History lesson.

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store” 🎵🎶🎙

‘Sixteen Tons’
Tennessee Ernie Ford

Erniest Jennings Ford was born in Bristol Tennessee and one of his most famous songs is ‘sixteen tons.’ It’s a coal mining song, Debuted in 1955. He became famous by being a local radio dj, and was dubbed the name Tennessee Earl Ford. Unlike many country artists, he recorded in Hollywood and not Nashville with his record label, Capital Records.

But what does this reference? Owe my soul to the company store?

From the site: Appalachianhistory.net:

“Until the late 1950’s, when changes in federal and state laws, along with changing economic realities doomed the practice, many companies issued tokens, or scrip, for use by their employees in company run stores. This was especially widespread in the coal fields of Appalachia, where many miners also lived in company owned towns. In these company towns, or “coal camps,” the only store in town was usually owned or run on behalf of the coal company.

In theory, scrip was an advance against unearned wages and usable only by the employee to whom it was issued. In practice, many miners were never able to fully retire their debt to the company store and scrip became the unofficial currency of the community, even being placed in the collection plates of some coal town churches.”

When we went antique shopping & browsing. (Did more browsing. We are trying to be good! Lol) I stumbled upon these and they fascinated me! I want to buy a couple and turn them into hat pins.

Coal mining is still a prominent business in a lot of the Appalachia region. With oil prices being so low, business seems to be picking up in the coal fields closest to us, father-in-law wants to take me over there. I’d love to do documentary type photography and capture some of these coal trains and coal towns.

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