Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wheelwright collection digitized

The Wheelwright collection has been digitized and is now available on ExploreUK. This is one of several Appalachian collections digitized by UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities funded Coal, Camps, and Railroads project.
Wheelwright, located in eastern Kentucky’s Floyd County, is a town developed by Elk Horn Coal Corporation in 1911. Purchased by Inland Steel in 1920, the coal town was expanded to include services as a hotel, library, hospital, golf course, movie theater, bowling alley and department store. Because of its success, Wheelwright is often referred to as a model “company town”. By the mid 60s, however, conditions were deteriorating and the town was sold to Island Creek Coal and later Mountain Investment Company. By the early l970s Island Creek shut down its mining operations, leaving Wheelwright with a severe employment crisis.

Above: Blueprint detailing a three room miner’s house (Wheelwright collection)
Below: Slide depicting the same three room house plan (Karl Raitz Kentucky slides)

This collection contains records from three of the companies that owned Wheelwright: Inland Steel, Island Creek, and Mountain Investment. The Inland Steel section contains little about the mining operations but is rich in details about the town itself. House and building improvements and maintenance records, monthly and annual reports on the properties and general office files covering topics from “Air conditioners” to “Woman’s Club”, create a vivid picture of company town life–from the company’s perspective. Unfortunately, these records are incomplete, covering primarily the l950s and early l960s. The Island Creek records are primarily those of the coal operations, containing daily time reports, records of employee earnings, mine reports, and office files. The Mountain Investment Company section thoroughly records that company’s ownership of Wheelwright from l966 until l979 when it sold the town to the Kentucky Housing Corporation, a state agency. The documentation includes utility files–from meter readings to financial records; accounts payable; an extensive house and building file containing everything from maintenance to payment records; and office files.

This collection was digitized as part of the Coal, Camps, and Railroads project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. 
Above: Blackout regulations for Wheelwright (Wheelwright collection)
Below: Hand drawn plans for a tower operator (Wheelwright collection)

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