Participation Type

Paper

Session Title

Session 9.08 Folklore, Foodways, and History

Presentation #1 Title

Paying Up When They’re Down in Ducktown: Tennessee Copper Company’s Workers Compensation and Fatality Reports, 1920s-1950s.

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

Known for its generally shrewd and progressive management, a review of the legal records of the Tennessee Copper Company (a mining, smelting, and organic chemicals producer and supplier, 1899) reveals how the firm responded to Tennessee’s changing workers compensation legislation in the early-mid 20th century. Progressive legislation required the creation of a new level of corporate bureaucracy. My continuing research allows for an important comparative summary of labor and industrial history materials in the Ducktown Basin Museum’s extensive collection of Tennessee Copper’s law offices (Frantz, McConnell, and Seymour). The legal records contain exquisite documentation from the 1850s to the late 20th century. The purpose of this presentation is to further educate scholars of the unique cache of materials at the Ducktown Museum and to underscore the evolution of a progressively managed firm in an industry notorious for its treatment of workers. I will do so by discussing the Company’s expanding workers health and injury policies, payment schemes, and the Company’s investigation into medical conditions and pathologies pertinent to the extraction industry--topics ignored by corporate America until the Progressive Era. Continuing advances in medical science, especially after World War I, provoked TCC’s progressive and cost-sensitive management to explore proactive regimens addressing workers health. In light of the Company’s popular local reputation for taking care of its workers and maintaining a general goodwill (boosted by its major media campaigns) my research shows the limits of management’s progressive nature. Generosity was not it seems Company policy when it came to workers compensation or death benefits. Facilities in extraction and smelting industries were particularly dangerous. My earlier research has shown TCC addressed this reality in a proactive manner that garnered them national acclaim and in WWII, excellent defense industry contracts (Simson, Removing Reds from the Old Red Scar: Maintaining an Industrial Peace in the East Tennessee Copper Basin, Georgia State University, dissertation, 2010; “Munitions and Victory Gardens from the Old Red Scar: Managing the Chemicals Industry in the Ducktown Copper Basin during World War II,” Journal of East Tennessee History, Vol. 83, 2011). Injuries were a nearly daily occurrence at TCC facilities; the Company recorded a steady stream of applicants for workers compensation; many got compensation, though this was strung out over years of payment or in sums that now seem, if legal, almost laughable in their pittance. That said the intricate records at Ducktown resuscitate impressive efforts by TCC forgotten by many, and likely wholly unknown to those who came to know the Copper Basin solely for its once infamous environmental devastation. For a generation, Tennessee Copper maintained hospital facilities superior to anything regionally, followed up extensively with affected workers, and provided services rare in the region that by comparison augmented TCC’s reputation.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

An American and world history professor, Simson has studied the East Tennessee Copper Basin since the late 1990s. His scholarship includes a comprehensive study of the industrial lifeways and management of the Tennessee Copper Company (Removing Reds from the Old Red Scar: Maintaining and Industrial Peace in the East Tennessee Copper Basin, From the Great War through the Second World War, Ph.D. Georgia State University, 2010); labor organizing and a strike in Ducktown, TN (Parades Amid the Standoff in the Old Red Scar: Interpreting Film Images of Striking Industrial Operatives in the East Tennessee Copper Basin, 1939-1940, Journal of Appalachian Studies, Fall 2001), and munitions and organic chemicals war work under the progressive management styles of Tennessee Copper Company owner Sam A. Lewisohn and General Manager John Norman Houser (Munitions and Victory Gardens from the Old Red Scar: Manageing the Chemicals Industry in the Ducktown Copper Basin during World War II, The Journal of East Tennessee History, Vol. 83 - 2011).

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #2

Chuck Howell is a former labor relations agent for the U.S. Post Office.

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Mar 29th, 4:45 PM Mar 29th, 6:00 PM

Paying Up When They’re Down in Ducktown: Tennessee Copper Company’s Workers Compensation and Fatality Reports, 1920s-1950s.

Harris Hall 303

Known for its generally shrewd and progressive management, a review of the legal records of the Tennessee Copper Company (a mining, smelting, and organic chemicals producer and supplier, 1899) reveals how the firm responded to Tennessee’s changing workers compensation legislation in the early-mid 20th century. Progressive legislation required the creation of a new level of corporate bureaucracy. My continuing research allows for an important comparative summary of labor and industrial history materials in the Ducktown Basin Museum’s extensive collection of Tennessee Copper’s law offices (Frantz, McConnell, and Seymour). The legal records contain exquisite documentation from the 1850s to the late 20th century. The purpose of this presentation is to further educate scholars of the unique cache of materials at the Ducktown Museum and to underscore the evolution of a progressively managed firm in an industry notorious for its treatment of workers. I will do so by discussing the Company’s expanding workers health and injury policies, payment schemes, and the Company’s investigation into medical conditions and pathologies pertinent to the extraction industry--topics ignored by corporate America until the Progressive Era. Continuing advances in medical science, especially after World War I, provoked TCC’s progressive and cost-sensitive management to explore proactive regimens addressing workers health. In light of the Company’s popular local reputation for taking care of its workers and maintaining a general goodwill (boosted by its major media campaigns) my research shows the limits of management’s progressive nature. Generosity was not it seems Company policy when it came to workers compensation or death benefits. Facilities in extraction and smelting industries were particularly dangerous. My earlier research has shown TCC addressed this reality in a proactive manner that garnered them national acclaim and in WWII, excellent defense industry contracts (Simson, Removing Reds from the Old Red Scar: Maintaining an Industrial Peace in the East Tennessee Copper Basin, Georgia State University, dissertation, 2010; “Munitions and Victory Gardens from the Old Red Scar: Managing the Chemicals Industry in the Ducktown Copper Basin during World War II,” Journal of East Tennessee History, Vol. 83, 2011). Injuries were a nearly daily occurrence at TCC facilities; the Company recorded a steady stream of applicants for workers compensation; many got compensation, though this was strung out over years of payment or in sums that now seem, if legal, almost laughable in their pittance. That said the intricate records at Ducktown resuscitate impressive efforts by TCC forgotten by many, and likely wholly unknown to those who came to know the Copper Basin solely for its once infamous environmental devastation. For a generation, Tennessee Copper maintained hospital facilities superior to anything regionally, followed up extensively with affected workers, and provided services rare in the region that by comparison augmented TCC’s reputation.