"We are the people!": Geographies of the industrial production of culture and the rise and fall of the 1890 Players' National League of Professional Base-Ball Clubs

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Geography, Sports geography, Economic geography, Historical geography, Eighteen90 Players' National League of Professional Base-Ball Clubs, Baseball

Subject Categories

Geography | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation explores the political-economic geographies of the late nineteenth century North American culture industry. The 1890 Players' National League of Professional Base-Ball Clubs (Players' League or PL) is used as a case study. The PL was a short-lived professional baseball league that was controlled and owned, in part, by the players themselves. The League fielded teams in Boston, Brooklyn, New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago.

Emerging amidst two dominant urban trends--the growth of the culture industry and the explosion of the labor movement--the PL competed with the already established National League (NL) for dominance over the emerging markets for professional baseball. Central to the PL's efforts were the construction and maintenance of new ballparks in eight American cities, the contractual acquisition of the game's top players, and the securing of several men who would put up the initial money for the league.

Drawing upon David Harvey's (2001) conception of culture as a form of monopoly power, the dissertation theorizes the ways in which the culture industry is beset by contradictions related to its particular labor processes and patterns of capital circulation. Although by 1883 the NL developed specific geographic strategies to resolve these contradictions, by doing so, it exacerbated the fundamental contradiction between its primary workforce (the players) and its owners. Among other things, the league instituted draconian management practices, which immobilized and emasculated the players. In response to these conditions, a group of players formed the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players and eventually the PL, which the vast majority of the players joined. The dissertation culminates with an analysis of the labor geographies within the construction and maintenance of the PL's ballparks, a site of further contradictions and antagonisms.

In short, this work argues that the nature of the culture industry, as demonstrated by the PL, elicits a bifurcated workforce with fundamentally different labor processes and uneven levels of power and remuneration. These divisions, then, create separately configured, but at times overlapping and conflicting, contestations over different geographies of monopoly power. The industrial production of culture thus inscribes itself in, is marked by, and contains struggles over real landscapes on multiple scales.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.