To nineteenth-century promoters of America’s canals and railroads, these technological achievements would propel the United States toward its Manifest Destiny. Ryan Dearinger reminds us, however, that even as these internal improvements represented American progress, they had their “underbelly.” Starting in 1825 (with the opening of New York’s Erie Canal) and concluding shortly after 1869 (with the completion of the transcontinental railroad), Dearinger’s The Filth of Progress “reckons with the violence and pain that permeated the lives of transportation workers, whether endured or inflicted, using their experiences to reconsider canal and railroad progress as a realm of trauma and not merely one of triumph” (7). Grueling and dangerous enterprises, transportation projects drew their workforces overwhelmingly from marginalized peoples: not only Irish and Chinese immigrants but also Mormon settlers. By focusing on both the “suffering” and “survival” (6) of these three groups, Dearinger...
Book Review|March 01 2019
The Filth of Progress: Immigrants, Americans, and the Building of Canals and Railroads in the West by Ryan Dearinger
Labor (2019) 16 (1): 171-173.
Carol Sheriff; The Filth of Progress: Immigrants, Americans, and the Building of Canals and Railroads in the West by Ryan Dearinger. Labor 1 March 2019; 16 (1): 171–173. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-7269386
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