This is Your Hometown: Collective Memories, Industrial Flight, and the Fate of Freehold, New Jersey

Author: ORCID icon
Cohen, Jonathan, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hale, Grace, Department of History, University of Virginia

Freehold, New Jersey faced two major moments of deindustrialization in the post-World War II period. In the late 1950s, the rug mill that had sat at the center of the town's economic and cultural life began to close down. In 1986, a 3M audio-visual tape plant that had helped the town avoid economic ruin shut down as well. This papers illustrates the continuities between these closings, challenging the dogma in labor history that plant closings occur because of management's desire to avoid an active and entitled workforce. Though both plants were unionized, neither the rug mill nor the 3M workers made major demands on their employers in the postwar period. Thus, this paper analyzes the conditions that prompted a shutdown, illustrating the role of both broader market forces as well as internal company dynamics. However, the connections between the plants were evident at the time as well. Following the announcement of a shutdown, 3M workers began a national media campaign to save their jobs. At the heart of this campaign, I illustrate, was the memory of the rug mill that had closed 25 years earlier. Thus, this paper demonstrates the role of memory as an active force in shaping workers' experience with deindustrialization and the way unions have struggled to codify the relationship between capital and community in the twentieth century.

MA (Master of Arts)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: