Focusing on the Philadelphia textile trades from the era of the Knights of Labor through World War II, this book is a study of industrial maturity and decline. The author assesses the significance and limits of industrial versatility, owner-operated businesses, craft labor and its organizations, and the agglomeration of specialized mills in urban districts. An interdisciplinary blend of business, labor, urban, and economic history, industrial geography, and the history of technology, the book illuminates the hidden world of batch production, the "other side" of American industrialization, and highlights both the benefits and the hazards of flexibility.
"[Scranton's] depiction of distinctive production formats and histories for different sectors and areas of the textile industry holds profound implications for understanding not only other American industries and industrial districts but also the process of industrial transformation itself." The Annals of American Academy "Scranton has a really remarkable ability to draw upon the best recent perspectives in labor, business, technological, and social history without obscuring the perspective of the participants in the history he recounts." Judith A. McGaw, University of Pennsylvania "In presenting the results of his prodigious research effort, Scranton has produced a book of 500 pages that is dense with facts and figures. It is without any doubt the definitive reference work on the subject. As in many detailed historical accounts, the sheer quantity and diversity of factual information that Scranton presents could have come at the expense of an analytical perspective. Fortunately, such is not the case here. Scranton's overriding perspective on the evolution of the Philadelphia textile region in the U.S. economy, as well as his understanding of the relations among economic, business, labor, and technological history at each stage of that evolution, make this book a masterpiece of historical analysis: that is, details do not just document the historical record; they serve an analytical purpose." William Lazonick, Journal of Economic History