Industry & Commerce | Pennsylvania Civil War 150
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Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Then & Now

Industry & Commerce

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From railroads to coal and iron production, Pennsylvania industry was critical to the Union’s war efforts. Along with New York, Pennsylvania’s industrial production exceeded that of the entire Confederacy. And the state’s proximity to the Army of the Potomac and the eastern theater gave its industrial role even more importance.


Today, Pennsylvania’s leading industries of agriculture and tourism drive billions of dollars into the state’s economy. With more than 58,000 farming families and 7.7 million acres of farmland, the state is a leader in agricultural production in the nation, particularly in the areas of food processing and lumber. And with 138 million visitors travelling to Pennsylvania each year, the state ranks fourth in the nation for overnight and day-trip leisure travel. The tourism industry pumps $28 billion into the state’s economy. Yet tourism and agriculture haven’t always been the mainstays of the Keystone State’s economy, which was once known as the industrial powerhouse of the nation with its steel mills and coal fields that proved vital to the success of the Union during the Civil War.

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Primary Sources

  • Charles Winston Smith and Charles Judah, eds. Life in the North During the Civil War: A Source History (Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1966).

Secondary Sources

  • Brian Butko and Nicholas Ciotola, eds., Industry and Infantry: The Civil War in Western Pennsylvania (Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, 2003).
  • Matthew Gallman, Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia During the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
  • Walter Licht, “Civil Wars: 1850-1900,” in Randall Miller and William Pencak, eds., Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth (Penn State Press, 2002), pp. 202-56.
  • Grace Palladino, Another Civil War: Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868 (University of Illinois Press, 1990).
  • Phillip Shaw Paludan, “A People’s Contest”: The Union and the Civil War, 1861-1865 (Harper and Row, 1988).

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