Company towns are areas developed by a company where their employees can access all basic amenities such as health facilities, shelter, garbage disposal and security. In the past, company towns were primarily developed by companies with interests in mining, lumber, and transport and were developed at the site of production. During their peak, there were over 2,500 company towns in the United States.
Company Towns In The United States
Pullman, Illinois (Pullman Palace Car Company)
Pullman was a company town developed in 1880 by George Pullman who owned the railroad car-making company known as The Pullman Car Company. The intention of building the town was to attract and accommodate workers and also for improved productivity by the provision of essential amenities. At the peak of its popularity, Pullman had 12,000 residents, the majority of whom worked for the car company. At one time Pullman was the largest employer of African Americans in the United States. Being the sole-owner of the town, Mr. Pullman had draconian rules that every resident had to abide to. The failure to do so would lead to eviction. When the car company faced economic slowdown in 1894, Mr. Pullman decided to cut employee wages but upheld current rent rates which caused violent protests from the workers. After Mr. Pullman’s death in 1897, the Supreme Court instructed the company to liquidate all its non-industrial assets which allowed the residents to purchase their homes.
Hershey, Pennsylvania (Hersey’s Chocolates)
Hershey is a company town in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania which was home to Hershey’s Chocolates and had a population of over 14,000 people. Milton Hershey had seen great success with his candy business and wanted to develop his company and set up a large production factory. He settled on his birthplace in a small township known as Derry Township and established a company town that bore his own name, Hershey. Hershey’s line of thinking was his employees would be more productive if they worked in conducive and comfortable environment. Hence he put up churches, houses, recreation areas with a theater and a swimming pool. Hershey even had a boy’s boarding school for orphaned children. Although Milton passed away in 1945, his legacy is still felt in this company town.
Ford City, Pennsylvania (PPG Industries)
Ford City is a small town in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania and according to the 2010 census had a population of 2,991. Founded in 1887 by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, the town was named after the company’s founder, John Baptiste Ford. During its peak, Ford City had around 5,000 residents out of whom over 2,000 were directly employed by the glass-making company. The company shut down its operation in the city in the 1990s. In 1900, there were 2,870 people living in the Ford City, in 1910 there were 4,850 residents, in 1930 there were 6,127 residents and by 1940 there were 5,795 residents.
Significance Of Company Towns
While the majority of company towns were developed by their founders for charitable reasons, the main purpose for company towns was improved productivity from employees who were offered amenities they would not otherwise afford. However, in the recent past improvement in transportation which allows employees to live far from their areas of work has made company towns less significant.