Engineering Philadelphia: The Sellers Family and the Industrial Metropolis (Hardback)
  • Engineering Philadelphia: The Sellers Family and the Industrial Metropolis (Hardback)

Engineering Philadelphia: The Sellers Family and the Industrial Metropolis (Hardback)

Hardback 288 Pages / Published: 15/10/2013
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The Sellers brothers, Samuel and George, came to North America in 1682 as part of the Quaker migration to William Penn's new province on the shores of the Delaware River. Across more than two centuries, the Sellers family-especially Samuel's descendants Nathan, Escol, Coleman, and William-rose to prominence as manufacturers, engineers, social reformers, and urban and suburban developers, transforming Philadelphia into a center of industry and culture. They led a host of civic institutions including the Franklin Institute, Abolition Society, and University of Pennsylvania. At the same time, their vast network of relatives and associates became a leading force in the rise of American industry in Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, New York, and elsewhere.

Engineering Philadelphia is a sweeping account of enterprise and ingenuity, economic development and urban planning, and the rise and fall of Philadelphia as an industrial metropolis. Domenic Vitiello tells the story of the influential Sellers family, placing their experiences in the broader context of industrialization and urbanization in the United States from the colonial era through World War II. The story of the Sellers family illustrates how family and business networks shaped the social, financial, and technological processes of industrial capitalism. As Vitiello documents, the Sellers family and their network profoundly influenced corporate and federal technology policy, manufacturing practice, infrastructure and building construction, and metropolitan development. Vitiello also links the family's declining fortunes to the deindustrialization of Philadelphia-and the nation-over the course of the twentieth century.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801450112
Number of pages: 288
Weight: 567 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 24 mm


"[Engineering Philadelphia] is a fine contribution to economic history that reminds readers that to truly grasp the twisting tale of American industrialization they must understand how families such as the Sellerses made choices that shaped their world."-Eric J. Morser, Journal of American History (December 2014)

"Engineering Philadelphiaexamines the remarkable Sellerses, Philadelphia machinists whose talents and inventive significance spanned the long nineteenth century. Much more than a treatment of one company, entrepreneur, or even industry, this book connects the Sellers men to economic development, urban geography, social reform, nation-building, and, ultimately, deindustrialization; not, however, as subjects, but as powerful agents with deliberate intentions and wide-ranging, often successful, goals. Vitiello's comprehensive and fluid analysis of these machine-building men reveals the Sellers family's holistic approach to furthering their goals. In devoting themselves to constructing educational, civic, and urban infrastructure, the Sellerses 'engineered' a city that was integral to national and international markets."-Donna J. Rilling, American Historical Review

"Vitiello employs the long story of the Sellers family to describe the development of Philadelphia's business
and industrial organizations and to connect these organizations to Philadelphia's growth and decline as an industrial center. . . .This sort of insightful long-range analysis makes Engineering Philadelphia relevant to historians and planners and shows howhistorical studies can benefit those currently working in planning or politics. . . . The dual focus on industrial businessnetworks and urban development. . . seems like an ideal combination to bring a concentrated historical analysis to bear onlarger themes of urban geography."-Geoff Zylstra, Technology and Culture (January 2015)

"Engineering Philadelphia is a fine narrative history, based on impressive work in primary sources, about a family that shaped American industrial and urban history for more than a century. In this account, Domenic Vitiello also provides an imaginative and insightful prehistory of urban planning. Vitiello shows that the Sellers family developed larger visions of their businesses and their social commitments, visions rooted in economic, political, and social development which they wielded to shape cities and regions."-John K. Brown, University of Virginia, author of The Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1831-1915: A Study in American Industrial Practice

"Domenic Vitiello deploys the history of one firm-that of the Sellers family-as a window into understanding the broad sweep of American capitalism over 250 years. Vitiello successfully demonstrates how the Sellers family was embedded in worlds operating at the neighborhood, city, regional, and national scales. The tracing of American industrial history through the business history of one family is a fascinating way to explore the issues Vitiello raises."-Robert D. Lewis, University of Toronto, author of Chicago Made: Factory Networks in the Industrial Metropolis

"Although the most famous family member, Escol Sellers, was the model for Mark Twain's quintessential capitalist/speculator/scoundrel in The Gilded Age, throughout the nineteenth century the Sellerses of Philadelphia contributed constructively to the city's economic growth, urban planning, and political reform. Domenic Vitiello has written business history at its best-wonderful stories about interesting people framed by a strong understanding of how family and social networks interacted with technological and political change to shape the nineteenth-century metropolis."-William Pencak, University of Southern Alabama, editor, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies

"Domenic Vitiello's engaging and accessible study repositions industrialization's actors as proto-planners, fabricating products as well as relationships and institutions that propelled urban economic development and, in time, battled decline. A striking asset here is that his work anatomizes both successes and failures, even when the latter expose individual, family, and organizational shortcomings. Engineering Philadelphia is essential reading for all concerned with urban and industrial history."-Philip Scranton, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, coauthor of Reimagining Business History

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