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Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest

Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest

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"Company town." The words evoke images of rough-and-tumble loggers and gritty miners, of dreary shacks in isolated villages, of wages paid in scrip good only at price-gouging company stores, of paternalistic employers. But these stereotypes are outdated,especially for those company towns that flourished well into the twentieth century. In Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest, Linda Carlson provides a more balanced and realistic look at these "intentional communities." Many of the later towns attractedprofessionals as well as laborers; houses were likely to be clapboard Victorians or shingled bungalows; and the mercantile store carried work boots, baby diapers, and Buicks and extended credit even to striking workers. Company owners built schools, power plants, and movie theaters.

Drawing from residents’ reminiscences, contemporary newspaper accounts, company newsletters and histories, census and school records, and site plans, the book looks at towns in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, considering who planned the towns and designed the buildings. It examines how companies went about controlling housing, religion, taxes, liquor, prostitution, and union organizers. This vibrant history gives the details of daily life in communities that were often remote and subject to severe weather--as much as 100 inches of rain a year near the coast or 10 feet of snow in the mountains. It looks at the tragedies and celebrations: sawmill accidents, mine cave-ins, and avalanches as well as Independence Day picnics, school graduations, and Christmas parties. Finally, it tells what happened when people left--when they lost their jobs, when the family breadwinner died or was disabled, when the mill closed.

This lively and well-researched book will be welcomed by those interested in Northwest history, as well as students of labor and business history. An ample selection of illustrations, most never previously published, broadens its appeal.

"This remarkable survey of life in the company towns of the Pacific Northwest and their significance to the economy of the region makes an important contribution to the social history of the West. Here Carlson identifies over a hundred full-blown company-owned towns, where, in most cases, the company provided all the housing, stores, schools, recreational facilities, law enforcement, and even ministers. Her well-written story reveals paternalism at both its best and its worst."--James B. Allen, author of The Company Town in the American West