Photographs of the real people in the Hatfield and the McCoy families, whose famously violent 19th century feud has shaped perceptions of Appalachian life.
The feud between the Hatfields and McCoys is perhaps the most famous family conflict in American history. At the center of the of the conflict were the two family patriarchs: William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield and Randolph McCoy.
As legend has it, two neighboring families in the backwoods of Appalachia waged a crude and bloody war against each other over a stolen hog, an illicit romance, and longstanding grudges. Once it started, there was nothing to stop the spiral of murder – no social mores against violence, no legal or political institutions in control, no personal religious values holding people back. Yet the legend belies the truth. Both the Hatfields and McCoys were entrepreneurs seeking to climb up from hardship after fierce economic competition and rapid technological change had turned their lives upside down. When members of both families took their grievances to court, their dispute grew into a struggle between two states. Far from an isolated story of mountain lust and violence between “hillbillies,” the Hatfield-McCoy feud was a microcosm of the tensions inherent in the nation’s rapid industrialization after the Civil War.