the railroad presidents personally dealt with the negotiations. After the railroads newer and stronger steels were produced using the open hearth furnace as opposed to Bessemer so that stronger steel could be used in buildings. The rise of the skyscrapers literally reinvigorated the entire industry. This was followed by an increase in armor through the naval build up in the World War 1 era. The steel industry would reach its height during this time after suffering economic hardship from the panic of 1893. Finally the automobile would be the key to it all and bring about a new era of steel production. This book is well written and executed perfectly. Highly recommend for those who want to learn about the steel industry. This book does not go much past 1925 and only briefly addresses the question as to why the steel industry collapsed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JayArr on February 9, 2011
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"A Nation Of Steel" is a superb example of scholarship. It contains both enough footnotes to lead to further scholarship while maintaining a pace fast enough to keep almost anyone fully engaged in the material. One of the monographs from Johns Hopkins series on technological advance, it details the role steel played in establishing the country's economy between the mid-1800s through the maturation of the auto industry. It fills a large gap in history, explaining not only dates and people, but, more importantly, documenting the "whys" and "hows" of the evolution of the leadership of the United States in industrial and technical progress; in doing so, it shows the enormous implications of that progress relative to the world stage. An important book very well done!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tapper on January 8, 2011
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Book starts by showing how the extreme demand for railway iron gave the US steel industry it's start. Then it successively covers how the steel industry adopted to the demands of other industries to cover their needs. Chocked full of excellent detail of the trials and tribulations of steelmaking with lots of graphs and statistics to go with it.
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This book should be of interest to those interested in US history, the history of innovation and to metallurgists interested in finding out the history of metallurgy in the 19th century and early 20th centuries. I fall into all three categories, so I liked this book a lot. However, a prospective reader should find much of interest in this book even if they are not interested in all three topics.

What is in the book – The book is divided into seven chapters, which cover the following:
1. The Dominance of Rails – This chapter details the importance on the railroads on the development of US iron and steel production. It discusses the production of wrought iron rails and then the switch to Bessemer Steel rails. There is a little metallurgy in this chapter, but the coverage is general and should not be difficult for the non-metallurgist to follow.
2. The Structure of Cities – This chapter discusses how the construction of metal-framed skyscrapers influenced the US steel business. It explains why Bessemer steel structural members were not of sufficient quality for skyscrapers, and the resulting switch to Open Hearth steel making for this type of application.
3. The Politics of Armor – This chapter deals with the development of steel armor used in warships and on the many innovations required to make steel that could withstand the shells that were fired at warships. There is a discussion of carbonizing to develop the required surface hardness to break up these naval shells. There is also a discussion of the beginnings of the metallurgical methods of analysis and resulting understanding of ferrous metallurgy that made this possible.
4. The Merger of Steel – This chapter details the interaction of the railroads and steel industry and the creation of US steel.
5.
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