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“Coal and Canals: Pennsylvania Fuels the Industrial Revolution” Special Collections Exhibit

Lehigh’s Special Collections has recently opened an exhibit featuring examples of the approximately 400 drawings and maps held in its Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company collection. Now digitized, this collection features contemporary accounts of the natural and built environments as seen through the author’s or illustrator’s eyes, documenting aspects of the discovery and transport of Pennsylvania’s wealth of extractable resources. The period covered by these materials (1826-1922) saw the emergence of the coal, iron, and steel industries throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond.

Although many of the maps were intended to document anthracite fields in the 19th century, they also reveal property boundaries, names of residents and businesses, and the course of waterways. Detailed drawings of canals, culverts, locks, and related equipment provide a snapshot of the region's technological and industrial history.

In addition to those on display, the digitized drawings and maps are accessible to students and lifelong learners, providing opportunities to identify, describe and evaluate how the forces of continuity and change have influenced Pennsylvania history. Virtual visitors will learn about explorers, entrepreneurs and immigrants as they delve into these primary materials which detail the holdings of landowners as well as the proliferation of canal and railroad shipping routes. Visitors can also explore the history of commerce technology, looking at the construction and location of locks along the canals of the region. Intrepid explorers may venture out for a walk along the canal, and see how these historic installations have fared over time.

It is our hope that a glimpse of these drawings and maps on display will inspire classes and visitors to explore the digital collection* now available online and accessible through the “Beyond Steel” site. Please visit digital.lib.lehigh.edu/beyondsteel/lcnc

*Made possible by a 2013 LSTA grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, Governor.