From 1894 to 1934, a span of forty years that saw its parent company go from coal mining to oil drilling, the Texas Pacific Mercantile and Manufacturing Company operated and managed the various commercial and service enterprises essential to life in Thurber, Texas.
Thurber was a company town, wholly owned by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company, and the inhabitants viewed the "company store"with suspicion before and after unionization in 1903, believing it monopolistic and exploitative. But to call the mercantile a monopoly, or a mere contrivance to exploit laborers, paints an incomplete portrait of the company store as it existed in Thurber and elsewhere.
With a keen eye for context--honed by a career in banking--Tucker reads the pages of ledgers in the same way most historians read diaries or newspapers. In this thoroughgoing study he examines a wealth of company records, interviews, and newspaper accounts, presenting a case study not only of the microcosm of Thurber and TPM&M but of relations between labor and management in industrializing Texas, and a larger story of the complex role of the company store and company town in America.
If readers find the idea of a coal mining town in a state known for its nearly limitless supplies of oil to be peculiar, that was just one of several paradoxes surrounding Thurber. . . . Tucker [has done] what all good historians should do . . . His study is therefore not only eye-opening for Thurber, but, by extension, . . . company stores and company towns generally . . . important lessons can be learned from a nearly vanished Texas mining ghost town--lessons that . . . just might help us better understand the controversial role of corporate commerce in present-day America. --Richard Francaviglia, from the foreword
Gene Rhea Tucker, originally from Killeen, Texas, earned the BA and MA degrees in history from Tarleton State University and the PhD in transatlantic history from the University of Texas at Arlington. While at Tarleton he was a graduate assistant at the W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas, a museum documenting the boomtown-turned-ghost town of Thurber. He is a professor at various institutions in Texas.
Richard Francaviglia, professor emeritus of history at the University of Texas at Arlington, is the author of numerous books on American history, including Hard Places: Reading the Landscape of America's Historic Mining Districts.