Title Reviewed:
The Social History of a War-Boom Community

Author Reviewed:
Robert J. Havighurst; H. Gerthon Morgan

William D. Miner


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 99-100

Article Type:
Book Review

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The Social History of a War-Boom Community. By Robert J. Havighurst and H. Gerthon Morgan. (New York: Longmans, Green and Company, 1951, pp. xix, 356. Index, maps, tables, illustrations, appendices, and photographs. $4.00.)

In this work Havighurst and Morgan present a unique study of the effect of a war industry boom on the people and institutions of a midwestem community. The establishment of a ship building plant in Seneca, a small Illinois River town the population of which rose from 1,235 to 6,600 in approximately two years, caused its citizens to face unfamiliar problems in relation to housing, schools, religion, race, business, recreation, health, local government, and numerous other aspects of community life.

Briefly stated the purposes of this work were to record a bit of significant American wartime life, and to study a community in respect to the following: the adaptation of social institutions to rapid change, the consonance of people to new conditions, and the influence of a crisis on the traditional history of a community. Underlying the study were the hypotheses that the local community furnished the nucleus for the non-material community expansion, that the government expanded the physical and material services, and that there would be misunderstandings between the old and new elements of the community. With these purposes and hypotheses in mind the work has been divided into four parts; "The Setting," "The Adjustment of People," "The Adjustment of Institutions," and "Perspectives."

The source material and primary data were gathered by the authors through the help of several other members of the staff of the University of Chicago. Source materials were secured from the Chicago Regional Office of the Federal Public Housing Authority; the Superintendent of Schools, Seneca, Illinois; the Chicago Regional Office of Community War Services; the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company; and various agencies in the Seneca community. Primary data was gathered on the spot by the various people contributing to the study.

There are a few minor criticisms to be mentioned. The town of Seneca, Illinois, has not been correctly located in respect to some of the surrounding towns. In one instance a passage left the reader confused concerning class stratification in the community, as it presented an idea which seemed to conflict with the subject as it had been previously discussed and explained. In several instances a lack of footnotes concerning the information left the reader with the desire to investigate further. Often no distinction is made between material gained from official records and that gained from "on the spot" observation or interviews.

In spite of the foregoing criticisms, this volume is a worthy contribution to the field of modern United States social history. There have been but few such records of an objective, comprehensive study of wartime midwestern community life. Main issues are discussed and their contributing factors have been placed in their proper perspective. In many instances, not only has the pre-war background of the issue been presented, but an evaluation or summary has also been included. In most cases, the reader has the feeling that the treatment of the subject by the authors has been adequate for the limits they established. Numerous diagrams give added emphasis and clarification to the subject matter. Many tables have been used to condense the various statistics presented. The shaping of all this material has resulted in an intensely interesting and very informative volume.

This book should be of interest to many readers. For those in the Armed Services who never came in contact with the civilian phases of the war effort, the work presents an authoritative account of the part played by a small community in national defense. The permanent inhabitant of any mid-western community that experienced a war-boom of its own will find this work a revealing analysis of a situation which he witnessed and in which he might again participate. It will also be a revelation to the person who was a temporary war worker in any number of war-boom towns. It will give him an explanation for many of the unpleasant situations in which he found himself. In respect to the general public and those not closely related to the immediate civilian problems of defense, the book will present a fascinating and revealing account of a war-boom community, many of its complex problems, and of the individuals who composed it.

Eastern Illinois State College

William D. Miner

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.