Betty Duff

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Marli F. Weiner

Second Committee Member

William Baker

Third Committee Member

Richard Judd


Company towns were products of nineteenth and early twentieth century attempts to attract and control the labor force needed for industrial production outside of urban areas. A comparison of the paper mill towns of Millinocket and East Millinocket. Maine, with the coal mining towns of Benham and Lynch, Kentucky, explores different management philosophies and methods of labor control employed in towns constructed by corporations in the early twentieth century. Great Northern Paper built Millinocket and East Millinocket; United States Coal and Coke, a subsidiary of United States Steel built Lynch, and Wisconsin Steel, a subsidiary of International Harvester, built Benham. These towns represent the transitional period in labor relations when corporations responded to pressure from reformers, the government, and workers themselves with welfare management programs designed to improve working and living conditions for their employees. Among the amenities provided were company houses, schools, churches, health care and the payment of a family wage. The family wage enabled corporations to avail themselves of women's unpaid labor, and male workers to enjoy the services women provided. Women welcomed the family wage because exclusion from waged labor allowed them to devote their time and energy to nurturing husbands and children. However, such exclusion made them economically dependent on male wage earners and guaranteed their subordination. Company towns allowed corporations to construct social hierarchies that assured the dominance of white, native-born, Anglo-Saxon males over blacks, immigrants, and women. This dissertation examines the power relations inherent in capitalism, the tripartite struggle between government, unions, and big business for control of industry and the labor force needed for industrial production, and the struggle for dominance between competing unions, and the causes and effects of class, gender and ethnic discrimination in unions. It also explores the results of class and gender inequities in the economic and social structures of the town themselves and the consequences for residents when the corporations that built these towns discontinued operations. Sources include company records, published and unpublished town histories, town records, census records, newspaper and magazine accounts, and oral histories of men and women residents of all four towns.