Letter on Company Stores from M. F. Moran to Edward Robertson, Labor Commissioner, 1890

Coal companies used their financial power and their control over the land to control their labor force. The companies established settlements for workers located next to the coal mines. The company built and controlled the housing, the commissary (or store), and many of the other amenities, such as the amusement hall, available to workers and their families.

Company stores became a particular target for union organizers like M. F. Moran, District President of the newly formed United Mine Workers of America in West Virginia. In this 1890 letter to the West Virginia Labor Commissioner, how did Moran describe the ways that the company stores increased the leverage of the company over its workers?

What options might the workers have had to resist or avoid dependence on the company store?

See the Stonega Coal Mines and Company Camp gallery for images of a company town in the early 20th century.


Moran, M.F. M. F. Moran to Edward Robertson, November 8,1890. In First Report of the State Commissioner of Labor, of West Virginia, December 1, 1890. Charleston: Moses W. Donnally, 1890.

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