Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Mine Towns

Buildings for Workers in Michigan’s Copper Country

2010
Author:

Alison K. Hoagland

Mine Towns

What company towns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan reveal about life during America’s first mineral land rush

The first working-class history of domestic life in Copper Country company towns during the boom years of 1890 to 1918, Mine Towns investigates how the architecture of company towns revealed the paternal relationship between company managers and workers. Alison K. Hoagland examines surviving buildings and uses Copper Country’s built environment to map this remarkable connection at the height of Michigan’s largest land rush.

Packed between Alison K. Hoagland’s extensive house descriptions and analysis are truly significant insights about the quality of working-class housing and domestic lives, not just the usual focus on the (male) workers’ labor lives. Mine Towns should become a landmark book.

Thomas C. Hubka, author of Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an 18th Century Polish Community

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.

Mine Towns

Alison K. Hoagland is professor of history and historic preservation at Michigan Technological University and the author of Buildings of Alaska and Army Architecture in the West: Forts Laramie, Bridger, and D. A. Russell, 1849–1912.

Mine Towns

Packed between Alison K. Hoagland’s extensive house descriptions and analysis are truly significant insights about the quality of working-class housing and domestic lives, not just the usual focus on the (male) workers’ labor lives. Mine Towns should become a landmark book.

Thomas C. Hubka, author of Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an 18th Century Polish Community

Hoagland’s in-depth analysis of the full range of corporate housing in the Copper Country of upper Michigan brings to life the early and continued efforts to provide housing in what was America’s first mineral land rush.

Kingston Heath, author of The Patina of Place: The Cultural Weathering of a New England Industrial Landscape

The author has done an admirable job in delineating the working class history of the Copper Country. Alison Hoagland demonstrates how important it is for historians to utilize all types of evidence to reconstruct and interpret the past.

History News Network

Mine Towns is a fascinating read about a difficult and complex relationship between mining companies and their employees. Hoaglund’s analysis is one of the most thorough and innovative interpretations of Upper Michigan history I have read.

Marquette Monthly

Mine Towns provides a compelling and accessible approach to what should be a continuing and provocative debate by historians about the meaning of community as expressed in our architecture and landscapes.

Buildings & Landscapes

Mine Towns is a useful and engaging study of company housing available to miners and others employed in the Upper Michigan copper mines.

Labour/Le Travail

Hoagland’s thorough examination of the Keweenah Peninsula should motivate us to revisit and reassess the relationship that evolved between management and labor in some of America’s other mining districts – this time with a new set of eyes.

Material Culture

Anybody interested in corporate paternalism, company towns, or the material culture of industry will get much from this book.

Enterprise and Society

Hoagland is arguably the leading expert on the history of the Copper Country’s housing stock. . . [She] accomplishes the tough but important task of writing for, and reaching, scholarly and general audiences alike.

IA: Journal of the Society for Industrial Archaeology

Mine Towns makes a significant contribution to our understanding of vernacular architecture as a material expression of complex human relationships in an industrial society. It is also a good read for students and practitioners of historic preservation, architecture, and industrial history.

Winterthur Portfolio