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West Virginia in the 1950s


West Virginia landscape
West Virginia landscape

In the years following World War II the basically rich state of West Virginia became a paradox of squalor alongside plenty. Its industries prospered, its mineral reserves remained seemingly inexhaustible, and national leadership in coal production continued. However, the increasing mechanization of coal mining brought disaster to miners throughout the Appalachian states. West Virginia was hit the hardest. Scores of small operations closed, and ghost towns grew in number.

Conditions resembling the very worst times of the Great Depression developed, as 80,000 unemployed miners, with 170,000 dependents, lived a marginal existence. State relief laws had no adequate provisions to help them.

West Virginia’s other industries could not absorb the vast numbers dismissed from the mines. During the 1950s the state’s unemployment rate was the highest in the country, at three times the national average. While most state populations boomed, West Virginia suffered a loss of 7.2 percent as thousands fled in search of employment. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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