Engineering Earth pp 1917-1935 | Cite as

A Double-Edged Sword: Social Control in Appalachian Company Towns

  • Thomas E. Wagner
  • Phillip J. Obermiller


The practice of constructing towns to house laborers extends from ancient times into the modern era. These towns span a continuum from primitive hovels to model communities. In the U.S., company towns built by small entrepreneurs and large corporations can be found across the landscape. It is estimated that more than 20,000 of these towns were built in the bituminous coalfields of Appalachia during the late 1800 s and early 1900 s. Growing industrialization caused large, structurally integrated corporations to open captive mines in order to satisfy the energy demands of their manufacturing plants. Housing for miners and their families was essential for successful mining operations in rural areas. In this chapter we consider two company towns, considered “models” because of their intentional design and the amenities available to residents. These Appalachian coal towns were a double-edged sword, however, providing good homes, schools, recreation, and health care while exerting strict social control over miners and their families.


Social Control Corporate Owner Welfare Capitalism Coal Operator Southern Black 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PlanningUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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