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William Hal Gorby, Ph.D.

Teaching Assistant Professor, Director of Undergraduate Advising

Teaching Fields

West Virginia and Appalachian History Immigration/ Ethnic History U.S. Working Class 20th Century U.S.


Ph.D., West Virginia University, 2014 
M.A., West Virginia University, 2009 
B.A., Wheeling Jesuit University, 2007

Research Interests

Dr. Gorby's work focuses on the intersections of Catholic religion, ethnicity, and the working class during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He is specifically interested in the social history of the “new immigrants” working in the steel mills, coal mines, tobacco factories, and breweries of Wheeling, West Virginia. 

His dissertation focused on the Polish and other Eastern European immigrants in Wheeling, and the process of forging a distinct Catholic working class social consciousness in the wider region during the Progressive Era. Polish immigrants and their children were one of the most prominent of the new ethnic groups in the Upper Ohio Valley. He examined how their Polish-American culture sustained them during the nativism of the 1920’s. The Polish were persistently targeted by dry agents during Prohibition, and many openly violated the law, which targeted their ethnic Catholic culture as un-American. Out of these trying times, the Polish-American population served as a major catalyst behind a distinctively Catholic-inspired New Deal politics and CIO union organizing at Wheeling Steel in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

As an Appalachian historian, he also examines the intersection of ethnicity and working class life in the coalfields of West Virginia. He worked for over a year conducting research assistance and consulting for the recent PBS American Experience documentary “The Mine Wars.”

Courses Offered

  • HIST 152: Growth of the American Nation to 1865 
  • HIST 153: Making Modern America: 1865-Present 
  • HIST 200: Practicing History History
  • HIST 250: West Virginia History 
  • HIST 259: United States, 1865-1918 
  • HIST 456: Gilded Age History
  • HIST 473: Appalachian Regional History
  • HIST 478: American Immigration History
  • HIST 484: Intro to Historical Research-Capstone (West Virginia and Appalachia)


"Wheeling's Polonia: Reconstructing Polish Community in a West Virginia Steel Town," book in production by WVU Press (2019/ 2020 publication).

"Justus Collins and the Struggle for Economic Control, 1857-1913" West Virginia History 12, no. 1 and 2 (Fall 2018): 1-29

“Subcultures in Conflict in Polonia: Class, Religion, and Ethnic Tensions in the Formation of Wheeling’s Polish Community, 1895-1917” West Virginia History 4, no 2 (Fall 2010): 1-34

“South Wheeling’s Industrial History,” guided walking tour pamphlet, published by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation (WNHAC), January 2013

“The Black Hand: Wheeling’s First Concern over Immigrant Organized Crime” Upper Ohio Valley Historical Review 39, no. 2 (Winter 2017): 5-17