Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Tracy Campbell


“Run of the Mine” examines why workers refused to join unions in the late nineteenth century. Through a focus on the men and women involved in the southern Midwest coal industry who quit or did not join unions, this dissertation analyzes the economic, geographic, and racial factors that contributed to workers’ attitudes toward national unions like the United Mine Workers of America (UMW). It argues that the fluidity between rural industries that allowed residents to work in multiple occupations throughout the year dramatically shaped worker expectations for their unions. This occupational fluidity that allowed miners to farm and farmers to mine coincided with farmer and worker stockholding, futures market speculations, cooperative endeavors, and strikebreaking efforts that complicated workplace relationships and muddled local union goals. Taken together, these factors caused workers to craft their own concepts of unionism that did not always fit with national union agendas. Workers’ disinterest in formal unions, then, did not come from an apathy toward unionism, but from a belief that unions did not offer the surest means to attain their economic, political, and social needs.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)