Business: COMPANY TOWNS, 1956

The Growth of the Model Community

Saint Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go,

I owe my soul to the company store.

A THOUSAND times a day. U.S. jukeboxes moaned out Sixteen Tons, a Tin Pan Alley folk song about a coal miner who is soul-deep in debt to his employer. The song landed with a sixteen-ton impact because of its tootling orchestration and Tennessee Ernie Ford's richly lugubrious style. To the jukebox generation the words were all but meaningless. Yet, as late as the 1920s, the ballad's bitter plaint was a real-life...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!