The Books of Furnass
The Furnass Series by Richard Snodgrass consists of eight books to be released one every three months beginning in April 2018. Available both as e-books and in print. For more information about individual titles, click on the highlighted book covers below.
It is a town squeezed in between the hills and the river, a valley town like other towns in the region squeezed close to their own rivers, towns with names like Ambridge and Aliquippa, Clairton and Donora, Monaca and Beaver Falls…
It is a steel town, a town built around a steel mill, in this case the Allehela Works of Buchanan Steel, the mill or mills being the reason for the town, or was at one time, now the mills are gone from Furnass, as they are gone now from most of the other valley towns around Pittsburgh, the glory days of the American steel industry long gone…
It is a town whose reason to be was iron and steel, beginning as a few shacks and cabins around an iron furnace built close to the river in the late 1700s, on the edge of the wilderness that was then Western Pennsylvania, a patch of land that had once been the site of a blockhouse at the end of the French and Indian War and later a small farm before iron ore and limestone were found nearby and a young entrepreneur named Malcolm Lyle with his friend James Buchanan built the furnace from field stone and a town was born….
How Furnass Got Its Name
By the time someone came along who cared about the misspelling, a settlement had grown up around the iron plantation, and people were used to the name. So, Furnass stuck.
In Search of Furnass
Click Image to View Full Gallery
CLICK THE IMAGE TO VIEW GALLERY
As I wandered through the streets of the valley mill towns, my Deardorff 4×5 camera and tripod slung over my shoulder, I thought that in a way I was constructing my own mill town, or rather, my idea of a mill town, a composite taken from all the mill towns in the area—the most representative Murphy’s 5 & 10; the best view of the mills; the most typical of the little frame houses. I began to call my imaginary town Iron City, in honor of the popular local beer. In time, when I began to write novels about my fictitious mill town, I realized that the photographs grouped together formed the image of Furnass.
The series of photographs, under the title of AfterImage: Mill Life Remembered, was exhibited at the Heinz Regional History Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, in Pittsburgh, PA from September 2005 to May 2006. A selection of the photographs, along with examples of the text I wrote, appeared in LensWork #62, Jan-Feb 2006. Portions of the text were written and researched as part of a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts.
The photographs and text, a personal history of the steel industry in the Pittsburgh region, along with the experience of photographing the towns after being away for 20 years, are collected in the book When There Was Steel, to be published by Calling Crow Press in 2019.