Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest

Linda Carlson

  • Published: September 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Pacific Northwest / History
  • Bibliographic information: 288 pp., 61 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

2004 Washington State Book Award Finalist

"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 But these stereotypes are outdated, especially for those company towns that flourished well into the twentieth century.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."

Drawing from residents' reminiscences, contemporary newspaper accounts, company newsletters and histories, census and school records, and site plans, Carlson looks at towns in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. She 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. 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.

An ample selection of illustrations, most never previously published, broadens the appeal of this lively and well-researched book.
Linda Carlson has written or contributed to several books on business, including Services Marketing, The Publicity and Promotion Handbook: A Complete Guide for Small Business, and nine job-search guides. A graduate of the Harvard Business School, she has a special interest in company towns and social histories.

"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
When the Boss Built the Town
Bunkhouses, Tent Houses, and Silk Stocking Row
Who Lived in Company Towns?
When the Dinner Bell Clanged
Education in the Company Town
Religion in the Company Town
Baseball, Bowling, Bands, and Bridge Tournaments
The Importance of the Company Store
Forty Miles from Nowhere
Getting the News in Company Towns
When the "Dead Whistle" Blew
Depression and World Wars
Fame - Even If Fleeting
The Paternalistic Company Town Boss
When the Town Shut Down
The Bottom Line

"This amply illustrated local history is entertaining and readable."
-Harvard Business History Review

"Carefully researched.. One actually wonders why so little has been said about the development of company towns as part of the economic growth of the [Pacific Northwest] region."
-Economic History Services

"Company Towns in the Pacific Northwest is a fine source of information about daily life in the days of early industrial towns of the region."
-Western Folklore

"Carlson has put together an entertaining and insightful portrait of these long-gone communities that played such an important role in the development of the Pacific Northwest. It's well worth reading."
-Washington State Grange News

"The result of Carlson's considerable research is a valuable study of life in company towns in all its basic variations..This book is a fascinating and highly useful study of community building in the American West."
-The Western Historical Quarterly

"A fascinating human account of small town ingenuity and community spirit. Erudite in its analysis, yet easy to read, it's just what you'd want to find in a history book of any kind."
-Washington State Magazine

"A well-written, informative, and thoughtful study. Carlson's book ensures that these places and their residents are not forgotten."
-Journal of the West