Chatham News

Chatham’s Dr. Lou Martin publishes new book on industrialization

PITTSBURGH: Chatham University associate professor and department chair, Dr. Lou Martin will publish his new book, Smokestacks in the Hills: Rural-Industrial Workers in West Virginia, with the University of Illinois Press on November 2, 2015. The book discusses the relocation of steel and pottery factories to Hancock County, West Virginia, and how that created a rural and small-town working class, and what that meant for communities and for labor.

Dr. Martin is an Associate Professor of History and the Department Chair of History, Political Science, and International Studies at Chatham University. His research interests include labor, working-class politics, Appalachian history and culture, and twentieth century political economy. He has researched workers in the steel and pottery industries in West Virginia and published multiple works on the steel industry of West Virginia. He earned his M.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, and his Ph.D. from West Virginia University.

About Smokestacks in the Hills: Rural-Industrial Workers in West Virginia
Long considered an urban phenomenon, industrialization also transformed the American countryside. Dr. Martin weaves the narrative of how the relocation of steel and pottery factories to Hancock County, West Virginia, created a rural and small-town working class–and what that meant for communities and for labor.

As Dr. Martin shows, access to land in and around steel and pottery towns allowed residents to preserve rural habits and culture. Workers in these places valued place and local community. Because of their belief in localism, an individualistic ethic of “making do,” and company loyalty, they often worked to place limits on union influence. At the same time, this localism allowed workers to adapt to the dictates of industrial capitalism and a continually changing world on their own terms–and retain rural ways to a degree unknown among their urbanized peers. Throughout, Dr. Martin ties these themes to illuminating discussions of capital mobility, the ways in which changing work experiences defined gender roles, and the persistent myth that modernizing forces bulldozed docile local cultures.

Revealing and incisive, Smokestacks in the Hills reappraises an overlooked stratum of American labor history and contributes to the ongoing dialogue on shifts in national politics in the postwar era.

For more information and to purchase the book, please visit The University of Illinois Press.