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Mine Towns

Buildings for Workers in Michigan’s Copper Country

Alison K. Hoagland

Publication Year: 2010

During the nineteenth century, the Keweenaw Peninsula of Northern Michigan was the site of America’s first mineral land rush as companies hastened to profit from the region’s vast copper deposits. In order to lure workers to such a remote location—and work long hours in dangerous conditions—companies offered not just competitive wages but also helped provide the very infrastructure of town life in the form of affordable housing, schools, health-care facilities, and churches.
The first working-class history of domestic life in Copper Country company towns during the boom years of 1890 to 1918, Alison K. Hoagland’s Mine Towns investigates how the architecture of a company town revealed the paternal relationship that existed between company managers and workers—a relationship that both parties turned to their own advantage. The story of Joseph and Antonia Putrich, immigrants from Croatia, punctuates and illustrates the realities of life in a booming company town. While company managers provided housing as a way to develop and control a stable workforce, workers often rejected this domestic ideal and used homes as an economic resource, taking in boarders to help generate further income.
Focusing on how the exchange between company managers and a largely immigrant workforce took the form of negotiation rather than a top-down system, Hoagland examines surviving buildings and uses Copper Country’s built environment to map this remarkable connection between a company and its workers at the height of Michigan’s largest land rush.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-viii

My first acknowledgment goes to my father, George Stewart Hoagland, and it involves baseball. One of my favorite childhood memories is of attending games with him. We—father, mother, my brother, and I—would board a train in Wilmington, Delaware, and get off at the North Philadelphia station. Then we would walk...

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Introduction: Negotiating Paternalism in the Copper Country

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pp. ix-xxvi

In the Copper Country of Michigan, the combination of a remote location and a highly profitable industry fostered the development of a relationship between management and labor that extended beyond the workplace. The location was the Keweenaw Peninsula, which projects seventy-five miles into Lake Superior from...

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1. Saltboxes and T-Plans: Creating and Inhabiting the Company House

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pp. 1-54

Company houses, built by companies to rent to employees, were a paternalistic extension of the workplace relationship, a visible incursion into the private lives of workers who were tied to the company not only by a paycheck but also by a home, thus making for a complex association. Workers clearly believed it to be...

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2. The Spaces of a Strike: Company Buildings and Landscapes in a Time of Conflict

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pp. 55-89

This event was the first galvanizing incident of what would be a long strike. The strike had begun on July 23, the result of several years of organizing by the Western Federation of Miners. The companies played it tough, refusing to meet with the union or listen to its demands. At issue were pay, hours, introduction of the one-man drill,...

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3. “Home for the Working Man”: Strategies for Homeownership

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pp. 90-127

Homeownership—the very opposite of company housing—was perceived as an American ideal. As historian Olivier Zunz has shown, it was more often an immigrant ideal, with homeownership rates for that group outpacing native-born Americans during this period. Reformers promoted homeownership as a way to...

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4. Acquiring Conveniences: Water, Heat, and Light

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pp. 128-161

Conveniences such as running water, indoor toilets, central heat, and electric lights make an enormous difference in how people live in a house. People use rooms differently, depending on the light and heat sources. The convenience of having water, toilets, and heating fuel indoors, rather than out in the yard, affected circulation...

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5. Churches, Schools, Bathhouses: Building Community on Company Land

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pp. 162-216

Company management was involved, at least to some extent, in all of these community facilities. Companies had to do more than build housing if they were to attract and retain workers; they also had to provide or encourage all of the institutions that made life in the Copper Country possible and enjoyable. The...

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6. Preservation and Loss: Remembering through Buildings

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pp. 217-247

Joe and Elaine Putrich’s “memory” of the Copper Country was not literal, as neither had lived here. Their memory consisted of family photographs and stories told by Joe’s grandparents, such as his father, as a baby in Antonia’s arms, receiving powder burns on his face during the shootings. The house at which this occurred...


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pp. 249-283


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pp. 285-295


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pp. 297-307

About the Author

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pp. 309-336

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673650
E-ISBN-10: 0816673659
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816665679

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010