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Badland: 1939

Badland: 1939

September 1939. "Ducktown, Tennessee. Train bringing copper ore out of mine. Fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land." Medium format negative by Marion Post Wolcott for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


Lasting scars

About 1978 I drove a cousin from Knoxville to an interview for a teaching position in nearby Copper Hill. The school sat all alone on a hilltop, with a 360-degree view very much reminiscent of this image. The superintendent who conducted her interview asked her if she "really wanted to commit to a place that looks like this?" She is eternally grateful to him for that question, because the answer was a resounding "No."

Not a resort

It looks like the land is still scarred. Here's an overhead view of the area northeast of Ducktown, near the Burra Burra mine. While the area has some vegetation, it still looks pretty bare. I wouldn't go near the lake to the west.

51 Years Later

I drove through Ducktown in 1990. It didn't look anything like this.
Road sign said, "Ducktown, A quacking nice town."

To State the Obvious

This photo has a happy choo-choo that seems not to know the sorrows of air laden with sulfuric acid. The other doesn't.


I've seen a lot of things on Shorpy but the devastation seen here is astonishing. It looks to be many many square miles no doubt in all directions from the mine. I'm wondering what it might look like now, was there recovery?


This seems to be the same MPW photo posted under the caption, “The Wasteland” a couple days ago. Maybe this is a different image, as I have not compared them side by side.

[That would be less trouble than leaving a comment, wouldn't it? - Dave]


They didn’t do wonders for the Ducktown inhabitants either; a Navy shipmate was from Ducktown, and he had major COPD at age 35, followed by a fatal heart attack a year later.

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