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Monday, 4 October 2010

Marion Post Wolcott/T.S. Eliot: Goin' for a Ride in the Waste Land (Copper Basin, Tennessee)


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Copper mining section between Ducktown and Copperhill, Tennessee. Fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939


Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
-- But who is that on the other side of you?
What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only...


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Copper mining section between Ducktown and Copperhill, Tennessee. Fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939

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A train bringing copper ore out of the mine, Ducktown, Tennessee. Fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939

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A train bringing copper ore out of the mine, Ducktown, Tennessee. Fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939

photo

Copper mining section between Ducktown and Copperhill, Tennessee. Fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939

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Copper mining and sulfuric acid plant, Copperhill, Tennessee: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939

File:Copperhill TN.jpg

Copper mining and sulfuric acid plant, Copperhill, Tennessee
: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939

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Copper mining and sulfuric acid plant, Copperhill, Tennessee
: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, September 1939

T.S. Eliot: The Waste Land (excerpt), 1922

Photos by Marion Post Wolcott from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

6 comments:

TC said...

Marion Post saw the future. The vegetation in this region has not recovered from copper extraction.

Here's a little history of the ducktown basin.

It's meant for local seventh graders.

(Perhaps to compensate for T.S. Eliot?)

curtisroberts said...

The coppery hue of the prints and their titles/descriptions here are remarkable and so consonant with the poem. The fact that the town is called Copperhill raises all sorts of thoughts about what the town center (far from this site, I’m sure) is like, what they did for civic celebrations and how things are now. The barrenness and erosion are just horrible.

TC said...

Curtis,

Contemporary Copperhill seems to be hiding the light of civic pride under a bushel... however I did find this relatively current image of Historic Main Street, Ducktown.

Bowie Hagan said...

Tom,

The images are revealing, disturbing. Ducktown's history is notable also as an early record of environmental law- see Madison v. Ducktown Sulfur, Copper, & Iron Co., which pitted the damage to neighbors' farm lands against the capital benefit of the plant- the courts weighed in favor of the plant-

a link to the final supreme court decision:
http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~ras2777/judpol/madison.html

Thanks, and
Best,
Bowie

TC said...

Bowie,

That decision makes plain the principle upon which American justice is determined: the large property owning business interests trump the poor suffering little guy, every time.

Supreme Court rules for Copper Mining Company against victims of toxic emissions.


"We appreciate the argument based on the fact that the homes of the complainants who live on the small tracts of land referred to are not so comfortable and useful to their owners as they were before they were affected by the smoke complained of, and we are deeply sensible of the truth of the proposition that no man is entitled to any more rights than another on the ground that he has or owns more property than that other. But in a case of conflicting rights, where neither party can enjoy his own without in some measure restricting the liberty of the other in the use of property, the law must make the best arrangement it can between the contending parties, with a view to preserving to each one the largest measure of liberty possible under the circumstances. We see no escape from the conclusion in the present case that the only proper decree is to allow the complainants a reference for the ascertainment of damages, and that the injunction must be denied to them . . ."

Bowie, thank you for this reminder of who owns this country. The decision of the court (while of course not too surprising to anyone who's not been snoozing in cave the past few hundred years) is perhaps at least as revealing and disturbing as the images of the depredation.

Drew said...

The decision in the court case would not be ruled upon the same today, but only because of the environmental issues, nothing to do with people losing their land. I'm sure that the folks who were complaining were compensated fairly. It said they would be able to pursue compensation, but would not be allowed to shut the industry down. The same still goes for a DOT taking people's land for a new bypass.