Site Description-IS

Preliminary Title: Suffocating Smog: Remembering the Donora Smog of 1948

Author Biography

Isabella Sangaline is currently a first year History MA student at Rutgers University. They were born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, roughly 30 minutes from Donora. Growing up, their great uncle told them about what had happened in the small steel town next to where their family lived (Charleroi), and now they want to continue to understand the legacy of this semi-local industrial disaster. This event is not just of personal interests but also aligns with their historical interests in industrial, labor, and social history.

Project Site Description

Donora is a small industrial town located on the Monongahela River, south of Pittsburgh, that sat between two factories. In October 1948, a weather anomaly caused the smog that sat above the town to descend into the town from October 26 – 30/31 resulting in death and long-term health affects. During a lawsuit, the corporation defended itself stating that this was an act of God, refusing to take responsibility. Afterwards, residents of the town preferred to not talk about the incident – it was regarded as a dark moment in their history. Now Donora has a historical marker and Smog Museum. So how did the community’s memory and relation of the event change over time? And how does racial and class inequality impact this relationship? I look at the long-term social impact, understanding why the town did not talk of the event until recently. Corporations using act of God defense and smog descending into towns are still problems faced today and understanding this event can help understand the inequalities and legacies that drive these issues.

Keywords: Class, Toxics, Air, Pollution, Factories