Appalachian Migrants

From Ohio History Central

Women Workers Making Sparkplugs.jpg
Women workers making sparkplugs at the Firestone Tire

& Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio, ca. 1930.

Beginning in the 1920s, the United States of America's government began to limit immigration to its nation. The principal reason for this was a growing anti-foreign sentiment primarily caused by the increasing number of immigrants coming to the United States from Eastern and Southern European countries. Some Americans objected to the immigrants' religious and cultural beliefs, while others believed that the foreigners would corrupt the morals of United States citizens. These Americans also contended that the quality of life within the United States would decline, as there were not enough jobs to employ the millions of people migrating to America. Many native-born Americans hoped either to limit immigration or to force foreigners to convert to American customs and beliefs. Immigration restrictions soon caused many businesses, especially industrial ones, to experience a shortage of workers.

During both World War I and World War II, the labor problem became exacerbated. Many men left their jobs to join the United States military during these wars, whether voluntarily or because they were drafted. Factories had to look elsewhere for workers. The labor shortage was particularly crucial for companies that were producing materials for the war effort.

As a result of the worker shortage, a number of Ohio manufacturers began to recruit workers from Appalachia, especially from Kentucky and West Virginia. Many Appalachian migrants moved to Akron, where they found jobs in the rubber industry. Steel mills also employed many Appalachian workers, as did other industries. Numerous newspaper advertisements targeted unemployed miners and poor farmers in Appalachia, offering them new opportunities if they applied for jobs. The region of Appalachia had faced long-term economic problems, and many residents took advantage of the opportunities offered due to the labor shortage to find a better life.

See Also


  1. Borman, Kathryn M., and Phillip J. Obermiller. From Mountain to Metropolis: Appalachian Migrants in American Cities. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1994.  
  2. Dyer, Joyce. Gum-Dipped: A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town. Akron, OH: University of Akron Press, 2003.  
  3. Feather, Carl E. Mountain People in a Flat Land: A Popular History of Appalachian Migration to Northeast Ohio, 1940-1965. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998.