The Hawk's Nest Incident
  • Sep 10, 1989

    ISBN: 9780300044850
  • Paper: $20.00 sc

The Hawk's Nest Incident

America`s Worst Industrial Disaster

  • Martin Cherniack


"An engrossing cautionary tale. Hawk's Nest couldn't happen again—we think. But it deserves to be remembered."—Ralph Brown                

"A meticulous analysis of the heartless Gauley Bridge disaster. It clearly shows that the incessant drive for profits seems to blind most of management to the woeful neglect of workers' health. The myriad of job-related diseases afflicting workers are all preventable in one generation."—Lorin Kerr, M.D., M.S.P.H.

"A highly readable, balanced account; recommended."—Library Journal

"The Hawk's Nest Incident makes startlingly clear how easy it is to lose sight of a serious threat to the health of hundreds, or even thousands of workers when seemingly bigger news captures public attention. . . . This book deserves attention beyond the academic community."—Janice Harayda, USA Today

"Valuable not only for its revelations about a tragedy of hitherto unsuspected proportions. It has other virtues, chief among them is its portrayal of certain aspects of life in the United States in the early thirties."—William French, Toronto Globe & Mail

"The Hawk's Nest tunnel, at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia was drilled during the early 1930's to supply water to a nearby hydroelectric plant. It penetrated three miles of almost pure silica, and primitive work conditions and a breakneck pace resulted in an epidemic of acute silicosis among the tunnel workers. Despite the intentional destruction of much of the historical evidence, Cherniak has managed to compile a careful and revealing account of the incident."—American Public Health Association Newsletter

"[A] cautionary tale of the dire effects of grossly neglecting the health and safety of workers engaged in dangerous work."—Melvin W. First, D.Sc., New England Journal of Medicine

"Hawk's Nest brings to public awareness a 1930's disaster that is described through the feeling mind of a medical scientist and that, heretofore, was a story told only by the press of the day and never scrutinized for epidemiologic truths."—Jean Spencer Felton, M.D., West Virginia History

"An eminently readable book by a public health professional is a rarity. An engrossing one is almost unheard of. Cherniack is riveting as well as scholarly and thought provoking."—Choice 

"The full dimensions of that almost forgotten social tragedy have now been skillfully probed by Martin Cherniack."—Nelson Lichtenstein, Journal of American History

"It is a remarkable research effort that merges the best of this training as an epidemiologist with the sensibilities of a historian. . . . We should applaud Cherniack for his remarkable job. In an understated way, he has unearthed the sorrowful history of these long-dead workers and exposed the cruelty of those who controlled their lives."—David Rosner, ISIS

"This book not only reminds us that such events have a long history in this country, but it also serves the useful purpose of alerting us to the complex variety of conditions that have historically produced this kind of problem."—Christine Meisner Rosen, Business History Review

"Cherniack's account is a very significant contribution to the slender literature on the history of occupational health. . . . It demonstrates the special skills and insights that epidemiologists can bring to historical inquiry and should encourage social and labor historians to pay more attention to the hidden and often tragic history of occupational disease."—Elizabeth Fee, American Historical Review

"The author's humanistic awareness of context and his medical knowledge coalesce to provide a major contribution to Appalachian regional history."—John E. Stealey III, North Carolina Historical Review

"The full dimensions of that almost forgotten social tragedy have now been skillfully probed by Martin Cherniak."—Nelson Lichtenstein, Journal of American History 

"A primer for historical research as detective work and a vindication of historians who argue that statistical techniques, judiciously applied, can lead to insights otherwise unavailable."—Lonna M. Malmsheimer, Oral History Review

"Recommended for economists and historians interested in a factual rendering of this important and neglected episode in the history of labor, industrial relations, and occupational hazards."—David Buffum, Journal of Economic History

"An important contribution to the history of occupational health and industrial relations."—Linda Bryder, Labor History

"Cherniack has worthily retrieved from historical oblivion a major disaster in the history of industrial health."—Elena Brunet, Los Angeles Times