Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Written By: Wilma Dykeman. See Article History. Start Your Free Trial Today. Load Next Page. More About. Most mining activity has been concentrated in eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania, with smaller operations in western Maryland , Tennessee and Alabama.
The Appalachian Mountains, often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians first formed roughly Appalachia is a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama and Georgia. While the.
The Pittsburgh coal seam , which has produced 13 billion tons of coal since the early 19th century, has been called the world's most valuable mineral deposit. There are over 60 major coal seams in West Virginia, and over 80 in eastern Kentucky. Most of the coal mined is bituminous , although significant anthracite deposits exist on the fringe of the region in central Pennsylvania.
In the late 19th century, the post-Civil War Industrial Revolution and the expansion of the nation's railroads brought a soaring demand for coal, and mining operations expanded rapidly across Appalachia. Hundreds of thousands of workers poured into the region from across the United States and from overseas, essentially overhauling the cultural makeup of eastern Kentucky , West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania.
Mining corporations gained considerable influence in state and municipal governments, especially as they often owned the entire towns in which the miners lived. The mining industry was vulnerable to economic downturns, however, and booms and busts were frequent, with major booms occurring during World War I and II, and the worst bust occurring during the Great Depression.
The Appalachian mining industry also saw some of the nation's bloodiest labor strife between the s and the s. Mining-related injuries and deaths were not uncommon, and ailments such as black lung disease afflicted miners throughout the 20th century. After World War II, innovations in mechanization such as longwall mining and competition from oil and natural gas led to a decline in the region's mining operations.
Coal mining has made a comeback in some regions in the early 21st century because of the increased prominence of Consol Energy , based in Pittsburgh. The Quecreek Mine rescue in and continuing mine subsidence problems in abandoned coal mines in western Pennsylvania as well as the Sago Mine disaster and Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia and other regions have also been highlighted in recent times. The manufacturing industry in Appalachia is rooted primarily in the ironworks and steelworks of early Pittsburgh and Birmingham , and in the textile mills that sprang up in North Carolina's Piedmont region in the midth century.
Factory construction increased greatly after the Civil War, and the region experienced a manufacturing boom between and This economic shift led to a mass migration from small farms and rural areas to large urban centers, causing the populations of cities such as Birmingham, Knoxville, Tennessee , and Asheville, North Carolina , to swell exponentially.
Manufacturing in the region suffered a setback during the Great Depression, but recovered during World War II and peaked in the s and s. However, difficulties paying retiree benefits, environmental struggles, and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA in led to a decline in the region's manufacturing operations. Steel , founded in Pittsburgh in , was the world's first corporation with more than a billion dollars in initial capitalization. Companies such as Champion Fibre and Bowater established large pulp operations in Canton, North Carolina , and Greenville, South Carolina , respectively, although the former was dogged by battles with environmentalists throughout the 20th century.
One of the region's oldest industries, tourism became a more important part of the Appalachian economy in the latter half of the 20th century as mining and manufacturing steadily declined. The mineral-rich mountain springs of the Appalachians—which for many years were thought to have health-restoring qualities—were drawing visitors to the region as early as the 18th century with the establishment of resorts at Hot Springs, Virginia , White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia , and what is now Hot Springs, North Carolina. Along with the mineral springs , the cool and clear air of the range's high elevations provided an escape for lowland elites, and elaborate hotels—such as The Greenbrier in West Virginia and the Balsam Mountain Inn in North Carolina—were built throughout the region's remote valleys and mountain slopes.
The end of World War I which opened up travel opportunities to Europe and the arrival of the automobile which changed the nation's vacation habits led to the demise of all but a few of the region's spa resorts. The establishment of national parks in the s brought an explosion of tourist traffic to the region, but created problems with urban sprawl in the various host communities.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, states have placed greater focus on sustaining tourism while preserving host communities. Poverty had plagued Appalachia for many years but was not brought to the attention of the rest of the United States until , when James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men , a book that documented families in Appalachia during the Great Depression in words and photos. In , John F.
Kennedy established the President's Appalachian Regional Commission. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson , crystallized Kennedy's efforts in the form of the Appalachian Regional Commission , which passed into law in In Appalachia, severe poverty and desolation were paired with the necessity for careful cultural sensitivity.
Many Appalachian people feared that the birth of a new modernized Appalachia would lead to the death of their traditional values and heritage. Because of the isolation of the region, Appalachian people had been unable to catch up to the modernization that lowlanders have achieved. In the s, many people in Appalachia had a standard of living comparable to Third World countries'. The film series "West Virginia", produced during the term of Governor Gaston Caperton , makes the point that at least on some level images of poverty were contrived.
Johnson declared a " War on Poverty " while standing on the front porch of an Inez, Kentucky , home whose residents had been suffering from a long-ignored problem. The Appalachian region of the United States, while abundant in natural resources and rich in potential, lags behind the rest of the Nation New roads, schools, health care facilities, water and sewer systems, and other improvements have brought a better life to many Appalachian residents. In the s, counties in the state Appalachian Region were considered economically distressed. Now that list has been cut by more than half, to 82 counties, but these are "hard-core" pockets of poverty, seemingly impervious to all efforts at improving their lot.
Like Johnson, President Bill Clinton brought attention to the remaining areas of poverty in Appalachia. On July 5, , he made a public statement concerning the situation in Tyner, Kentucky. Clinton told the enthusiastic crowd:. I'm here to make a simple point. This is the time to bring more jobs and investment to parts of the country that have not participated in this time of prosperity.
Any work that can be done by anybody in America can be done in Appalachia. The region's poverty has been documented often since the early s. John Cohen documents rural lifestyle and culture in The High Lonesome Sound , while photojournalist Earl Dotter has been visiting and documenting poverty, healthcare and mining in Appalachia for nearly forty years. Poverty has caused health problems in the region. The diseases of despair , including the opioid epidemic in the United States , and some diseases of poverty are prevalent in Appalachia.
In a seven-volume study conducted by the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force was issued by the Appalachian Regional Commission which investigated the issue of absentee land ownership. The study covered 80 counties in six states approximating the area designated "Southern Appalachia" as defined by Thomas R. Ford's work.
The states selected were Alabama 15 counties , Kentucky 12 counties , North Carolina 12 counties , Tennessee 14 counties , Virginia 12 counties , and West Virginia 15 counties. In its summary the report stated that "over 55, parcels of property in 80 counties were studied, representing some 20,, acres of land and mineral rights The federal government is the single largest owner in Appalachia, holding over 2,, acres. The government-held lands are tax exempt, but the government makes a payment in lieu of taxes , which is usually less than the normal tax rates.
The effect, essentially, is to produce a situation in which a the small owners carry a disproportionate share of the tax burden; b counties depend upon federal and state funds to provide revenues, while the large, corporate and absentee owners of the regions's resources go relatively tax-free; and c citizens face a poverty of needed services despite the presence in their counties of taxable property wealth, especially in the form of coal and other natural resources.
In , a similar study that concentrated solely on West Virginia found that 25 private owners hold The federal government owns 1,, acres in West Virginia, 7. Congress in to bring poor areas of the 13 U.
The commission is a partnership of federal, state, and local governments, and was created to promote economic growth and improve the quality of life in the region. The ARC is a planning, research, advocacy and funding organization; it does not have any governing powers. The ARC's geographic range of coverage was defined broadly so as to cover as many economically underdeveloped areas as possible; it extends well beyond the area usually thought of as "Appalachia".
For instance, parts of Alabama and Mississippi were included in the commission because of problems with unemployment and poverty similar to those in Appalachia proper, and the ARC region extends into the Northeastern states, which are not traditionally considered part of Appalachia culturally though a "northern Appalachia" identity has emerged in recent times in parts of both NY and PA, particularly in rural areas. More recently, the Youngstown, Ohio , region was declared part of Appalachia by the ARC due to the collapse of the steel industry in the region in the early s and the continuing unemployment problems in the region since, though aside from Columbiana County, Ohio , the Youngstown DMA isn't traditionally or culturally considered part of the region.
Transportation has been the most challenging and expensive issue in Appalachia since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 18th century. With the exception of the October 1, , opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike , the region's mountainous terrain continuously thwarted major federal intervention attempts at major road construction until the s. This left large parts of the region virtually isolated and slowing economic growth.
Before the Civil War, major cities in the region were connected via wagon roads to lowland areas, and flatboats provided an important means for transporting goods out of the region. By , railroads connected most of the region with the rest of the nation, although the poor roads made travel beyond railroad hubs difficult. When the Appalachian Regional Commission was created in , road construction was considered its most important initiative, and in subsequent decades the commission spent more on road construction than all other projects combined.
The effort to connect Appalachia with the outside world has required numerous civil engineering feats. Millions of tons of rock were removed to build road segments such as Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River Gorge at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line and U. Route 23 in Letcher County, Kentucky.
Large tunnels were built through mountain slopes at Cumberland Gap to speed up travel along U. Route 25E.
The New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, completed in , was the longest and is now the fourth-longest single-arch bridge in the world. Depictions of Appalachia and its inhabitants in popular media are typically negative, making the region an object of humor, derision, and social concern. The popular s Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies on television and James Dickey 's novel Deliverance perpetuated the stereotype, although the region itself underwent so many changes after that it scarcely resembles the comic images. However, Poe's popular influence only grew decades after his death, and so the name was never seriously considered.
It can be useful to step WAY back and look at the location of the highest and steepest east coast topography. Rivers, lakes, and state parks provide lots of recreational activities. This uniqueness has attracted tourists from all over, which is particularly important to the area as its economy primarily reliant on logging and coal mining entered a downturn in the latter half of the 20th century. Traditional Appalachians relied on subsistence farming , with the mountain terrain allowing only scattered farming on relatively small amounts of tillable land. The hiking trails to the summit from the Pinkham Notch complex cover the full 4, ft and then some, although on a slightly more forgiving path than the 2. They have hurricane force winds at the summit, on about days every year! This is it until you get to New England…nothing in the mid-Atlantic compares.