Hopewell, Virginia Locals of United Mine Workers of America Photograph Collection

ca. 1940–1975, bulk 1947–1957
3,888 negatives, photographs

Spanning nearly three decades, this collection includes candid images documenting the growth of an industrial city. In 1912, the DuPont Company selected the Hopewell area as the site of its explosive powder production operations. Completion of the factory coincided with the start of World War I. DuPont built a company town around the factory, providing housing for the workers. As with other industrial planned communities of the early twentieth century, DuPont also provided for the physical, intellectual, and social lives of its workers by building schools, churches, gymnasiums, libraries, clinics and hunt clubs. By the 1930s, several local and national industries recognized Hopewell’s pool of workers and established factories alongside DuPont.


In an effort to preserve individual employee rights in a town largely controlled by industry, Hopewell plant workers joined labor unions such as District 50 of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The UMWA industrial union was formed in 1890 by the amalgamation of the National Progressive Union (organized 1888) and the mine locals under the Knights of Labor. The UMWA’s stated purpose was to address the lack of continuity of employment, limited access and ownership in company-owned towns, and the extreme occupational hazards that led to regular strikes and constant efforts to improve conditions through collective bargaining. At the time of the construction of Union Hall in 1952, five local chapters were represented within District 50: Local 12103, Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation (formerly Solvay Process Division), Local 12146, Continental Can Company, Inc.,Local 13358, Costal Industrial Contractors, Local 13053, Celanese Corporation of America, and Local 13061, Hercules Powder Company.

The prints and photographs in this collection show union officers and proceedings, strikers in action, contract-signing ceremonies, parades and marching bands, racially segregated recreational activities, Labor Day festivities, earth-breaking ceremonies, and construction and completion of Hopewell’s Union Hall. Negatives from Hercules Powder Company (ca. 1947–1957) make up the largest measure of this collection and include images of workplace accidents and safety efforts, staff photos, operations and machinery, social clubs, notable visitors, and special events.

Arrangement and access:
The negatives are filed chronologically. The finding aid is a chronological list that includes brief descriptions of images and indicates the number of negatives available.

Donated, 2009

3 thoughts on “Hopewell, Virginia Locals of United Mine Workers of America Photograph Collection”

    1. Thanks for reading Multiple Exposure. Yes, this was certainly a case of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure ! We all owe a debt of gratitude to people who save and donate such collections to public institutions.

      A few related topics that might be of interest:

      In 2012, the Library of Virginia will open an exhibition called “LOST & FOUND” that will explore how all of us take part in the collecting, fashioning, and erasure of our personal and communal memory. It will include several collections that have been saved through “dumpster diving” activities.

      Approximately 100 of the Hopewell UMWA Collection photographs will soon be added to the other Library of Virginia photographs on Flickr: The Commons. The images should go live on Sept. 1, 2011. Please help us identify people, places, or events that you might recognize in the photos by commenting onthe site http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_virginia/

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