Focusing on two Arizona towns that had their origins in mining bonanzas—Tombstone and Jerome—historian Eric L. Clements offers a rare study dissecting the process of bust itself—the reasons and manners in which these towns declined as the mining booms ended. Tombstone was the site of one of the great silver bonanzas of the nineteenth century, a boom that started in the late 1870s and was over by 1890. Jerome’s copper deposits were mined for much longer, beginning in the 1880s and enduring until the 1930s. But when the mining booms ended, each town faced its decline in similar ways. The process of decline was more complex than superficial histories have indicated, and Clements discusses the role of labor unions in trying to stave off collapse, the changing demography of decline, the nature and expression of social tensions, the impact on institutions such as churches and schools, and the human responses to continued economic depression. But bust involved more than a steady decline into ghost-town status, Clements discovers: the towns' remaining residents employed numerous strategies to survive and reduce household expenses. In the end, both towns reinvented themselves as late-twentieth-century tourist attractions.
Using oral histories, company records, and census data, Crandall A. Shifflett paints a vivid portrait of miners and their families in southern Appalachian coal towns from the late nineteenth into the mid-twentieth century. He finds that, compared to their earlier lives on subsistence farms, coal-town life was not all bad. Shifflett examines how this view, quite common among the oral histories of these working families, has been obscured by the middle-class biases of government studies and the Edenic myth of preindustrial Appalachia propagated by some historians.
From their own point of view, mining families left behind a life of hard labor and drafty weatherboard homes. With little time for such celebrated arts as tale-telling and quilting, preindustrial mountain people strung more beans than dulcimers. In addition, the rural population was growing, and farmland was becoming scarce. What the families recall about the coal towns contradicts the popular image of mining life. Most miners did not owe their souls to the company store, and most mining companies were not unusually harsh taskmasters. Former miners and their families remember such company benefits as indoor plumbing, regular income, and leisure activities. They also recall the United Mine Workers of America as bringing not only pay raises and health benefits but work stoppages and violent confrontations.
Far from being mere victims of historical forces, miners and their families shaped their own destiny by forging a new working-class culture out of the adaptation of their rural values to the demands of industrial life. This new culture had many continuities with the older one. Out of the closely knit social ties they brought from farming communities, mining families created their own safety net for times of economic downturn. Shifflett recognizes the dangers and hardships of coal-town life but also shows the resilience of Appalachian people in adapting their culture to a new environment.
Crandall A. Shifflett is an associate professor of history at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Diamonds in the Rough reconstructs the historical moment that defined the Cahaba Coal Field, a mineral-rich area that stretches across sixty-seven miles and four counties of central Alabama.
Combining existing written sources with oral accounts and personal recollections, James Sanders Day’s Diamonds in the Rough describes the numerous coal operations in this region—later overshadowed by the rise of the Birmingham district and the larger Warrior Field to the north.
Many of the capitalists are the same: Truman H. Aldrich, Henry F. DeBardeleben, and James W. Sloss, among others; however, the plethora of small independent enterprises, properties of the coal itself, and technological considerations distinguish the Cahaba from other Alabama coal fields. Relatively short-lived, the Cahaba coal-mining operation spanned from discovery in the 1840s through development, boom, and finally bust in the mid-1950s.
Day considers the chronological discovery, mapping, mining, and marketing of the field’s coal as well as the issues of convict leasing, town development, welfare capitalism, and unionism, weaving it all into a rich tapestry. At the heart of the story are the diverse people who lived and worked in the district—whether operator or miner, management or labor, union or nonunion, white or black, immigrant or native—who left a legacy for posterity now captured in Diamonds in the Rough. Largely obscured today by pine trees and kudzu, the mining districts of the Cahaba Coal Field forever influenced the lives of countless individuals and families, and ultimately contributed to the whole fabric of the state of Alabama.
Winner of the 2014 Clinton Jackson Coley Award for Best Work on Alabama Local History from the Alabama Historical Association
From 1915 to 1971 the large U.S. Steel plant was a major part of Duluth’s landscape and life. Just as important was Morgan Park—an innovatively planned and close-knit community constructed for the plant’s employees and their families. In this new book Arnold R. Alanen brings to life Morgan Park, the formerly company-controlled town that now stands as a city neighborhood, and the U.S. Steel plant for which it was built.
Planned by renowned landscape architects, architects, and engineers, and provided with schools, churches, and recreational and medical services by U.S. Steel, Morgan Park is an iconic example—like Lowell, Massachusetts, and Pullman, Illinois—of a twentieth-century company town, as well as a window into northeastern Minnesota’s industrial roots.
Starting with the intense political debates that preceded U.S. Steel’s decision to build a plant in Duluth, Morgan Park follows the town and its residents through the boom years to the closing of the outmoded facility—an event that foreshadowed industrial shutdowns elsewhere in the United States—and up to today, as current residents work to preserve the community’s historic character.
Through compelling archival and contemporary photographs and vibrant stories of a community built of concrete and strong as steel, Alanen shows the impact both the plant and Morgan Park have had on life in Duluth.
Arnold R. Alanen is professor of landscape architecture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His previous books include Main Street Ready-Made: The New Deal Community of Greendale, Wisconsin and Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America.