Labour in Appalachia and Kansas

Two Book Reviews

From: [mailto][/mailto]Published by EH.NET (October 2007)

Ken Fones-Wolf, Glass Towns: Industry, Labor, and Political Economy in Appalachia, 1890-1930s. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2007. xxviii + 236 pp. $25 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-252-07371-7.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Janet Irons, Department of History, Political Science, and Economics, Lock Haven University.

It is unusual for an historian to give equal weight in the same book to two different topics: the micro-world of the transformation of the labor process on the one hand, and the macro-world of political economy on the other. Yet that is what Ken Fones-Wolf, professor of history at West Virginia University, accomplishes in his book Glass Towns. Using West Virginia as his setting, the author traces the rise and fall of what he calls the "development faith," a belief in the promise of a high-tariff, high-wage economy as a path to prosperity. Embraced by the party of Lincoln, this faith is contrasted with the low-wage, low-tax economic strategy pursued by West Virginia (and southern) Democrats during the period of industrialization. Glass Towns chronicles the clash in these two economic visions when, at the end of the nineteenth century, communities in northern West Virginia recruited high-wage glass factories to their towns.

From: [mailto][/mailto]

Sorensen on Fearon, Kansas in the Great Depression: Work Relief,the Dole and Rehabilitation
Published by EH.NET (November 2007)

Peter Fearon, Kansas in the Great Depression: Work Relief, the Dole and Rehabilitation. Columbia, MO: Universityof MissouriPress, 2007. x + 316 pp. $45 (cloth), ISBN: 978-0-8262-1736-3.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Todd Sorensen, Department of Economics, Universityof California, Riverside.

Peter Fearon's book, Kansas in the Great Depression: Work Relief, the Dole and Rehabilitation, is a thorough examination of the role that the Kansasstate government, the federal government, and the relationship between the two governments played in providing relief to those hardest hit by the Depression. Fearnon's work is rich in information drawn from primary sources. Probably the most important of these sources is the personal papers of John G. Stutz, the head of the Kansas Emergency Relief Committee, which was responsible for distributing the bulk of state-administered aid.

Fearon, Professor of Modern Economic and Social History at the Universityof Leicester, begins his book with a detailed examination of the beginnings of the Great Depression in Kansas. This first chapter describes not only how the economic downturn affected the Kansaseconomy, but also the first responses by the state government to the crisis. As we later see, the state's early adoption of a number of reform measures eased its adaptation to New Deal policies and distribution of New Deal aid.