The Genesis of
Logan - DOWNTOWN - Welch
1946 West Virginia Urban Coalfield Life 2006
The Photographs of Russell Lee and Earl Dotter
Clifford M. Lewis, S.J. Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University
with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibit do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In the immediate post-World War II year of 1946, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) under President John L. Lewis struck the bituminous coal mines. A prolonged shutdown threatened to destabilize the economy and to bring hardship in the winter months, so President Harry S. Truman ordered the seizure of the coal mines to insure continued production. In response to complaints by the miners about the health care situation in mining communities, largely located in the Appalachian Mountains, a Naval medical survey team, headed by Rear Admiral Joel T. Boone investigated health conditions in the mountains. On the team was veteran documentary photographer Russell W. Lee. He contributed 225 photographs to illustrate the final report, A Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry, published in 1947 His nearly 4000 pictures of coal field conditions are today housed at the National Archives.
The findings of this "Boone Report" provided strong support for the construction of ten hospitals in south central Appalachia in the 1950s and spurred interest in new legislation to further protect workers in this dangerous occupation.
The rich archive of Russell Lee photos documenting life in the mining communities of Appalachia provides many views of Logan County and Welch. Supported by a Coalfields Grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Wheeling Jesuit University Clifford M. Lewis, S.J. Appalachian Institute has joined with photojournalist Earl Dotter to create an exhibit which draws upon Russell Lee's pictures of Logan/Welch life sixty years ago and photographs taken of the two communities by Earl Dotter in July of 2006. We hope that this exhibit captures much of urban coalfield life at its height just after World War II, documents such life today, and impels folk in today's coalfields to consider what lies in their future.
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