tennessee-valley-authority

Ola Brooks, Mt. Carmel, Tennessee. This girl is placing index tabs. The tabs are applied with tweezers, and a moderate degree of skill is required to get tabs in the right place and in the right position. This girl came to the Kingsport Press directly from a farm and has been working only two months.”, 11/10/1933

Series: Lewis Hine Photographs for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), 1933 - 1933Record Group 142: Records of the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1918 - 2000

March is Women’s History Month! Women have shaped this country’s history in more ways than we can count. Long before Rosie the Riveter joined the war effort in the 1940s, women earned wages to support themselves and their families. This series of posts celebrates the diversity of women’s labor, ranging from industry to agriculture to folklore and beyond.

Industrial employers recruited young women like Ola Brooks to work in their factories and shops during the industrialization of rural areas. Often citing their dexterity and nimble fingers, employers gave women repetitive, precise tasks on assembly lines, such as placing index tabs on pages.


This month’s Women’s History series comes via Nora Sutton, one of our interns from the Department of State’s Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) program. Nora is finishing her Master’s in Public History at West Virginia University this semester.

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Hartsville Station Nuclear Power Plant (Hartsville, Tennessee) 

ADDRESS: There isn’t an actual address for this power plant, mainly because it spans over an area of 2000-acres. The main reactor as seen in the first photo is at the exact coordinates listed below. The whole plant is off Smith Way. 

COORDINATES: 36.350873,-86.083417

The Hartsville Station Nuclear Power Plant was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority to hold four General Electric boiling water reactors. Building stopped in the 1980s for this plant because the TVA did not accurately measure the power needs of the area. All four of the water reactors remain, each in a different stage of completion. 

“Mrs. Sarah J. Wilson, Bulls Gap, Tennessee. In addition to daily work around the home, she finds time to raise some cotton, carding and spinning it herself. She also does some hand-weaving.”, 10/22/1933

Series: Lewis Hine Photographs for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), 1933 - 1933Record Group 142: Records of the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1918 - 2000

March is Women’s History Month! Women have shaped this country’s history in more ways than we can count. Long before Rosie the Riveter joined the war effort in the 1940s, women earned wages to support themselves and their families. This series of posts celebrates the diversity of women’s labor, ranging from industry to agriculture to folklore and beyond.

In 1933, photographer Lewis Hine was hired to capture images of rural families who would be displaced by Tennessee Valley Authority construction projects. Here, Hine captured Sarah J. Wilson carding cotton that was raised on her land in Bulls Gap, Tennessee.


This month’s Women’s History series comes via Nora Sutton, one of our interns from the Department of State’s Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) program. Nora is finishing her Master’s in Public History at West Virginia University this semester.

I found this rusted old sign off the beaten path while walking on the abandoned Old Citico Road this afternoon. The sign was a survey marker for the TVA, acting as an indicator of the land they had confiscated before the completion of the Tellico Dam in Lenior City. There’s no telling how long the sign had been there, but considering that the Little Tennessee River Valley was flooded in 1978, it may have very well sat there for nearly 40 years or possibly longer. I’ve done some research on this particular sign’s design and according to what I’ve found, the Tennessee Valley Authority had used these during the 1930s. They are extremely rare finds, given that they were made of porcelain. It is possible that the TVA may have already started surveying the area when the property was owned by the Carson family, who had owned and operated one of the largest dairy farms in the southeast at the time. This can be found off the abandoned Old Citico Road in Vonore, Tennessee.

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This is PART 2 of our explore of the abandoned Hales Bar Dam near Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Once the dam was set into operation, the workers there fought leaks continuously with no success. Many of them died in the process of trying to stop the leaks, which included everything they could think of from stuffing rags and old carpets into them to trying to fill them with hot asphalt. 

After the dam was built, a new school was also built on the powerhouse side of the river.  Those children who lived on the other side of the river had to cross it each day by walking through a crude, wet tunnel that ran underneath the dam.   Once they reached the powerhouse, they’d climb up the spiral staircase you can see in this photoset.   Then, they’d walk through the powerhouse and on over to the school. 

The Tennessee Valley Authority (the Federal government) took over the dam in 1939, after winning a Supreme Court decision in a lawsuit by the local power company who was trying to stop the TVA from doing so.    The TVA immediately began major repairs on the dam to stop the leaks, and by 1943 they had actually succeeded in stopping them.  Then, in 1949, the TVA extended the powerhouse and increased the dam’s electrical output.   The extension is clearly visible in the photos of the dam’s exterior.

In 1950, the leaks returned, this time at an estimated rate of 1500 to 2000 cubic feet of water per second.   They continued to fight the leaks on into the 1960’s.  Finally, after considering the costs that would be involved in more leak repairs, along with the fact that the dam’s lock was too small for the river traffic then in use, it was decided to build Nickajack Dam about 6 miles further downriver to replace Hales Bar Dam.   

Nickajack Dam went into operation on December 14, 1967 and operations ceased at Hales Bar Dam on December 15th.    By September, 1968, Hales Bar Dam was mostly disassembled so that it wouldn’t hamper traffic moving up and down the river.    Interestingly, two of the generators from Hales Bar Dam were used in the building of Nickajack Dam.  

The remaining structures at the site of Hales Bar Dam are now private property, and they’re closed to the public.  Security is always onsite.   

Rumors of the powerhouse and tunnel being haunted are prevalent, which include stories of strange noises, unexplained footsteps, shadows that move, EVPs, voices, and glimpses of a ghostly man in a hat walking around.   If that’s not enough, there’s also the sight of the perpetual whirlpool that does sort of send a chill down your spine.    

In July 1933 the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority named Cove Creek Dam “Norris Dam” in honor of Senator George Norris from Nebraska. Even before the construction of the dam began, a town of Norris was being planned and built. On October 1, 1933 work at the dam site began on the east bank of the Clinch River. Norris Dam was virtually finished after almost three years of construction. In May of 1936, the gates of the dam were closed, and impoundment of the Clinch River began. By the end of July, the first generator had begun spinning, thus bringing near to completion the first of twenty dams that TVA was to build in the next twenty years.

“Edgar Coffman, a renter farmer in Anderson County, Tennessee, near Clinton. He is also a preacher for the Holiness sect.”, 10/23/1933

From the series: Lewis Hine Photographs for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), 1933

Some interesting background on this series from the “Scope & Content” note in our online catalog:

In 1933, after submitting an outline for an introductory photographic survey of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) projects, Lewis W. Hine was hired to do a one month (10/20/33-11/26/33) assignment in East Tennessee. Although he was quite pleased with the initial results of this assignment, Hine was unable to continue along the same lines because the TVA preferred that he instead photograph charts, plans, and installations. This series consists of the original photographic negatives and corresponding modern prints of mountaineer families forced to vacate their homes and lands because of the construction of Norris Dam, rock drilling at the dam site, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers, industries in Kingsport, and examples of local folk crafts and culture.

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Happy Birthday, Lewis Hine 

These haunting child labor photos are only a fraction of the thousands taken by investigative photographer Lewis Wickes Hine, born one hundred and forty years ago on September 26, 1874.  Hine used his camera as both a research tool and an instrument of social reform.  In 1908 he was hired as the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) and spent a decade documenting child labor in American industry to aid the NCLC’s lobbying efforts to end the practice.  Hine worked tirelessly, staying out at all hours to capture images of children working on city streets, or bluffing his way into mills and factories where he would not have been welcome otherwise.   

National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912

Other examples of Hine’s work can be found in his series of photographs for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), documenting life in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, and for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) National Research Project, highlighting changes in industry and their effect on employment:

Later on this afternoon, my dad and I rode to Lenoir City to pay a visit to this infamous dam, a dam that is hated and despised by the people who once lived in the Little Tennessee River Valley prior to its flooding in 1979.

This is the Tellico Dam, which impounds the Little Tennessee River. It was built as the direct result of greed. In fact, this dam really doesn’t serve much of a purpose besides “flood control”. Unlike Calderwood and Chilhowee dams, Tellico Dam is not a hydroelectric dam. Basically, its main purpose is to regulate the lake levels throughout the year. During the summer, water is let out of the gates to allow for recreational purposes. During the colder months, the gates are shut off, leaving the water levels lower.

When I had approached the dam, I didn’t know what to expect. There was an air of silence about it. The gates had been closed off, leaving the mossy concrete exposed. When I looked at it, I kept myself composed. After all, I grew up on the stories of what the Little Tennessee River was like. It was beautiful and the land was peaceful. There were farms littering the valley that were blessed with fertile soil from the river. There were neighborhoods. There were homes that had belonged to families for generations. There were ancient historic sites that the Cherokee once lived in. The dam destroyed ecosystems. The river is gone, replaced by a polluted lake. There were memories somewhere, hidden deep below the murky waters of the lake. The dam was so small in comparison to the others I have visited, but it destroyed so much. What it didn’t destroy is now in ruins. In some of my previous posts of explorations in Vonore, Tennessee, many of these abandoned sites were supposed to be underwater. This is land that the TVA confiscated. You can imagine how people felt after these sites remained above water.

I swore that I never wanted to see it again as long as I lived.

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