Nineteenth-century Philadelphia’s reputation as a “city of homes” or “workingman’s paradise” lent credence to historian Sam Bass Warner’s long-held assertion that it was America’s “private city,” where private enterprise and individualism trumped class conflict. Andrew Heath turns many of these claims on their head in his incisive and original examination of the mid-nineteenth-century city, In Union There Is Strength: Philadelphia in the Age of Consolidation. Using the politics surrounding Philadelphia’s Consolidation Act of 1854 — which combined all of the townships, boroughs, and districts in Philadelphia County into its modern borders — Heath highlights broader developments in urban, working-class, and nineteenth-century US history with clarity and precision. He also treats consolidation broadly, not merely limiting it to the specific case of Philadelphia’s municipal unification but to a larger shift toward associational politics in midcentury urban America. Deeply researched and persuasively...

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