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UNIVERSITY HISTORY

The University of Pennsylvania's Department of Mines, Arts, and Manufactures in Context:
Penn in its Energy Landscape

An analysis of an energy landscape starts with an energy source and adds in the networks of producers, transporters, and consumers surrounding that source as well as the technology that they use to produce, transport, or consume it.  But when an energy landscape, or any kind of landscape defined by a technical system for that matter, changes as drastically as the one in eastern Pennsylvania did upon the implementation of the anthracite-based mineral economy, the process of change requires an extraordinary amount of knowledge.  The means of producing and disseminating that knowledge become an integral part of the energy landscape and tie the energy landscape into the larger scientific and cultural community.  Journals like The Journal of the Franklin Institute and The Miners’ Journal disseminated new knowledge among the mechanic classes while institutions like the various engineering schools developing at this time produced a new kind of mechanic, the engineer, whose job was planning technical landscapes at the macro level as opposed to the mechanic who developed and operated technical landscapes at the micro level.  And each individual engineering school was part of a unique technical landscape.  The similarity of Rennselaer to the Royal Institution, the Sheffield School to a Liebig laboratory, and the Department of Mines, Arts and Manufactures to the Bergakademie at Freiberg is largely superficial, as each of these schools dealt with a set of circumstances unique to its place.  The Department of Mines, for instance, was not the only school of engineering in the country nor was its engineering program particularly unique.  However, it was the only engineering institution (short of Lehigh University, founded in 1865 after the Department of Mines had functionally ceased to exist) founded specifically to produce engineers for an anthracite-based economy.  Anthracite did not exist in sizable and usable quantities outside the Coal Region, and no other group of the elites who controlled higher education had more of a stake in the success of the Coal Region than those in Philadelphia and in charge of the University of Pennsylvania.

 

This exhibit was created in 2011 by Will Kearney, University Archives Summer Research Fellow and an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania