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By the later 1930s, oil company camp housing evolved in an upscale direction, and houses stretched along tree-lined streets, as in this Humble Pipe Line camp at Wink. Courtesy ofthe Permian Basin Petroleum Museum (Midland, Texas), Humble Oil &fRefining Company collection. Creating Company Culture: Oil Company Camps in the Southwest, 1920—1960 By Diana Davids Hinton* during the first half of the twentieth century, thousands of oil company employees and their families in the American Southwest lived in largely self-contained communities constructed by their employers . Oil company camps included both white- and blue-collar personnel and met the immediate need for housing for those who worked in the field. Companies sometimes built camps on the outskirts of booming oil towns, as an alternative to the rough living conditions that were usual in boomtowns. They were virtually obliged to build camps in oil fields located in remote, thinly settled areas where lack of roads made housing in the field essential. When companies built camps, however, they intended to do more than simply meet the need for shelter. They created communities that would foster shared experiences, perspectives, and values, a company way of life that would establish a distinctive company culture. As the Humble Oil Company put it in the first issue of The Humble Way magazine, "There is, and always has been, a Humble way ofdoing things. It is a distinct way."1 Like other oil companies, Humble aimed to use company culture to retain a loyal, efficient white- and blue-collar workforce that would not trade life with Humble forjobs with other employers or for union membership. Oil companies were by no meansAmerican pioneers in creating company communities to provide housing in remote areas. Western coal, copper, and timber companies commonly bought land, platted a rectangular grid of streets, constructed large numbers of nearly identical wooden houses, and supplied dwellings with water and electricity. Mining and timber towns * Diana Davids Hinton is the author, with Roger M. Olien, ofseveral books on the history of the American petroleum industry, with a focus on the industry in Texas. She holds theJ. Conrad Dunagan Chair in Regional and Business History at the University ofTexas of the Permian Basin. She wishes to give special thanks for help in developing this study to Harwood P. Hinton; toAmy Hooker, archivist at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library, and Hall ofFame, Midland, Texas; and to the many individuals who shared their memories ofoil camp life with her. 1 The Humble Way (May-June, 1945), 1. Vol. CXI, No. 4 Southwestern Historical QuarterlyApril, 2008 37°Southwestern Hhtorical QuarterlyApril In new fields remote from settled areas, the first workers usually lived in tents. Humble Oil supplied these tents forYates field workers shortly after the field's discovery in Pecos County in 1926. Courtesy ofthe Permian Basin Petroleum Museum (Midland, Texas),foe Salmon collection. often had company-owned stores, schools, hospitals, hotels, and recreational facilities. The companymight even include a saloon on the premises, though saloons, like houses ofprostitution, more usually locatedjust over the town boundaries. Depending on the company, the town mightreflect, as historian James B. Allen has suggested, an "enlightened paternalism." Alternatively, in the instance of the Texas and Pacific Coal Company's town ofThurber, a six-foot-high barbed-wire fence surrounding the town demonstrated the company's determination to keep out troublemakers like union organizers . Company-town newspapers and company-organized activities sought to kill worker discontent with a sense of company unity. Community life ran according to company rules.2 'JamesB.Allen, TheCompany Townin theAmerican West (Norman: UniversityofOklahomaPress, 1966), 3-5;John S. SprattSr., Thurber, Texas: TheLifeandDeath ofa Company Coal Town, ed. Harwood P. Hinton (Abilene: State House Press, 2005), 6-g; Marilyn D. Rhinehart, A Way of Work and a Way ofLife: Coal Miningin Thurber, Texas, 1888-1926(College Station:TexasA&M UniversityPress, 1992),41-43, 64-65; DonWoodard, BlackDiamonds!Black Gold!(Lubbock: TexasTech UniversityPress, 1998), 36-46.Among other scholars, Stuart D. Brandes discusses company towns in the context of"welfare capitalism"; see hisAmerican Welfare Capitalism, 1880-1040 (Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1976). Oil company camps certainly fit within the parameters ofwelfare capitalism, as do company magazines. 2??8Oil Company Camps in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. vii-387
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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