Geography Geology, and Genius: How Coal and Canals Ignited the American Industrial Revolution


The Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is proud to announce the release of Geography, Geology and Genius: How Coal and Canals Ignited the American Industrial Revolution. This is the first comprehensive telling of the little known story of how eastern Pennsylvania, from the anthracite coal fields to the tidal waters of the Delaware River, became the birthplace of the United States’ Industrial Revolution. The 246‐page book is illustrated with over 200 photos, maps, and historic drawings—including several rarely seen color images.   

Geography, Geology, and Genius focuses on how the unique blend of natural features and mineral assets were used by several extraordinary men to create new forms of industrial activity, dependent on anthracite coal. Several industries were founded in what is now the D&L Corridor—iron, cement, and silk among them. In this way, the book captures the nationally significant history of the Corridor.  

“For more than 30 years, the public has heard snippets of the D&L’s amazing regional story that has national implications,” said Elissa Garofalo, Executive Director at the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. “Its high time the story is told and Geography, Geology and Genius tells it expertly.”

The narrative, decade by decade, describes the hardships, foresight, resolution, and engineering brilliance that led to the region’s national predominance in these and other industries.  In an epilogue, local economic development leaders Don Cunningham and Larry Newman describe the impact this industrial heritage still has on the lives of residents of the Corridor. 

“This is the comprehensive history of the industrial development of the Lehigh Valley that local historians and lovers of local history have been waiting for,” said Frank Whelan, Historian. “Well written and profusely illustrated, it takes the reader on a journey from the charcoal powered iron furnaces of the 18th century to the end of the glory days of Bethlehem Steel.”

Author Martha Capwell Fox and editor/book designer Ann Bartholomew have created an account of the people, places, and events that shaped the region’s past and present. Their sources included the archive collections and previous publications of the National Canal Museum and the Delaware &Lehigh National Heritage Corridor; they also received generous cooperation from many regional institutions, historical societies, and local experts.  

Geography, Geology, and Genius is available for $24.95 at the National Canal Museum’s shop, 2750 Hugh Moore Park Road, Easton, Pa, the National Museum of Industrial History, and at local museums and historical societies.  Publication of the book was supported by a grant from Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund. 


Martha Capwell Fox grew up in Catasauqua, a daughter of the owner of the last operating silk mill in Allentown. She has had a lifelong interest in local and industrial history and is the archivist and historian for the D&L National Heritage Corridor.  

The author will be speaking on her research at the Oliver Evans Annual Dinner, Saturday, January 25, 2020, 6 pm, Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant, 4120 Main St., Philadelphia 19127. Books will be available for purchase.

Delaware Valley Shipyards and their Contribution during War

Over 2,400 ships, boats, and barges built by over 200,000 shipyard workers in 31 shipyards large and small.


The Ship That Saved Malta, Sun Ship Built SS Ohio, Chris Mayger 1973

A presentation by Dan Cashin, Rigger Instructor – Philadelphia Navy Yard and Philly (Aker) Shipyard

With the major ship information courtesy of Tim Colton at

Tuesday, December 10, 2019   7:30 PM

The painting depicts the struggle of the SS Ohio, the Sun Ship all-welded tanker, during “Operation Pedestal.” This convoy was tasked with resupplying the fortress island of Malta in August 1942. Our story is about the Ohio, and her many Delaware Valley sister ships, which struggled through the worst the enemy threw at her and succeeded.

Combat, first and foremost, requires heroics and steadfastness; it also requires tons of food, water, shelter, mail, weapons, ammo, fuel, medicine, and a myriad of mundane things needed to keep a human being operating in a distant, hostile environment. In the tri-state area 31 ship and boat yards, with over 200,000 workers, built over 2,400 ships, boats, and barges. 

Prominent builders were the Big Three shipyards of Chester’s Sun Ship, Camden’s New York Ship, and Philadelphia’s Navy Yard and providing no less support were Wilmington’s Dravo and Pusey & Jones, and Kensington’s Cramp. These 6 yards built 20 aircraft carriers, 4 battleships, 2 battle cruisers, 20 cruisers, 14 submarines, 294 tankers, 78 cargo ships, 39 destroyers and destroyer escorts, 6 hospital ships, 16 LSTs, 9 repair ships, 213 landing ships and craft plus hundreds of smaller vessels and landing craft.

In addition, there were over 20 smaller yacht, barge, and boat builders that provided the absolutely vital support vessels needed to get the supplies to their final destination. Nowhere was their contribution more vital than through the efforts of over 400 LCM(3)s built in Wilmington by Bethlehem Steel at the old Harlan & Hollingsworth yard. Any beachhead photo will have a picture of one of these  vessels on the beach disgorging men and machines.

Our story is also about the thousands of unskilled men and women who came to the yards and quickly learned their trades, patriotically coming to work each day in the heat, the cold, the dirt, and the danger to turn out the weapons arming the men and ships of the Navy. 

More information on shipyards at

The Historical Society of Frankford
1507 Orthodox Street
Philadelphia, PA 19124
Tuesday, December 10, 2019   7:30 PM
Parking is available in the lot across the street thanks to Frankford Friends