U.S. Steel and Gary, West Virginia
Corporate Paternalism in Appalachia
“This book is well written and meticulously documented; it will add significantly to the available literature on West Virginia’s industrial and community history. It should find a receptive audience among college and post- graduate scholars of industrial and labor history, West Virginia history, and Appalachian studies.”—John Lilly, editor, Goldenseal
The company owned the houses. It owned the stores. It provided medical and governmental services. It provided practically all the jobs. Gary, West Virginia, a coal mining town in the southern part of the state, was a creation of U.S. Steel. And while the workers were not formally bound to the company, their fortunes—like that of their community—were inextricably tied to the success of U.S. Steel.
Gary developed in the early twentieth century as U.S. Steel sought a new supply of raw material for its industrial operations. The rich Pocahontas coal field in remote southern West Virginia provided the carbon-rich, low-sulfur coal the company required. To house the thousands of workers it would import to mine that coal bed, U.S. Steel carved a town out of the mountain wilderness. The company was the sole reason for its existence.
In this fascinating book, Ronald Garay tells the story of how industry-altering decisions made by U.S. Steel executives reverberated in the hollows of Appalachia. From the area’s industrial revolution in the early twentieth century to the peak of steel-making activity in the 1940s to the industry’s decline in the 1970s, U.S. Steel and Gary, West Virginia offers an illuminating example of how coal and steel paternalism shaped the eastern mountain region and the limited ways communities and their economies evolve. In telling the story of Gary, this volume freshly illuminates the stories of other mining towns throughout Appalachia.
At once a work of passionate journalism and a cogent analysis of economic development in Appalachia, this work is a significant contribution to the scholarship on U.S. business history, labor history, and Appalachian studies.
Ronald Garay, a professor emeritus of mass communication at Louisiana State University,is the author of Gordon McLendon: The Maverick of Radio and The Manship School: A History of Journalism Education at LSU.