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Interview: Patrick Brown, Author of Industrial Pioneers: Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Transformation of America, 1840-1902

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Patrick Brown not only teaches high school social studies in the Mississippi Delta through Teach for America, he also has an enormous talent for bringing to life a detailed historical account of the town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, through his latest book, Industrial Pioneers: Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Transformation of America, 1840-1902.  

Mr. Brown knows his history. He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, graduated Magna cum Laude from Georgetown University, where he won the Morris Medal for best senior history honors thesis.  Readers can visit Patrick Brown at his website: Industrial Pioneers

Please tell us a bit about your book: Industrial Pioneers - characters, plot, etc.

The book is about Scranton, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century. Most people don’t know it, but Scranton was one of the most exciting places in the world at the time. It was at the center of the industrial transformation sweeping the United States — it was like the Silicon Valley of the nineteenth century.

If you could meet, in person, any of your characters, who would it be and why?

While researching this book, I spent a huge amount of time reading books written by people who died decades before I was born. Despite this, I felt amazingly connected to some of these authors. After reading someone’s memoir three, four, or five times, I felt like I really understood what some of these folks were like. I would love to meet Terence Powderly, George Scranton or Thomas Dickson.

If you could fictionalize yourself and put yourself in any situation, how would it play out? Could you give us a scene/scenario of such an occurrence?

Terrorists have kidnapped the President, and the only means of determining his location is stored in an encrypted computer file. FBI agents are unable to decrypt its unbreakable code because it calls on them to answer some arcane piece of Scranton trivia. The agents do a quick Google search and call me. I correctly tell them that the area around Scranton was originally called “Capouse,” the file is decrypted, and the President is safe once again. I think about that scenario often.

Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?

I wrote much of the thesis that would become Industrial Pioneers on a deadline, so anything with caffeine helped me set the “writing mood.”

What are you reading right now?

I am reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer and The Big Short by Michael Lewis.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

My favorite book of all time is The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor; my favorite author is Malcolm Gladwell.

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would love to meet Winston Churchill. He is famously interesting and witty, and I admire his writing style of dictating from the bathtub.

Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:

Please share with us a favorite memory.

On January 21, 2006, my alma mater Georgetown’s basketball team defeated the number one ranked Duke team 87-84. I was sitting in the third row of the student section, and rushed the court after the game.

Please describe a perfect meal – including menu and those present.

I currently teach high school social studies in Greenville, Mississippi. A perfect meal would be at one of the best restaurants I have ever been to — Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville — with my friends and family. The restaurant has salad, steak, tamales, and not much else.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax?

In the rare event that I find some spare time, I go into my back yard and read.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I am 23 with few attachments; I could live anywhere in the world. I choose to live in Mississippi because high school seniors need to know what the Constitution is.

Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.

I am institutionally obligated to say, “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” This is very much a work in progress.

If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would simply tell the world to remember that all roads lead to Scranton.

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About April Pohren

  • http://www.tribute-books.com Nicole Langan

    April – thanks for a great interview with Patrick. You have a knack for drawing out such interesting responses like Patrick’s comment:

    “..people who died decades before I was born. Despite this, I felt amazingly connected to some of these authors. After reading someone’s memoir three, four, or five times, I felt like I really understood what some of these folks were like.”

    Now that’s the way to learn about history!

    Best wishes,
    Nicole
    Tribute Books