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West Virginia in the 1940s


West Virginia landscape
West Virginia landscape

World War II (1939-1945) brought renewed prosperity. The war increased the demand for coal, and production mounted steadily to an unprecedented level of about 160 million metric tons in 1947. World War II further encouraged the growth of the state’s chemical industry, and from 1947 to 1952 it grew at nearly twice the rate of the industry in the United States as a whole. With the exception of Jackson County, every West Virginia county bordering the Ohio River had at least one chemical plant by the 1970s.

Electric power also became a significant industry in West Virginia following World War II. Plants with much greater generating capacity replaced those built earlier in the century. The John E. Amos generating plant on the Kanawha River is one of the world’s largest. By 1977 West Virginia electric power production had increased 900 percent over that of 1940.

The steel industry of West Virginia, which had begun to develop before World War I, also experienced new growth between the two world wars. Wheeling, Charleston, Parkersburg, Huntington, Clarksburg, and other towns had foundries that turned out a variety of iron and steel products. The factory of the Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company at Charleston was the largest of its kind in the world. In 1932 a large iron alloy plant was built at Alloy. It produced more than 50 alloys used in making high-grade steel and ferrochrome alloy. After World War II, the Kaiser Aluminum Company built a plant at Ravenswood. Primary metals industries in West Virginia declined in the late 1900s. These heavy or “smokestack” industries suffered from competition by foreign companies, which had newer equipment and techniques and a large supply of cheap labor. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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