Research Seminar: The Hamlet Imperial Food Products Fire

Research Seminar: The Hamlet Imperial Food Products Fire

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bryant Simon of Temple University will discuss his paper, “The Hamlet Imperial Food Products Fire: Business Relocation, Tragedy, and the Geography of Silence in Post-New Deal America.”

Comment: Walter Licht, University of Pennsylvania

Author's abstract for the seminar paper:

In 1991, the Imperial Food Products plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, makers of cheap breaded chicken tenders, caught fire. Twenty-five people died; most were trapped inside behind doors bolted shut from the outside. This chapter, part of a larger book project on the Hamlet fire, looks at the business career of factory owner Emmett Roe. Originally a restaurant worker himself, Roe operated a chicken factory in Moosic, Pennsylvania until his workers unionized and safety inspectors began looking closely at his operations. Looking for a way out, he took over a shuttered ice cream plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, located in a state with low union presence and relaxed business regulation. With the area desperate for jobs and taxable income, government officials stayed out his way and workers kept quiet about dangerous conditions in the plant. This section will, then, explain the manufacture (and value) of a local geography of silence in post-New Deal America and the risks – ultimately fatal – that went along with it.

The seminar is open to the public and is based on a paper that is circulated in advance. Those planning to attend are encouraged to read the paper before coming to the seminar. Copies may be obtained by emailing Carol Lockman, clockman@Hagley.org. Reception at 6 p.m., seminar begins promptly at 6:30, and takes place in the Copeland Room of Hagley’s library building.

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