Feature

Book of the week: The Company Town by Hardy Green

Companies such as Hershey once maintained workers and their families in towns close to the work site. Green expertly chronicles the history of these communities and the good and bad intentions that motivated their founders.

(Basic Books, $26.95)

Before cheap cars gave rise to the suburban commute, many companies maintained workers and their families in towns near the factory floor, said Bill Kauffman in The Wall Street Journal. There, as author Hardy Green chronicles, company founders controlled everything from entertainment options to local politics. Some had good intentions: Milton Hershey brought a zoo, library, golf course, and free schools to his Pennsylvania community.

“But at the center of it all is good old-fashioned American profit motive,” said Stephen Lyons in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Many owners were brutally exploitative: Workers in mining towns in Appalachia and Colorado were paid terrible wages and “forced to shop at company stores.” Such abuses helped give rise to the union movement, which eventually adopted the paternalistic role once assumed by employers. With verve and insight, Green expertly revives “this important chapter in our nation’s labor history.”

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