COMPANY towns are both quintessentially American and supremely anti-American institutions. They are the corporate equivalents of cities on a hill, monuments to the power and creativity of America's corporate fathers. But at the same time they represent a triumph of the collective over the individual, places where the bosses owned the workers "heart, soul, skin and guts", to borrow a phrase from Dashiell Hammett.
America has had more experience with company towns than any other country (though presumably China will eventually catch up with America in this, as in everything else). In this delightful book Hardy Green, a former editor at Business Week, tells the American story through these creations. Cotton kings planted them in New England. Coal barons scattered them across Appalachia. Motor moguls built supersized ones in the Midwest. At their height there were more than 2,500 such towns housing 3% of the population.