Mill and Community
Many of George Holland’s photographs reveal the strong bonds that existed between International Paper and the Corinth community. The most evident of these was economic. By 1955, the Hudson River Mill employed 1450 people, providing direct support for 3000 of the town’s total population of 5000. Property taxes levied on the Hudson River Mill underwrote more than 60% of Town and Village budgets in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. The Company also distributed additional financial support to the community in the form of gifts to the Corinth Hospital, the Corinth Library, the Corinth Youth Commission, and the EMBA. Grants to the Corinth schools were awarded yearly by the IP Foundation to encourage educational innovation. In additional to the direct infusion of Company funds, International Paper worked in other ways to develop positive community relations in Corinth.
The Holland photographs reveal International Paper Company of this period to be a socially responsible corporation, what may often be referred to today as a “caring capitalist” company. It did not neglect the local community that provided the majority of its workforce, and it supported the town of Corinth on many levels, from taxes to civic projects and grants. While the Company’s benevolence under the leadership of mill managers O.B. Beyer and Jud Hannigan was authentic, a consequence of its extensive community involvement was Company loyalty. It would have been difficult for Corinth leaders or citizens to criticize Company’s policies or actions given its heavy financial support of the community. Workers knew that not only did International Paper give them their paycheck, but it was also providing money to support their children’s education, the public library, and the local hospital. The extensive community support and involvement of International Paper - intentionally or not - represented a measure of control over its workers and the larger community.
Administrative personnel at the Hudson River Mill were encouraged to actively participate in Corinth’s civic life. The bonds forged between mill and community were no accident, but rather the result of a purposeful effort by the Company to strengthen the ties between itself and the people of Corinth. O.B. Beyer, who served as Manager of the Hudson River Mill from 1935 to 1961, and Jud Hannigan, who managed the Mill until 1964, were responsible for setting a managerial example of community engagement during this era and for directing Company funds towards civic projects.
Less obvious forms of community engagement included the blood drives that were held in the Community Building, and the company-paid flu clinics organized for employees at the Mill’s First-Aid Office. Once the national “Keep America Beautiful” environmental campaign got underway in the early 1960’s, the Company distributed trash cans throughout Corinth and even placed a “Litterbug” sign on one of its trucks. In 1954, when Company employees chartered the Hudson River Federal Credit Union, the new financial organization operated from donated office space in the lower level of the Mill’s Time Office until it built its own building on Palmer Avenue in 1963. Each of these actions strengthened the mill-community relationship.
Corporate support for community development increased significantly in 1956 when the IP Foundation began providing grants to support public education. The IP Foundation funded new faculty positions, innovative high school courses, and the Corinth School Forest, which served as a woodland site for experiential learning in biology. Each Spring a group of Corinth teachers and administrators traveled to New York City to meet with the IP Foundation Board and faculty members from Columbia University to discuss grant proposals for the next academic year.
Public tours of the Mill had long been a ritual event for elementary school students and children who belonged to the Girls Scouts or Boy Scouts. Providing tours of the mill for children was an effective socialization tool for the Company by showing them the community benefits of the mill as well as letting them see what was expected of adults as workers. Comparable to the “take your daughter to work day” efforts of today, the mill tours encouraged children to think about potential future jobs as paper workers.
After 1960 there was a concerted effort by the Company to improve ties with the community and to insure that citizens understood paper mill operations. Specially designated “days” were thus arranged for Clergy, Ladies, Teachers, Senior Citizens, and Business Owners. These groups toured the Hudson River Mill, enjoyed lunch and refreshments in the Community Building, and were often sent home with IP keepsakes. A staple winter-time gift was a set of automobile windshield protectors that were made with IP pulp sheets. The Company even sought to maintain ties to its retired workers by hosting an annual banquet in the Community Building.
The mill tours reflect IP’s efforts to reach out to groups that enjoyed respect and power within the community, such as clergy and teachers. These tours were an effective way for the Company to inform local leaders about the value of the work at the mill as well as to promote the mill as a socially responsible member of the community. Today, local, state and national politicians are more likely to be invited to tour a factory than a community’s most prominent citizens. Such a change reflects both the modern relationship between political and corporate leaders as well as the increasing national focus of modern corporations.
The Company’s connection to a wider community was made in yet other ways. The Hudson River Mill’s importance as a national manufacturer of fine coated papers often brought professional groups of printers, publishers and engineers to Corinth for tours of the plant. Groups sometimes arrived by plane at the nearby Glens Falls airport, and at least in one instance a professional group came to the Hudson River Mill yard by a special passenger train. These events, when photographed and published in the EMBA News, reminded paper workers and citizens of Corinth that that Hudson River Mill paper reached a national, and sometimes, an international market.