In Defense of Quality Journalism and the Practice of Human Rights
View of camp from point where car stopped on plane. Amherst Coal Company. Amherstdale, West Virginia. (Credit: United States Bureau of Mines, 1930)
The outside economic interests which owned the coal resource and much of the surface created an infrastructure to run the mines which included the development of company towns, company housing, company-owned stores, company money (scrip) and company mine "guards", all of which acted to give the coal operator significant control over the region, the economy, the people who lived there, and the miners who worked in the mines.
The control of large parts of the region’s infrastructure gave the industry greater control over the workers and their families than normally occurs where the homes, water supply, stores, money supply, etc. of the workers are not under private control.
Coal camp at Freeze Fork in southern West Virginia. Note that the air pollution caused by smoke and soot from the burning slag heaps, train locomotives, and household coal stoves. (Credit: Ben Shahn)
Well maintained and constructed houses at the U.S. Coal and Coke Co. Gary Mines in Gary, McDowell County, WV in August, 1946. According to a national medical survey of the coal industry, there was also regular garbage collection at the coal camp (Credit: National Archives)
Coal company towns and housing varied greatly in quality, ranging from substantial towns such as Jenkins in Eastern Kentucky and the U.S. Steel town of Gary in McDowell County, West Virginia, both of which put significant resources into making the towns livable.