Benham, Kentucky- "The Town that International Harvester Built"
Benham is situated in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky in the shadow of Black Mountain. The town was built on a section of land purchased by Wisconsin Steel Corp. (a subsidiary of International Harvester) in 1910. Benham was a model company town with health facilities, schools, churches, a large commissary and meat market, and over 400 company houses. The town was divided into several sections with company executives in the largest homes at the town center. Immigrants and African Americans maintained their own communities within the town. The schools and clubhouses were segregated into separate buildings. The black school was most often called "Benham Colored School" or "Benham black school." "Benham High School" referred to the white public school. The white school was originally built to house the elementary and high school grades although the town quickly outgrew the large building and was forced to move lower grades into separate buildings.
Company executives in Benham used photography to document the progress in the town for officials at the main office in Chicago. These photos document the construction of various public buildings, coal mining operations, and community events. Company photographers also documented life in the surrounding communities including Cumberland, Chad, Loyall and Harlan. Many of the photographs of the surround regions were used for the Coal Mines Benham magazine. These images were transferred to Arch of Kentucky when the Benham mines were sold in 1985. The photography collection was then transferred to Southeast Community College in Cumberland, Kentucky. The images in this virtual exhibit represent a selection of the U.S. Coal & Coke and International Harvester Image Collection. If you would like more information about the collection, please contact the cataloger at the address below.