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William Hal Gorby

Teaching Associate 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 is a historian of West Virginia and Appalachia, whose work focuses on the role of immigrants in the state's steel and coal mining industries, particularly during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His book  Wheeling's Polonia: Reconstructing Polish Community in a West Virginia Steel Town  (WVU Press, 2020) examines the Polish and other Eastern European immigrants in Wheeling, and the process of forging a distinct Catholic working class culture in the wider region. Polish immigrants and their children were one of the most prominent of the new ethnic groups in the Upper Ohio Valley. 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-Americans served as a major catalyst behind CIO union organizing at Wheeling Steel in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

His current work continues to focus on working class history as well as the modern political economy in West Virginia during what he calls the "Age of Globalization," as the state's economy began to be affected by global economic changes from the 1970's well into the 2000's.

Dr. Gorby has also worked on various public history projects. He worked for over a year conducting research, fact-checking, and consulting for the recent PBS American Experience documentary  The Mine Wars (2016), which received an Emmy nomination for research. He also hosted and researched for a podcast called "Henry: The Life and Times of Wheeling's Most Notorious Brewer," produced by Wheeling Heritage Media:

Courses Offered

  • HIST  153: Making Modern America: 1865-Present
  • HIST  200: Practicing History History
  • HIST 250: West Virginia History 
  • 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  (WVU Press, 2020)

"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