Playing it Safe With The Safety News

The most recent Ebay acquisition for the Library of Virginia’s newspaper collection is the Safety News of Omar, West Virginia. Published “monthly for employees of the West Virginia Coal and Coke Corporation,” it focused on topics related to company and employee news. The Library purchased three issues from March-June 1953, but the full publication span of the paper is unknown as there are no cataloged issues outside of these precious few.

Safety was of the utmost concern to the Safety News, hence its motto, “Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes—fools by their own.” The first page of Safety News sometimes included the feature “Safety Pays Everyone” describing recent accidents, injuries and deaths in mines. The brief accounts give a good deal of specific information related to each incident: “Arnold E. Lee, American Machine helper, Omar No. 15 Mine” included one report, “Injured February 4, 1953, at 3:30 a.m. Victim was caught between cutting machine and timber, resulting in fracture of seventh rib on left side. Disability undetermined. Foreman: Billy Bishop.”

Keeping things light, the following joke was printed just below the accident reports of the same issue:

The medical officer at the front was discussing the drinking water supply with the platoon sergeant:

“What precautions do you take against germs?”

“First, we boil it, sir.”

“Good.”

“Then we filter it.”

“Excellent.”

“And then, just to play it safe, we drink beer.”

Each month the Safety News also included the front page column “Our Board of Directors,” providing a detailed biography of a board member with accompanying photo. The March issue featured Charles R. Stevens, president of the consulting management firm Stevenson, Jordan & Harrison, Inc. “Mr. Stevenson’s firm,” the article explained, “consults to a number of important industrial companies, among which might be mentioned Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., Caterpillar Tractor Company, Campbell Soup Company, and The American Sugar Refining Company.”

The Safety News contained local news and gossip, marriage, birth and graduation announcements, memorials and regular columns like “Ohio River Company News,” “Norton News” and “Cincinnati Column.” “Marketing News,” another regular column, featured a different factory each month. In March 1953, it spotlighted the Kennedy Car Liner & Bag Company, a “large, preposterous concern occupying some 275,000 square feet of floor space. . .Kennedy designs and produces the widest imaginable range of protective packaging products for industry and commerce varying in size from huge kraft paper car liners to small metal foil box liners.”

Its time, the 1950s, its place, West Virginia, and its publisher, the West Virginia Coal and Coke Corp., make the Safety News a fascinating resource for the study post WWII corporate culture and its prominence in small town America. Come take a look at the Safety News for yourself at the Library of Virginia.

 

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