The Hamlet Fire MOBI í The Hamlet MOBI :↠

The Hamlet Fire [Reading] ➼ The Hamlet Fire Author Bryant Simon – It is testament to Simon's reportorial instincts and research that he has found this sprawling story in the detritus of that now forgotten fire His trail from that day through poultry economics to a c It is testament to Simon's reportorial instincts and research that he has found this sprawling story in the detritus of that now forgotten fire His trail from that day through poultry economics to a core of new American values is captivating and brilliantly conceived and will provide readers with insights into our current national politics The Washington Post For decades the small uiet town of Hamlet North Carolina thrived thanks to the railroad But by the s The Hamlet MOBI :↠ it had become a postindustrial backwater a magnet for businesses searching for cheap labor with little or almost no official oversight One of these businesses was Imperial Food Products The company paid its workers a dollar above the minimum wage to stand in pools of freezing water for hours on end scraping gobs of fat off frozen chicken breasts before they got dipped in battered and fried into golden brown nuggets and tenders If a worker complained about the heat or the cold or missed a shift to take care of their children or went to the bathroom too often they were fired But they kept coming back to work because Hamlet was a place where jobs were scarce Then on the morning of September the day after Labor Day this factory that had never been inspected burst into flame Twenty five people many of whom were black women with children living on their own perished that day behind the plant's locked and bolted doorsEighty years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire industrial disasters were supposed to have been a thing of the past After spending several years talking to local residents state officials and survivors of the fire award winning historian Bryant Simon has written a vivid potent and disturbing social autopsy of this town this factory and this time that shows how cheap labor cheap government and cheap food came together in a way that was bound for tragedy.

  • Hardcover
  • 320 pages
  • The Hamlet Fire
  • Bryant Simon
  • 15 June 2016
  • 9781620972380

10 thoughts on “The Hamlet Fire

  1. Tonstant Weader Tonstant Weader says:

    I remember the tragedy at the heart of The Hamlet Fire It was all over the news for a short while shocking the nation with the callous employer who ordered factory doors locked killing twenty five people out of greed It was reminiscent of the Triangle Fire that shifted American attitudes toward labor and employers’ obligations to their workers There was no such shift after The Hamlet Fire and much of that is explained by the book’s subtitle A Tragic Story of Cheap Food Cheap Government and Cheap Lives Author Bryan Simon organized the book into seven chapters that look at the trajectory toward tragedy through different lenses Hamlet the history of the town through boom bust and desperation for development; Silence the history of Imperial Foods and Emmet Roe’s search for cheap labor and unregulated mastery of his empire; Chicken following the industry from family farms to factory serfdom; Labor the rise and fall of American labor and the South’s particular hostility to workers’ rights; Bodies the changing American diet from natural to processed foods from wholesome to cheap and fattening; Deregulation the dismantling of oversight and the turning away from the idea of Commonweal; and Endings the aftermath the trauma that continues to this day Through this Simon shows that this is not a singular tragedy but an inevitable result of trends that continue to this dayThe New Deal fostered higher wages economic growth of American workers with the understanding that by building from the bottom up Americans could afford to buy the things we manufactured and grow the economy With Reaganomics taking us back to Hoover’s Trickle Down that covenant between government and its citizens was broken in favor of the promise of cheaper prices Break the air traffic controllers union and get cheaper air fare dismantle American industry and import from low wage countries for cheaper cars clothes and electronics Raising the minimum wage might make your burger cost No matter that WalMart workers rely on Medicaid SNAP and other taxpayer funded benefits the average family saves 3000 a year by shopping at WalMart In essence we have traded well paying jobs for cheap chicken nuggetsBryant Simon makes a convincing case that the ideology of cheap is degrading our society increasing ineuality and making us work longer and harder for less Many of his arguments I already believed but he pulls them together into a new focus a focus on how much we value cheap and how that devalues usWhen people speak nostalgically about “the good old days” I usually wonder what was so good about Jim Crow and pre Civil Rights Act America for women and people of color However this book makes me think that perhaps some of that nostalgia is for the old understanding of the commonweal an understanding that excluded minoritized people but that rested on the idea that government served the people not the hedge fund managers Perhaps that is what we really hunger for not for Father Knows Best but for the time when we thought of each other as citizens instead of consumersThis is a heartbreaking book It is also an important book that deserves a wider audience than it will get I think it is being marketed to academics not the general public if the dull cover is anything to go by That’s unfortunate Simon did not write this book in academic language It’s journalistic with a passionate call for justice It also ties together many developments that lead inexorably toward an increasingly dismal future not just here but around the world After all when we outsourced manufacturing we outsourced the tragedies as well so now we have chicken factory fires in China that we won’t see widely covered on the nightly news We will have our cheapThe Hamlet Fire will be released September 5th I received an e galley from the publisher through EdelweissThe Hamlet Fire at The New PressBryant Simon faculty pagehttpstonstantweaderreviewswordpre

  2. Laura Laura says:

    Well researched thought provoking and easy to read America today seems to focus on getting by paying less and not thinking about the hidden costs behind low prices The Hamlet Fire digs deep into those externalities This is a book about a fire in 1991 in a chicken processing plant in Hamlet North Carolina where John Coltrane was born and where twenty five people died behind locked doors This is a book about deregulation monopoly control over labor markets and mass economic and physical insecurity

  3. Otis Taylor Otis Taylor says:

    A hundred years from now when people want to understand what daily life was like in the small towns in the South at the end of the 20th Century this book will be on the top of the stack Just as Upton Sinclair opened our eyes to the unknown reality of the meat packers in Chicago a hundred years earlier Simon's book has done the same for the people struggling to stay out of poverty in the rural communities of the American SouthAlthough the book is loaded with all the documentation reuired of a scholarly text Simon uses some of this data like the death certificates that describe the clothing and undergarments worn by the victims to help provide us with with revealing portraits of the men and women who died in this fire Those portraits also include the ongoing struggles of their children and families as Simon makes it clear that being undereducated in an era of deregulation offers little opportunity to create a better life By including references to the television drama The Wire and weaving in national celebrities like Willie Nelson and Neil Young who appear on the Farm Aid telecasts and pointing out the Arkansas connections between President Clinton and the Waltons and Tyson families Bryant Simon makes it clear that the heartwrenching fire that took place in Hamlet North Carolina was a truly American tragedy A trajedy that forces us to look closely at the true costs of having cheap food and cheap government

  4. David David says:

    35 starsA little uneven within a narrow band ie always good and sometimes very good When it was merely good it felt just a little too academic Also I thought the author used uotation marks for too many unuotable comments That's it for the negatives Although this isn't necessarily a negative you're probably not going to want to eat chicken for a few days while reading this bookThe sections about the local workers and residents of Hamlet NC were strong and any book that references The Wire to make a point deserves credit for fine tasteThere's a fair amount of overlap with other books I've read about the social and financial disadvantages of the working poor and the black community the dangers of diets rich in salt sugar and fat and the dangerous working conditions in slaughterhouses and further processing facilities I don't recall reading anything else that described as much the efforts of state governments to lure businesses with the implicit promise of lax oversight and low taxes so that was a highlight for me

  5. Rollin Rollin says:

    In this extraordinary book historian Bryant Simon describes a system of cheapness a symptom of neoliberal ideology and practices that encourages a race to the bottom where consumers seek cheap prices and corporations seek cheap labor and chicken Many other trends are tied up within this system that disproportionately affects people of color and women of color in particular Transportation euity decline of union jobs a rise in obesity weakened government regulations are all wrapped in this narrative where workers are alienated from labor employers are alienated from their workers and all seem to lose varying degrees of agency within this system Simon masterfully weaves a web of these exploitative trends and practices that led to the Hamlet Fire and exacerbated its conseuences He explains these larger abstract trends by grounding them in the experiences of the victims and survivors of the disaster

  6. Edward Sullivan Edward Sullivan says:

    A remarkable work of investigative journalism that delves deeply into penetrating examinations of economic and racial disparities and America's culture of cheapness underlying this horrific tragedy

  7. Mike Mike says:

    I have studied and taught the basic facts about this emergency for years The author brought to light some of the things that the government reviews and studies have not I remember working for companies with these sorts of problems as a consultant Some wanted to change some only hired me because they were forced to do so It was a well written enlightening book I found it to be two books actually Both were well written One book focused on the chicken industry and the hazards of cheap processed food The other was about the shortcomings of OSHA the disaster and its effects on the community I found that there was a sharp break between the two and there was not a good bridge between the two subjects Nonetheless I highly recommend the book It is a very interesting read for those studying critical incident stress OSHA related issues and the human effects of industrial scale farming

  8. Jack Keener Jack Keener says:

    Unlike a lot of the other reviews I've seen here for this book I cannot rate it very high The author does a very good job in the few sections in this book that are actually about the Hamlet Fire I'm from North Carolina and I remember when the Hamlet fire was in the news I really enjoyed how the author showed the lives that the workers lived what they went through working for Emmet Roe the history of Hamlet that let something like this happen there and why the workers and their families suffered so much However the rest is a mixed bag at best and at the worst shows a shallow histography of industrialization and business cycles The author falls into the trap of lionizing Henry Ford when in reality and in irony Emmet Roe was following in Ford's footsteps in every way he ran his plant except for the pay Ford was militantly anti unions and there were no unions in Ford plants until 1941 when government and competitive forces forced him to give way The way his plants were run with an iron fist were used as plans for how Germany and Russia ran their concentration camps in WW2 Ford only paid the 5 wage because his plant turn over in 1928 was 381% The author juxtaposes Ford against Emmet Roe and the industry of cheap as well again showing a shallow understanding of how mass production of anything in the post industrial revolution has worked Ford was the king of cheap He used vertical integration of supply chains to sueeze every bit of profit out of his cars and dominate his competitors Ford cars went from 1000 in 1910 to 300 in a very short period of time But he did this with abysmal work conditions and cutting off any possible collective bargaining because Ford believed that unions only served to artificially inflate wages Workers weren't allowed to even talk to each other or use the bathroom so as to not waste time on assembly Workers weren't allowed to work in the winter months when demand was low to maximize profits Ford made his profits on the backs of his workers not as some imaginary hero to the blue collar man Even the housing he built was to make it difficult for the poor uneducated people he hired to leave the assembly lines for somewhere else To even ualify for either benefit he sent investigator to the worker's homes to make sure they even deserved the wages Ford is not the role model of power to the workers that too many people have made him he was a ruthless capitalist that would have blanched even Emmet Roe Given the amount of work done on the history of Hamlet I expected the author to have done the same on this part of his book and for the lack of that research made it hard to read The vast majority of the book falls into this section The other area of this book that fell flat for me was the arguments about the industry of cheap that is somehow making our society degenerate and strangle low wage workers And while I don't like the fact that unskilled workers get paid next to nothing and I've even been in those type jobs myself whether I like something or not doesn't change the reality of how industry works The poor and uneducated are trampled by the rich And if you research every industry in modern history that targets mass consumption you will find an industry of cheap that is built on the manipulation and exploitation of uneducated unskilled laborers That is the price we pay for the goods the middle class wants at the price they want them If anything the fly in the ointment is the very existence of the middle class as a driver of consumption and the political power of unskilled labor that started in the late 1800's and started waning in the 1960's The history of economic cycles since the end of feudalism and arguably even before that is one of creative destruction where competition and introduction of transformative technology destroy old firms and business plans to create new ones Its painful and it doesn't seem fair but reality has never been fair In our modern world of convenience we are generally oblivious to the true cost of what we buy Most of the cost is paid in poor developing countries without regulations and protections for their workers Do away with the industry of cheap like the author argues and unintended outcome if an ineuality of accumulation The high wage educated specialized worker becomes the driver of consumption The industry of cheap hides that fact by giving the middle class an appearance of power that it doesn't really have Dig into this subject deeply and it will leave you jaded and cynical Capitalism isn't pretty it isn't fair and it isn't nice It is an efficient way of allocating production capital and it has the benefit of giving us nice shiny things The other minor complaint I had was that the author bounced around his topics One moment we are in Hamlet then he talks about the history of the chicken nugget then Hamlet then something else then Hamlet and something else in the same paragraph I was getting whiplash I think that talking about the history of Hamlet then the chicken industry then Emmet Roe and then the fire and aftermath would have been cohesive That said I'm not an author and my preference thematic structure isn't a deal breaker For for me that was that on any part but the actual Hamlet fire the author engages in flights of fancy based on an incomplete understanding of the broader history of industrialization and nostalgia for a time when the blue collar worker had power A time that if we ever see again it won't be until history repeats itself and by then most of us reading this are unlikely to be around So while The Hamlet Fires is good when it talks about Hamlet it loses credibility everywhere else

  9. Grady Ormsby Grady Ormsby says:

    My dad worked at Buttercup Ice Cream Company in Hamlet North Carolina He was the shipping clerk responsible for sending product to branch locations in Southeastern North Carolina and Northeastern South Carolina and coordinating the route salesmen who delivered product to retail outlets throughout the Sandhills As a child and young boy I spent a lot of time at Buttercup with Daddy I knew many of the employees and was recognized as “Cam’s Boy” Every summer from the age if sixteen through college I worked at Buttercup in the plant the warehouse the mixing room the hardening room and even as a filing clerk in the office In 1969 Buttercup was sold to Mello from Wilson A few years later the plant was closed It was the end of an era for me and my family Daddy died in 1972 In 1980 the property was bought by Imperial Products and converted into a chicken processing facility On September 3 1991 the old Buttercup plant was the scene of the worst industrial fire in the history of North Carolina The Hamlet Fire A Tragic Story of Cheap Food Cheap Government and Cheap Lives by Bryant Simon is the story of that tragedy Because of my personal connections to the site and my boyhood roots in the town this was a particularly upsetting book for me to readSimon’s thoroughly researched volume begins with the background He tells about a small town its economy its politics and its people At first glance Imperial Products seemed to be a saving grace for a small town in economic decline The jobs weren’t great but they were jobs Underneath however there was complacency and denial A “business first” focus allowed uestions not only to go unanswered; they weren’t even asked The uestions concerned worker safety food safety unreasonable production uotas and lax or nonexistent inspections The silence was deafening Further background is provided through the author’s description of “poultry capitalism” The highly competitive industry has extremely thin production margins where cost cutting is a matter of survival The result is a factory system from the hatchery to the fast food counter and freezer section of your local market In between is a deregulated industry characterized by cheap labor minimum benefits lax attention to safety and an emphasis on high speed productionThe description of the genesis of the tragic fire and its horrific aftermath is difficult to read The almost nonexistent preparedness of first responders is perplexing The insufficiency and incompetence of the response is angering Denial second guessing and buck passing characterize the response and follow up evaluation This story does not end well Not much has changed One can only assume that other poultry plants are ticking time bombs waiting to capture the headlines Expand that to other food production facilities and then to other industries producing other products With the scarcity of unions in the South and their decline elsewhere the voice to protect workers from predatory capitalism is sadly waning “Profits over people” continues to be our national mantra

  10. Christie Christie says:

    A bit of backstory before I get to the meat of the review I have lived in North Carolina my entire life In 1991 when the fire happened I only lived about 50 miles away from Hamlet though I was very young at the time I had never heard anything about this until about 3 years ago when I went to a library workshop at Richmond Community College in Hamlet and my mom mentioned the fire which I immediately looked up on Wikipedia A few months later I noticed this book on library shelves and immediately put it on my to read listThis book goes into the social and economic factors that led to the factory being built where it was and the disaster that occurred It was shocking to me that 80 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that something like this could happen but Simon shows exactly why that is Unfortunately a lot of the social and economic factors are still with us people needing a job and being afraid to speak up about safety issues businessmen willing to do anything to protect their bottom line and government than willing to look the other way and the sexism and racism that many workers face that keep them from being able to escape poverty any other way The book includes interviews with the survivors of the fire as well as others who were involved that day It is not an easy read and not just because of the fire The book shows the dark side of government and the meat processing industry I would definitely recommend avoiding the chicken chapter if you have a weak stomach It shows that these workplace issues were not left behind in the 1910s It will definitely make you think about where your food and other goods come fromI would recommend this book to those interested in labor issues and the social history of work in America Like I said it is a hard read but it is worth it

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