Hope in Hard Times: Norvelt and the Struggle for Community During the Great Depression by Timothy Kelly

Hope in Hard Times: Norvelt and the Struggle for Community During the Great Depression

byTimothy Kelly, Margaret Power, Michael Cary

Hardcover | June 1, 2016

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Of the many recipients of federal support during the Great Depression, the citizens of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, stand out as model reminders of the vital importance of New Deal programs. Hoping to transform their desperate situation, the 250 families of this western Pennsylvania town worked with the federal government to envision a new kind of community that would raise standards of living through a cooperative lifestyle and enhanced civic engagement. Their efforts won them a nearly mythic status among those familiar with Norvelt’s history.

Hope in Hard Times explores the many transitions faced by those who undertook this experiment. With the aid of the New Deal, these residents, who hailed from the hardworking and underserved class that Jacob Riis had called the “other half” a generation earlier, created a middle-class community that would become an exemplar of the success of such programs. Despite this, many current residents of Norvelt—the children and grandchildren of the first inhabitants—oppose government intervention and support political candidates who advocate scrutinizing and even eliminating public programs.

Authors Timothy Kelly, Margaret Power, and Michael Cary examine this still-unfolding narrative of transformation in one Pennsylvania town, and the struggles and successes of its original residents, against the backdrop of one of the most ambitious federal endeavors in U.S. history.

About The Author

Timothy Kelly is Professor of History at St. Vincent College. His most recent book is The Transformation of American Catholicism.Margaret Power is Professor of History at Illinois Institute of Technology. She is the coeditor of New Perspectives on the Transnational Right and author of Right-Wing Women in Chile, the latter also publishe...
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Details & Specs

Title:Hope in Hard Times: Norvelt and the Struggle for Community During the Great DepressionFormat:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 10 × 7 × 1 inPublished:June 1, 2016Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271074663

ISBN - 13:9780271074665

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Extra Content

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations



1 The World of Coal Mining, Coking, and Patch Communities in Southwestern Pennsylvania, 1880–1920

2 The Crisis: The Great Depression in the Nation and Westmoreland County

3 The Response: The New Deal and the Subsistence Homestead Program

4 The Great Experiment: The Cooperative Ethos and Community Building

5 Challenges to the Cooperative Ethos

6 Becoming Norvelt: The Triumph of the Middle Way

7 Living in Norvelt: Domestic Architecture

8 Norvelt Today: The Evolution of a New Deal Community

Conclusion: Did Norvelt Succeed?

Appendix: List of Interviewees




Editorial Reviews

“A fine and insightful study.”

—P. D. Travis, Choice