The Pennsylvania Railroad
The Age of Limits, 1917–1933
Published by: Indiana University Press
By 1933, the Pennsylvania Railroad had been in existence for nearly ninety years. During this time, it had grown from a small line, struggling to build west from the state capital in Harrisburg, to the dominant transportation company in the United States. In Volume 2 of The Pennsylvania Railroad, Albert J. Churella continues his history of this giant of American transportation.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the world's largest business corporation and the nation's most important railroad. By 1917, the Pennsylvania Railroad, like the nation itself, was confronting a very different world. The war that had consumed Europe since 1914 was about to engulf the United States. Amid unprecedented demand for transportation, the federal government undertook the management of the railroads, while new labor policies and new regulatory initiatives, coupled with a postwar recession, would challenge the company like never before. Only time would tell whether the years that followed would signal a new beginning for the Pennsylvania Railroad or the beginning of the end.
The Pennsylvania Railroad: The Age of Limits, 1917–1933, represents an unparalleled look at the history, the personalities, and the technologies of this iconic American company in a period that marked the shift from building an empire to exploring the limits of their power.
List of Abbreviations
"Al Churella's latest work, which paints a panoramic picture of the epic Pennsylvania Railroad between 1917 and 1933, further cements his reputation among both academic and popular history communities. Taking a mostly chronological approach, he nonetheless devotes ample space to major topics, even if some time periods overlap or are slightly out of sequence. With a clear emphasis on the people of the PRR, each chapter is a set of biographies placed against the backdrop of the organizational, operational, and technological evolution of one of the most important corporations of the era, as it grappled with competitive forces and political change. Churella's writing style is both clear and readable, making the book accessible to both academic and popular audiences, and ensures that readers will come away learning much while marveling at his accomplishment."~Andy Olson, author of Forging the Bee Line Railroad, 1848-1889; The Rise and Fall of the Hoosier Partisans and Cleveland Clique.
"In his eagerly-awaited second volume, Professor Churella takes the story of the PRR from the beginning of World War I to the pit of the Great Depression in 1933, a period during which railroad technology seemed to have reached a plateau and the industry faced unprecedented competition and regulation. It is the story of how two chief executives tried to steer the company with mixed success. Samuel Rea, the consummate civil engineer, reached to top only to confront problems that could not be solved by engineering. "General" W. W. Atterbury's military mind-set and Social Darwinism compelled him to "adapt or die," whether this meant staring down labor unions and the federal government or moving the PRR into new transportation modes. Churerlla walks us deftly through this tale of clashing personalities and often-frustrated ambitions. A wealth of previously-untapped archival sources makes this story richer and often more compelling than the previous narrative of ascent."~Christopher T. Baer, Curator Emeritus, Hagley Museum and Library
"Albert Churella has produced a railroad history masterpiece. This volume on the Pennsylvania Railroad is extensively researched and carefully crafted with rich detail. He shows how the inter-regional "Standard Railroad of the World" confronted multiple challenges during the early decades of the 20th century, ranging from overreaching government regulations to bumpy employee relations."~H. Roger Grant, Kathryn and Calhoun Professor of History, Clemson University
"Churella's PRR equivalent to War and Peace—so massive in scope that no other scholar dared touch it, until now. In volume 2 of a trilogy, this long-awaited, deeply researched and broad-based analysis chronicles the middle Twentieth Century years (1917-1933) of the "World's First Big Business Corporation." Not since the 1946 Burgess & Kennedy PRR history have we had such an impactful glimpse into the behemoth's corporate strengths and complexities in a fresh, comprehensive approach. Rather than a rehash of corporate paternalism, the author draws upon popular culture and technology driven by a nexus of railroad industry progress, ranging from the expansion of freight commerce, management hegemony to labor relations, in the process illuminating the company's years of profitability to internal strife during the depths of the Great Depression. The compelling writing and fresh perspectives reminds us that despite its profitability and largess, the "Standard Railroad of World" at its apex still had very real business struggles in a changing American economy. When we learn that the majority Pennsy stockholders remained widows who rode trains on company passes, it is unexpected but fun reading of an excellent scholarly effort that sets the bar high for business historiography."~Kurt R. Bell, Pennsylvania State Archives (PHMC).
"A magisterial companion to Al Churella's earlier volume on the Pennsylvania Railroad, arguably the most important rail company in United States history. I doubt that anyone will ever attempt to write a more comprehensive study of the Pennsy!"~Carlos Schwantes, author of Electric Indiana: The Rise and Fall of the World's Greatest Interurban Railway Center, 1893–1941